Here, for your reading and visual pleasure, we present PRINT’s annual list of design books released over the past year, as collected by PRINT Editor-in-Chief Zachary Petit. Despite its disastrous reputation, 2016 was an interesting year for design books, with a surprising quantity of reissues among those below. Whether you’re looking for reading material, inspiration for the coming year, or a gift for that creative person in your life, these books—listed in no particular order—are sure to enlighten and edify.
(Want more? Check out last year’s selection here.)
25 of the Best Design Books of the Year
by Molly Bang
Description: Molly Bang’s brilliant, insightful, and accessible treatise is now revised and expanded for its 25th anniversary. Bang’s powerful ideas—about how the visual composition of images works to engage the emotions, and how the elements of an artwork can give it the power to tell a story—remain unparalleled in their simplicity and genius. Why are diagonals dramatic? Why are curves calming? Why does red feel hot and blue feel cold? First published in 1991, Picture This has changed the way artists, illustrators, reviewers, critics, and readers look at and understand art.
Edited and with an introduction by Paul Buckley
Description: Since the launch of Penguin Classics in 1946, innovative cover design has been one of its defining aspects. Today, Penguin Classics remains at the leading edge of the book-design world. In this curated tour featuring illuminating commentary by artists and writers, including Malika Favre, Mike Mignola, James Franco, Jessica Hische, Jillian Tamaki and many more, Penguin creative director Paul Buckley showcases more than a decade of stunning cover designs and the stories behind them. For lovers of classic literature, book design, and all things Penguin, Classic Penguin has you covered.
Curated by Mitch Putnam
Description: Mining the archives of OMG Posters, founder Mitch Putnam has gathered over 400 of today’s most beautiful concert posters and art prints in one collection. Launched in 2007, OMGPosters.com has since become one of the world’s favorite art blogs, showcasing thousands of handmade prints by independent artists and printmakers. OMG Postersfeatures works by 40 different artists that sparked the explosive growth of the gig poster scene. In the book, you’ll get to know each artist, see other works in their portfolio, and learn about their techniques and inspirations. This book covers the entire scope of the gig poster scene today, and the high caliber of artwork and collaboration involved.
by Steven Brower
Description: For many design students, the expectation is that they will one day reach the top of the ladder within a design studio or corporation and become an art director. But what does this mean and how does a design student get there? What does an art director do? How is it different from being a designer? How does one lead and inspire a team, work with freelance designers, illustrators and photographers? Inside Art Direction answers all these questions for design students and professionals alike. Through interviews with 18 art directors working in a range of different industries from books and magazines to music and film to web and app design, students learn about how they got to where they are, what the art director’s job really entails, and receive advice about the future of art direction. In the 28 case studies, illustrators, art directors and editors discuss specific assignments that they worked on, how they came up with ideas and the process of getting to the final result. With practical, hands-on advice, tips and art direction assignments that students can try out, Inside Art Direction provides insights about this fascinating field.
[Related: Steven Brower is one of PRINT’s esteemed contributors. Explore his insightful writings here.]
Back in print via Princeton Architectural Press
Description: If Paul Rand was the most influential American graphic designer of the twentieth century, then Paul Rand: A Designer’s Art is the most important on his work. A comprehensive collection of his most important and best-known designs, A Designer’s Art gives unique insight into Rand’s design process and theory. This new edition of Rand’s classic monograph, long unavailable, meticulously re-creates the graphic quality of the original. It includes more than two hundred illustrations and twenty-seven essays, and a new afterword by Steven Heller. This book is required reading for anybody interested in modern design.
by Jennifer Bass and Pat Kirkham
Description: This collection of 20 iconic film posters by Saul Bass, one of the greatest American designers of the 20th century, is a must for graphic designers and film fans. Each poster is removable and designed to fit the standard frame size 12 x 16 inches. The posters included are: The Man with the Golden Arm; Saint Joan; Love in the Afternoon; Bonjour Tristesse; The Big Country; Vertigo; Anatomy of a Murder; Exodus; Spartacus; The Magnificent Seven; Advise & Consent; The Cardinal; In Harm’s Way; Bunny Lake is Missing; Seconds; Grand Prix; The Fixer; Such Good Friends; The Shining; Schindler’s List.
by Katherine Harmon
Description: Maps are magical. Every graphic, like every story, has a point of view, and New York is rife with mapmaking possibilities, thick with mythology, and glutted with history. You Are Here: NYC assembles some two hundred maps charting every inch and facet of the five boroughs, depicting New Yorks of past and present, and a city that never was. “A Nightclub Map of Harlem” traces a boozy night from the Radium and the Cotton Club to the Savoy and then the Lafayette; “Wonders of New York” pinpoints three hundred sites of interest, including the alleged location of Captain Kidd’s buried treasure; the Ghostbusters subway map plots the route from Astral Projections Place to Stay Puft Street; and a rejected proposal of ornate topiaries illustrates a Central Park that might have been. This sequel to the best-selling You Are Here includes original essays by Bob Mankoff, Maria Popova, Sarah Boxer, and Rebecca Cooper, among others.
by Scott Stowell
Description: Most design books focus on outcome rather than on process. Scott Stowell’s Design for People is groundbreaking in its approach to design literature. Focusing on 12 design projects by Stowell’s design firm, Open, the volume offers a sort of oral history as told by those involved with each project–designers, clients, interns, collaborators and those who interact with the finished product on a daily basis. In addition to the case studies, the book features texts from influential figures in the design world, including writer Karrie Jacobs, founding editor-in-chief of Dwell magazine; plus contributions from Pierre Bernard, revolutionary French graphic artist and designer; Charles Harrison, pioneering industrial designer; Maira Kalman, artist and writer; Wynton Marsalis, composer and musician; Emily Pilloton, design activist and author of Design Revolution; and Alissa Walker, design writer and urban advocate.
by Aaron Draplin
Description: Esquire. Ford Motors. Burton Snowboards. The Obama Administration. While all of these brands are vastly different, they share at least one thing in common: a teeny, little bit of Aaron James Draplin. Draplin is one of the new school of influential graphic designers who combine the power of design, social media, entrepreneurship, and DIY aesthetic to create a successful business and way of life. Pretty Much Everything is a mid-career survey of work, case studies, inspiration, road stories, lists, maps, how-tos, and advice. It includes examples of his work—posters, record covers, logos—and presents the process behind his design with projects like Field Notes and the “Things We Love” State Posters. Draplin also offers valuable advice and hilarious commentary that illustrates how much more goes into design than just what appears on the page. With Draplin’s humor and pointed observations on the contemporary design scene, Draplin Design Co. is the complete package for the new generation of designers.
by Julian Rothenstein
Description: Who knew a trip to the therapist could be so much fun, even aesthetically rewarding? Beyond sharing feelings or complaining about your mother, Psychobook reveals the rich history of psychological testing in a fascinating sideways look at classic testing methods, from word-association games to inkblots to personality tests. Psychobook includes never-before-seen content from long-hidden archives, as well as reimagined tests from contemporary artists and writers, to try out yourself, at home or at parties. A great gift for the therapist in your life and the therapist in you, for anyone interested in the history of psychology and psychological paraphernalia, or for anyone who enjoys games and quizzes. Psychobook will brighten your day and outlook.
Description: Curated by Ryan Doyle and Mark Edwards, who work together under the name of DR.ME, Cut That Outfocuses on the compositions of 50 leading designers and studios from 15 different countries for whom collage has been the key to creating vibrant, effective work – among them Hort, Paul Sahre and atelier bingo. As well as the diverse, cutting-edge work featured throughout, each profile includes a Q&A with the artist that serves to both put the work in context and highlight the visual differences between each designer by exploring their varying methods and attitudes towards to Cut That Out is a rich seam of inspiration to be mimed by all students and graphic designers who wish to explore the creative possibilities of collage in their work.
Edited by Tony Brook and Adrian Shaughnessy
Description: Action Time Vision: Punk & Post-Punk 7″ Record Sleeves [Unit 26] is a celebration of DIY graphics from the punk and post-punk eras. You might call it outsider graphic design. The work in this book is culled from the record collections of designer (and Unit Editions co-founder) Tony Brook, and leading punk scholar Russ Bestley. As one of the world’s leading authorities on punk and post-punk music, Russ has contributed an insightful essay to the book. The book also features interviews with designer Malcolm Garrett, Mute founder Daniel Miller and Sniffin’ Glue editor and musician Mark Perry.
by Jessica Helfand
Description: Design has always prided itself on being relevant to the world it serves, but interest in design was once limited to a small community of design professionals. Today, books on “design thinking” are best sellers, and computer and Web-based tools have expanded the definition of who practices design. Looking at objects, letterforms, experiences, and even theatrical performances, award-winning author Jessica Helfand asserts that understanding design’s purpose is more crucial than ever. Design is meaningful not because it is pretty but because it is an intrinsically humanist discipline, tethered to the very core of why we exist. For example, as designers collaborate with developing nations on everything from more affordable lawn mowers to cleaner drinking water, they must take into consideration the full range of a given community’s complex social needs. Advancing a conversation that is unfolding around the globe, Helfand offers an eye-opening look at how designed things make us feel as well as how—and why—they motivate our behavior.
Beguiled by the Wild (2016 Edition)
by Charley Harper
Description: Presenting more than 110 serigraphs accompanied by intriguing, pun-filled captions, this new, revised edition of Beguiled by the Wild pays homage to one of America’s most beloved artists. Charley Harper (1922-2007), with his masterly use of simple geometric shapes, patterns, and vivid colors, distilled the essence of each bird, bug, otter, raccoon, or elephant he painted to its most important details. He called his style of painting “minimal realism. . . . Instead of trying to put everything in when I paint, I try to leave everything out. . . . I reduce the subject to the simplest possible visual terms without losing identity, thereby enhancing identity.” Harper’s approach to depicting the natural world is both sophisticated and fun. His works-especially those of cardinals and ladybugs-have become icons of wildlife art. This edition of Beguiled by the Wildcomprises all of Harper’s serigraphs produced from 1968 to 2007. The original text by Roger Caras and Charley Harper is joined by a new commentary from the artist’s son, Brett Harper.
Edited by Adrian Shaughnessy & Tony Brook
Description: Herb Lubalin claimed not to be a great typographer. ‘In fact,’ he said, ‘I’m terrible, because I don’t follow the rules.’ This new book proves the opposite. On every page it features Lubalin’s typographic genius (logos, layouts, lettering and typefaces), and places him at the forefront of 20th century typographic innovation. He even had names for what he did: he described it as ‘graphic expressionism’ or ‘conceptual typography.’ Using his ability to adapt, merge and create new typographic forms, he was able to enhance and amplify meaning in ways that hadn’t been seen before. Having published two books celebrating the genius of Herb Lubalin as a graphic designer working in many spheres, this new volume concentrates solely on Lubalin’s typography. It comes with new texts, new design, new photography, and lots of previously unpublished material – and with a price tag that makes it accessible to a wide audience.
by Jill Desimini and Charles Waldheim
Description: Mapping has been one of the most fertile areas of exploration for architecture and landscape in the past few decades. While documenting this shift in representation from the material and physical description toward the depiction of the unseen and often immaterial, Cartographic Grounds takes a critical view toward the current use of data mapping and visualization and calls for a return to traditional cartographic techniques to reimagine the manifestation and manipulation of the ground itself. Each of the ten chapters focuses on a single cartographic technique—sounding/spot elevation, isobath/contour, hachure/hatch, shaded relief, land classification, figure-ground, stratigraphic column, cross-section, line symbol, conventional sign—and illustrates it through beautiful maps and plans from notable designers and cartographers throughout history, from Leonardo da Vinci to James Corner Field Operations. Mohsen Mostafavi, dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, introduces the book.
by Tom Phillips
Description: In 1966, Tom Phillips took a forgotten nineteenth-century novel, W. H. Mallock’s A Human Document, and began working over the extant text to create something new.The artist writes, “I plundered, mined, and undermined its text to make it yield the ghosts of other possible stories, scenes, poems, erotic incidents, and surrealist catastrophes which seemed to lurk within its wall of words. As I worked on it, I replaced the text I’d stripped away with visual images of all kinds. It began to tell and depict, among other memories, dreams, and reflections, the sad story of Bill Toge, one of love’s casualties.” After its first publication in book form in 1980, A Humument rapidly became a cult classic. This sixth and final edition, published to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Tom Phillips’ first experiments with A Human Document, presents for the first time an entirely revised and complete version of A Humument, and will bring to a close half a century’s artistic endeavor.
by Christoph Niemann
Description: From award-winning artist and author Christoph Niemann comes a collection of witty illustrations and whimsical views on working creatively. Taking its cue from his New York Times column Abstract Sunday, this book covers Niemann’s entire career and showcases brilliant observations of contemporary life through sketches, travel journals, and popular newspaper features. The narrative guides readers through Christoph’s creative process, how he built his career, and how he overcomes the internal and external obstacles that creative people face—all presented with disarming wit and intellect. Enhanced with nearly 350 original images, this book is a tremendous inspirational and aspirational resource.
by Michael Johnson
by Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec
Learn more about the Dear Data project at dear-data.com
Description: Equal parts mail art, data visualization, and affectionate correspondence, Dear Data celebrates “the infinitesimal, incomplete, imperfect, yet exquisitely human details of life,” in the words of Maria Popova (Brain Pickings), who introduces this charming and graphically powerful book. For one year, Giorgia Lupi, an Italian living in New York, and Stefanie Posavec, an American in London, mapped the particulars of their daily lives as a series of hand-drawn postcards they exchanged via mail weekly—small portraits as full of emotion as they are data, both mundane and magical. Dear Data reproduces in pinpoint detail the full year’s set of cards, front and back, providing a remarkable portrait of two artists connected by their attention to the details of their lives—including complaints, distractions, phone addictions, physical contact, and desires. These details illuminate the lives of two remarkable young women and also inspire us to map our own lives, including specific suggestions on what data to draw and how. A captivating and unique book for designers, artists, correspondents, friends, and lovers everywhere.
Editor’s Note: The following three designer kids’ books were republished in 2016:
by Ann Rand & Ingrid Fiksdahl King
Description: Unearthed after nearly forty years, What Can I Be?, a stunning concept book written by Ann Rand and illustrated by Ingrid King, is sure to delight children with its superb graphics and vivid palette. Triangles, squares, circles, lines, and colors spring to life in various and creative formations as they ask, “What can I be?” A green triangle asks to become a tent, a kite, a Christmas tree, or the sail of a boat, or why not all of these things?
[Related: Read more about What Can I Be? here.]
by Ann and Paul Rand
Description: Paul Rand and his wife, Ann, wrote this book for their daughter, Catherine, to explain the interplay of sound and color. Paul’s distinctive papercut illustrations of bold shapes and bursts of color beautifully complement Ann’s rhythmic text, encouraging children to listen and repeat noises they hear every day: the “blop” of a raindrop, the “wham!” of a shutting door, the whisper of the wind in the trees, and the “crunch crunch” of buttered toast.
by Phyllis La Farge and Seymour Chwast
Description: Henry Edgewood loves making pancakes. He makes them every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and everyone in town knows his are the best. But when fame and fortune knock on the door, in the form of a TV appearance and an invitation to the White House, Henry, then far from family, friends, and school, learns that there’s a lot more to pancakes than mixing flour, eggs, and milk. This revised edition of the 1971 classic is a humorous reminder to keep our eyes on what’s most important, and it is sure to capture the fancy of anybody who’s found themselves focused single-mindedly on a pursuit or passion and lost perspective of their priorities.
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