• The Design of Dissent

    Milton Glaser & Mirko Ilić

    So great is our knowledge, in the early years of the twenty-first century, of all that has come before us, so vast is our experience of both human success and also staggering, holocaustic failure, and so sophisticated is our understanding of how little we understand, how vaguely we understand, that a toxic cynicism pervades our spirit, shutting down our capacity for faith, for hope, for imagining change — and consequently shutting down our passion, our imagination. —Tony Kushner, from the Foreword

    Mubarek poster in 2011
    Anti-government protesters stamp on a poster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as they pose for a photo, outside the Egyptian Parliament in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011. By Tara Todras-Whitehill/AP...more

  • I Wonder

    Marian Bantjes

    Apparently Marian Bantjes’s approach to her first book was to make it “feel like a brick of gold.” With a cover of gold and silver foils on a satin cloth with gold-gilded page edges and lots of gold ink on the interior, it’s definitely a success, gold-brick-wise. Her work is known for being both illustrative and typographic at once, involving intricate patterns and highly ornamental vector art. The graphics represent all of these aspects and are fully entangled with the text throughout.

    The content comes partially from essays previously published on Speak Up that she reworked for the book, and the rest is original. The writing feels somewhat zinelike to me: very personal and at times lightly researched. The theme...more

  • Stadt Alphabet Wien

    Martin Ulrich Kehrer

    I always forget to add the various books that come my way that aren’t actually books that I read, but most likely hold court on the coffee table or a prominent location on a bookshelf. Melanie brought me this one from Austria, and it documents Vienna’s incredible old signage, in alphabetical order of the business names. Most of these were designed by master signmakers who, as is often the case, weren’t necessarily typographers. So the letterforms are pleasingly unique and with anachronistic combinations. This definitely made me wish I had taken more pictures of signs while I was over there, though I did get the one below. Hopefully they won’t all be gone when I get myself back to...more

  • Logotypes and Letterforms

    Doyald Young

    In the strongest sense, letterforms do not age but become fixed to a period of time primarily in their application. Longevity is often precluded by blatant design approaches that are banal, modish, and consequently ephemeral. Many products and graphics are designed to seize the moment and cash in on a popular idea.

    When I first browsed through this book, I didn’t realize all of Young’s logos are hand-lettered. After reading the introduction, I delved back into this catalog of work much differently. I didn’t spend as much time as I would have liked looking through it — it seems I always take out huge art books and then ignore them until they are overdue — and barely read much of his accompanying text. I’ll have...more

  • Make it Bigger

    Paula Scher

    An attractive tight-back bound book with edge-stained pages, Make it Bigger is at its heart a survey of Scher’s work from the 70s through the 90s. Yet it feels more like a memoir or a study of process than just a portfolio of her work. I loved her discussion of discovering how to “sell down” designs at CBS Records (get the highest decision maker on your side and everyone else will fall in line). The various hierarchies of her different positions and the diagram of a meeting are some of my favorite parts of the book.

    I felt she was a little more humble than some in talking about her career — Chip Kidd often sounds a tad self-congratulatory in his,...more

  • The Russian Avant-Garde Book 1910–1934

    Margit Rowell & Deborah Wye

    I noticed this on my friend Leslie’s goodreads page and put it on my to-read list more to remember it as a potential resource. But I wound up with some time to kill in NYC and the Mid-Manhattan library has it for reference use only, so I went to visit. The book went with the 2002 exhibit that came out of a gift of 1,100 illustrated books from the Judith Rothschild Foundation. Turns out there is a fairly decent flash-driven site for the exhibition as well; it puts a selection of the books on a timeline marking out the boundaries of Russian’s revolutionary period, “…after which, Stalin’s great terror effectively ended the last pure public expression of the...more

  • Hatch Show Print

    Jim Sherraden, Elek Horvath, & Paul Kingsbury

    Today part of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Hatch Show Print is also the oldest operating letterpress shop in the US. This books takes a look at the history of the shop with lots of samples of posters from the early circus days through the rise of country music to their contemporary work. It’s a very handsome book.

    The CMHF has a shop of monoprints created by Jim Sherraden. He starting reprinting old woodblocks and began experimenting with layering multiple images. They also sell reprints of old posters, like this amazing Johnny Cash print from 1980 and this Airstream advertisement from 1959. This one might be my favorite though:


  • How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul

    Adrian Shaughnessy

    Another working title for this book was How to be a graphic designer without losing your shirt, and that one actually reads a bit more accurate than this one. This is more about good business practices for finding a job, being freelance, and setting up & running a studio than the more philosophical practices I thought I might find here. It’s still useful for starting designers in terms of understanding the industry and potential employers a little more, though those looking for more specific info on pricing and legal info may be better served by The Graphic Artists Guild Handbook.

    The design is really attractive, but it was interesting when I would read at night under moderate (not...more

  • Book One

    Chip Kidd

    One of the great advantages to designing book covers is that you don’t ever have to have an idea, much less a thought, ever, in your head. That is the author’s job. Through a manuscript, he or she will give you all the ideas and thoughts that you could possibly need to design a jacket.

    If you’ve heard of Chip Kidd before, the phrase “the closest thing to a rock star in graphic design” will probably ring a few bells, if not a huge gonging irritation for the inordinate ubiquity of the quote. That said, Kidd is probably one of the few contemporary designers well-known both in and outside of the design world. This monograph collects his work from the last...more

  • By Its Cover

    Ned Drew & Paul Sternberger

    Looking back through all the covers reproduced in this book, subtitled Modern American Book Cover Design, I love Alvin Lustig and Paul Rand’s covers from the 1950s, a few things here and there from the 1960s, and then nothing much else until the last chapter, looking at the late 1990s with a section focusing on various Knopf designers.more