Books



Culture is Not Always Popular

Culture is Not Always Popular

Founded in 2003, Design Observer inscribes its mission on its homepage: Writings about Design and Culture. Since our inception, the site has consistently embraced a broader, more interdisciplinary, and circumspect view of design's value in the world―one not limited by materialism, trends, or the slipperiness of style. Fifteen years, 6,700 articles, 900 authors, and nearly 30,000 comments later, this book is a combination primer, celebration, survey, and salute to a certain moment in online culture.



Observer Quarterly

Observer Quarterly

In the winter of 2015, we launched a new publication called Observer Quarterly. The idea is for each themed issue to include original writing, interviews, and photography alongside archival material that draws a narrative between the history and current condition of new and underappreciated aspects of design culture. Our first issue—the Acoustic Issue—covered new ways of looking at sound as part of the design landscape. The second issue examined tagging as a social, cultural, and indexical practice. And our newest issue—following our conference, Taste, which took place in Los Angeles in the spring of 2016—looks at the multiple intersections between design and food.



Observer Quarterly

Design | The Invention of Desire

Advancing a conversation that is unfolding around the globe, Jessica Helfand offers an eye-opening look at how designed things make us feel as well as how—and why—they motivate our behavior.

More books by Jessica Helfand




How To

How to

How to, Michael Bierut’s first career retrospective, is a landmark work in the field. Featuring more than thirty-five of his projects, it reveals his philosophy of graphic design—how to use it to sell things, explain things, make things look better, make people laugh, make people cry, and (every once in a while) change the world. Specially chosen to illustrate the breadth and reach of graphic design today, each entry demonstrates Bierut’s eclectic approach. In his entertaining voice, the artist walks us through each from start to finish, mixing historic images, preliminary drawings (including full-size reproductions of the notebooks he has maintained for more than thirty-five years), working models and rejected alternatives, as well as the finished work. Throughout, he provides insights into the creative process, his working life, his relationship with clients, and the struggles that any design professional faces in bringing innovative ideas to the world. Offering insight and inspiration for artists, designers, students, and anyone interested in how words, images, and ideas can be put together, How to provides insight to the design process of one of this century’s most renowned creative minds.

More books by Michael Bierut




5050

50 Books | 50 Covers Catalog

The ultimate “book of books” to catalog the 2015 winners of the 50 | 50 competition. Publisher, author, and previous 50 Books | 50 Covers recipient Dave Eggers introduces the book. Photographer George Baier IV, who has photographed countless authors and book jacket projects himself, has thoughtfully taken pictures of every book and cover winner. Mohawk generously donated the finest paper. Printed offset, locally, here in the United States. Copies no longer available.



Observer Quarterly

Massimo Vignelli: Collected Writings

Massimo Vignelli (1931–2014) was one of the most influential designers of the twentieth—and twenty-first—centuries. The work he and his wife Lella accomplished at Vignelli Associates is universally admired. While Massimo himself never wrote for Design Observer, he appeared throughout its pages in spirit and as an example for over ten years. This collection of writings about Vignelli from the Design Observer archives—interviews, memories, observations, and critiques—includes selections from the lively comments and discussions that appeared after the original publication of these pieces. Contributors include Michael Bierut, Jessica Helfand, Debbie Millman, and Alice Twemlow, among others. Get this book!



Persistence of Vision

Persistence of Vision: Collected Writings of William Drenttel

Designer and publisherWilliam Drenttel (1953–2013) was co-founder and editorial director of Design Observer. Since its inception in 2003, Drenttel contributed to Design Observer almost weekly on all manner of topics, from social change to democracy to his early career on Madison Avenue. We’ve collected two dozen essays—originally published on Design Observer—and an introduction by friend and former literary editor of the New Republic, Leon Wieseltier, and put them into print for the first time, including the lively comments and conversations that followed their original publication. Persistence of Vision is not only a tribute to a greatly missed design leader, but serves as an important addition to the design writing canon. Get this book!



Observed | February 21

Science answers the age old question: Why does a grape turns into a fireball in a microwave? [BV]


Observed | February 20

The Sunset Strip occupies a short stretch of Sunset Boulevard, but its reputation as a stomping ground of gangsters, glamour girls, rock stars and hell-raisers has held an oversized fascination for decades. Curbed LA dives deep. Part One. Part Two. [BV]

Should historic logos be protected in the same way as historic buildings? (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | February 19

My new favourite part of Twitter is Josh Lipnik’s tours of the modern architecture of the US midwest. Here he looks at the modern architecture of Columbus, Ohio—houses, schools, churches, banks, and even a cool Space Age horse racing track. [MB]

The authoritative, totally not subjective, incontrovertibly definitive and 100% correct L.A. Times Fast Food French Fry Rankings. [BV]


Observed | February 14

Welcome to 2019. If you value your privacy, don’t get your Valentine an internet-connected sex toy. [BV]


Observed | February 13

Places Journal’s ongoing series “Future Archive” republishes significant 20th-century texts introduced by a prominent scholar. This installment features J.B. Jackson’s 1976 essay on the American garage from Landscape. [BV]

Can multigenerational home-sharing solve LA’s affordability crisis? Alissa Walker explores what it might mean to age in place in LA. [BV]


Observed | February 12

Cubicles are back, and we have open plan offices to thank. [BV]

As emoji become more detailed in their design, they become less useful for communication. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | February 11

#Longread: The Five Families of Feces—the porta-potty business is as dirty as you’d think. [BV]

The world’s watersheds, mapped in gorgeous detail by Hungarian cartographer Robert Szucs. [BV]

Photography writes with light, but not everything wants to be seen. [JH]


Observed | February 07

Are we heading towards extreme overpopulation or a decline in humans? Questioning the UN population model. [BV]


Observed | February 06

What if everything you knew about the history of pizza in America was false? [BV]

A special class of vivid, textural words defy linguistic theory: could ‘ideophones’ unlock the secrets of humans’ first utterances? [BV]

Social media has spawned a generation of un-Strunk-and-White-ified people who appear to believe that punctuation is optional, that grammar is for the elderly, and that ending a sentence with a period is a deliberate act of aggression. The guardian of grammar, Benjamin Dreyer, wants that to change. [BV]


Observed | February 05

Innovative interaction design helps Chinese families stay emotionally connected through the Chinese New Year while being geographically scattered. [BV]


Observed | February 04

Was architecture better under socialism? [BV]

Ganbreeder is an experiment using breeding and sharing to explore complex visual spaces. Or, Ganbreeder is a crazy app where you can merge things like a parakeet with a bubble. 17024009+ images and counting. [BV]


Observed | January 31

Saturday Night Live’s cue cards are still created by hand. And they pay attention to whitespace to make sure the cards are readable from a distance! [BV]

In 2014, microbiologists began a 500-year-long science experiment assuming that science—or some version of it—will still exist in 2514. [BV]


Observed | January 30

The World’s Writing Systems allows you to interact with the 292 currently-known writing systems as they are encoded in the Unicode standard. [BV]

A growing crowd-sourced gallery of crazy mass transit fabric patterns. [BV]


Observed | January 29

For six amazing years—from 2006 to 2012—I led the design advisory group on the Citizen‘s Stamp Advisory Committee, with a terrific group of people from all across the country. What a delight to talk about it! [JH]

The 52-year history of the Yale Building project: pushing architecture students out of their studios and into communities they can positively affect. (Support The Yale Herald‘s Kickstarter!) [BV]

Emily Gosling on the magical, imperfect grids of Anni Albers. [MB]


Observed | January 28

The Letterform Archive opened it’s doors in 2015. In 2019 they are opening their virtual doors to a curated collection of over 50,000 items related to lettering, typography, calligraphy, and graphic design, spanning thousands of years of history. [BV]

How does one judge the historic 50 Books | 50 Covers competition? Our jury chair, and Design Observer co-founder, Jessica Helfand talks to The Monocle Weekly. [BV]


Observed | January 24

A talk with Olivier Kugler about his most recent book, “Escaping Wars and Waves: Encounters With Syrian Refugees”: a first hand record of the tragic souls who have been forced to leave their homeland and the disappointments, frustrations, and deprivations they’ve experienced as they attempt to make new lives. [BV]



Jobs | February 22