Ready to take a deep dive into the history of decorative arts and design? Treat yourself to History of Design, new from Yale University Press. The doorstop of a volume spans six centuries of design (1400-2000) across Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Indian subcontinent, and the Islamic world. In addition to the usual suspects–interiors, furniture, textiles, product design–the book tackles graphics, exhibitions, landscape design, even theater and film design. It’s an essential addition to any design library.
So many books, so little time. Designers & Books is there to help you keep up with the latest releases and burrow into the backlists for those life-changing titles that you may have missed. The site has looked back on 2013 and selected its first ever Design Book of the Year: Phyllis Lambert‘s Building Seagram (Yale University Press), a comprehensive personal and scholarly history of New York’s Seagram Building. The $1,500 honorarium will be split equally among the book’s author, editor, and designer.
Start with what writer Matthew Swanson describes as ten “stories about people with really awful lives,” add the delightful, Quentin Blake-ish illustrations of Robbi Behr (Swanson’s wife), chop it all up into flippable panels, and you’ve got the recombinant narrative of Ten Thousand Stories: An Ever-Changing Tale of Tragic Happenings, published recently by Chronicle Books. We asked writer Mariam Aldhahi to take a closer look at this book of fractured fairy tales.
Flip through the first few pages of Ten Thousand Stories: An Ever-Changing Tale of Tragic Happenings and you’ll be abruptly introduced to a pretty twisted duo.
The book’s introduction, originally nothing more than the usual run-through of what you’re reading and why, is covered in red-ink redactions and rewrites courtesy of the illustrator half of this husband/wife team. We are greeted with a “Hello Sucker!!” and quickly advised that we’ve just wasted $20 on ten-thousand “god-awful” stories only saved by an accompanying ten-thousand “breathtaking” illustrations. Suddenly, you’re confused, a little uncomfortable, and yet completely taken.
The concept is simple enough—each page is divided into four turnable mini-pages that mix and match to create ten-thousand different story combinations, each topped off with its own eccentric illustration. We are handed the reigns and encouraged to “choose our own disaster” by letting the flaps fall where they may.
There’s nothing like an imminent Olympics to get the world talking about logos (did you know that Sochi’s rather chilling mark is the first to lack drawn elements?). Anne Quito looks across the pond at a classic.
The city of London teems with icons—from Big Ben, to the red double-decker bus, even to polarizing 2012 Olympics logo, or lately, the much parodied “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters. There is no shortage of visual symbols for the city. But perhaps the most ubiquitous among them is their transport logo, or the roundel, as it’s officially called. Introduced in 1908, the original circle-and-bar design has remained mostly unchanged, surviving the tides of brand makeovers for over a century.
A Logo for London (Laurence King, 2013) explores the evolution of the symbol vis-à-vis the socio-political climate of the city it represents, written as a kind of biography for this enduring brand mark. Packed with a treasury of archival images and drawings, this well-researched volume by the design historian David Lawrence casts the roundel as trademark that evolves to become a cultural marker and a civic symbol.
Weary and wary of design clients’ constant calls to “make it bigger”? Immerse yourself in Lettering Large (Monacelli Press), in which Steven Heller and Mirko Ilic explore the outsized world of monumental typography. From a consideration of “extroverted type” and “typo-hypnotic messages” to letters that live large outdoors and those that balloon into objecthood, the book offers a giant dose of inspiration and a visually exhilarating reminder of why size matters.
“I’ve always remembered Where the Wild Things Are so clearly, which isn’t the case with most other children’s books. Wild Things was a favorite from the start. I remember looking at the images a lot and really studying [Maurice Sendak's] crosshatching at a young age—and even attempting to draw like him on my own. This was probably kindergarten, and so he was an early influence. All of the fantastic creatures—and especially the monsters…have such character and personality, and it’s so great that they’re not evil monsters but more co-conspirators. Maybe Maurice got me started on monsters and beasts, which pop in my work a lot, too.”
Wallpaper* kicks off the new year with a look back at the people, places, pieces, and phenomena that have raised the magazine’s pulse over the last 12 months. A jury including architect Thom Mayne, designer Ron Gilad, and art dealer Thaddaeus Ropac weighed in to select the winners of the 2014 Wallpaper* Design Awards, which are revealed in the pages of the February 2014 issue (and below). Among the fresh picks is ShaoLan Hsueh‘s Chineasy Illustrated Dictionary. The book, slated for publication in March from Thames & Hudson, is part of a larger, Kickstarter-assisted initiative to help people learn to read Chinese easily by recognizing characters through simple illustrations–the book’s are by Noma Bar. Read on for the full list of winners.
With thank-you note season in full swing, Lauren Palmer take a closer look at the endangered species that is handwriting. Here’s her take on Philip Hensher‘s The Missing Ink, recently released in paperback by Faber & Faber.
Back when I was in kindergarten, I remember entering the classroom on Monday mornings and marveling at the new letter of the alphabet displayed in masking tape in the center of the floor. One huge letterform in either capital or lowercase, print or cursive, to be traced with our tiny steps before our tiny hands put pen to paper. For the next six years, I was taught the art of handwriting through tedious in-class drills and homework assignments. I can look back now and praise my teachers for instructing me on how to write legibly. Yet the years of typing and texting since have turned my script into a hybrid scrawl: messy, unfocused, and decidedly illegible.
Is handwriting inextricably linked to personality? Does poor script mean moral failure, or vice versa? Philip Hensher evaluates these ideas put forth by early graphologists in The Missing Ink. It’s fascinating to think that one’s handwriting was once a signifier of suitability for a job, or a mate. With examples and analysis taken from literature, psychology, and product design, Hensher examines how penmanship “is what registers our individuality, and the mark which our culture has made on us.”
“I’ve been blogging since 1999 so I’m neither [a print publication nor a website]. But there is a difference. Magazines are about editing and choice, while the Internet is about immediacy. The art of making a magazine is editing. You have to make a choice, stick with it, then it’s out in the world and it’s done. That’s why I don’t believe print is dead. It’s not just old people, it’s young people too. A 20-year-old photographer doesn’t care if their photograph is posted online. But if that photo gets in a magazine, they love it. They understand it’s a big deal.”
-Ralph McGinnis, co-founder of tasty zine Put A Egg On It, in an interview with author Jeremy Leslie in The Modern Magazine: Visual Journalism in the Digital Era (Laurence King)
O is for…eyeballs, at least according to Jake and Dinos Chapman. An unconventional take on the alphabet book goes interactive in the pages of The Artists’ Colouring Book of ABCs, published by Humpty Dumpty Publishing in partnership with Alteria Art. Editors Charlotte Colbert, Alix Janta-Polczynski, and Lauren Jones rounded up 26 artists and divvied up the letters. Between Tracey Emin‘s “A” (for animal, specifically her cat) and Marc Quinn‘s “Z” (for Zombie Boy, laden with slices and scars), there’s Harland Miller‘s “D”-clutching Dracula followed by an escapist “E” from Chantal Joffe, while Yinka Shonibare‘s “Y” is being spirited away by exotic balloons. “I was lucky to get H,” said Betty Woodman, “because it has an architectural geometry I could hang my ideas on.”