This is not a list of the best design books of 2012, but of some of the most interesting and alluring ones that have come to our attention in recent weeks—encompassing typography, illustration, the business of being a designer, and more. If you need last-minute gift ideas for your fellow designers—or if you need to give your loved ones some holiday hints—read on for a wealth of options.
The Anatomy of Type: A Graphic Guide to 100 Typefaces
By Stephen Coles
In The Anatomy of Type, Coles—a Print contributing editor—does a wonderful job of initiating the layman to the field of modern typography. The first pages of the book are dedicated to the technical terms—such as aperture, apex, ascender/extender, glyph width, and x-height—that Coles spends the remainder of the book examining in fine detail (with the help of the book’s designer, Tony Seddon). But he also keep things from getting too technical with charming sentences like this: “Chances are, when you say ‘leg,’ ‘serif,’ or ‘baseline’ everyone will know exactly what you mean.” Or this: “Don’t be surprised if someone at your party balks when you describe Bodoni as Rational, not Modern.” By the time SangBleu is described as a “very sexy type,” the reader is well versed enough in typeface terminology and history to agree.
Andy Warhol Drawings
Perhaps the most pleasant aspect of Andy Warhol’s drawings from the 1950s is the overpowering feeling of fantasy. None of the everyday objects that he draws—commissioned by New York advertising agencies—truly existed as they appear in his pages. Warhol’s ice cream cones resemble Faberge eggs; the great fins of a red automobile threaten to dwarf the car itself; cats of deep violet with green eyes implore the reader for a pet; and women’s legs look like wisps of cigarette smoke dipped in gold. The illusions collected in this cute volume are overt, and definitely intentional, but nonetheless intoxicating.
By Peter Campbell
London Review of Books
Artwork is an affectionate retrospective of the work of Campbell, an art director and illustrator who was crucial to the design of the London Review of Books from its first issue in September 1979 to his death in October 2011. Jeremy Harding’s wonderful introduction serves as a biography of Campbell and a dissection of his distinctive style—both in his paintings that graced more than 400 covers of the LRB, and in his writing that often appeared within its pages. Watercolors were Campbell’s primary medium, which he used to render scenes of everyday life in an impressionistic fashion. Some typical Campbell vignettes: two girls in slickers bending against the driving rain; light refracting off a bottle of absinthe-green perfume on a bathroom shelf; wispy figures dwarfed by the glass façade of a skyscraper, all rendered in industrial blues and grays save for the muted yellow of a passing delivery truck. Still life seems a paltry description of Campbell’s work, as his drawings and writings illustrate a mind preoccupied with movement.
Hang Glider & Mud Mask
By Brian McMullen and Jason Jagel
This ingenious children’s book depicts two heroes at opposite ends of the same problem: how to reach the other. Hang Glider sees Mud Mask’s outstretched arms and flies down from the heights to land in them; meanwhile, Mud Mask sees Hang Glider’s dangling legs and climbs up from the depths to grab hold of them. The back covers of each story fuse to form a single Z-shaped binding, so that the two stories share the same ending from their own perspectives. The book can be displayed or read according to which character you identify with more: a freefalling Icarus or a sewer-trudging golem.
Dialog: What Makes a Great Design Partnership
By Ken Carbone and Leslie Smolan
Additional text by Raul Barrenche, Massimo Vignelli, and Steven Heller
Pointed Leaf Press
Of New York City’s Carbone Smolan Agency, which has been in business for over 35 years, our very own Steven Heller writes, “Refinement and elegance are the armatures on which all of CSA’s projects are produced.” Dialog selects a couple dozen of the agency’s campaigns and examines them in close detail, using photographs and the words of both Carbone and Smolan. Throughout, the partners reflect on why their company has not only endured but also bloomed. Among the highlights are the duo’s memories of creating the poster for an IBM conference in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, in 1980: a typographic illustration of Sugarloaf Mountain inspired by IBM punch cards. Also excellent are the agency’s designs for a line of dinnerware for Dansk, as well as the redesign of the signage systems in the National History Museum of Los Angeles County.
Hand to Type: Scripts, Hand-Lettering and Calligraphy
Edited by Jan Middendorp
Nearly every script within the pages of this hefty ode to handwritten letters is suitable for framing, engraving, tattooing, or just simply admiring. While the Helveticas and Calibris shoulder the work of our everyday correspondence, handwriting is left free to express itself beautifully. Alongside each demonstration of a flowing, winding script are personal essays and interviews with leading calligraphers and designers—from veterans, like the Argentinean artist Angel Koziupa, to rising stars based in our own backyard, like Dana Tanamachi. Hand to Type is a fascinating and fully immersive journey through thousands of scripts and letterings that are designed to arrest the eye.
Popular Lies About Graphic Design
By Craig Ward
Popular Lies About Graphic Design is a slim book that hurls lumps of coal at dozens of the clichés that plague graphic designers each day. Some of the pills dispensed by the New York–based designer Craig Ward are of the bitter variety; for example, the first lie tackled is that “graphic design is a proper job.” But Ward tackles more serious notions—such as the ideas that “longer deadlines lead to better work” and “good ideas don’t require budgets”—with the same intensity as seemingly frivolous subjects, like “Comic Sans is the worst typeface ever created.” Monochromatic and minimal, Popular Lies is something akin to the world’s most attractively designed self-help book; we recommend it for the stocking of the designer or design fetishist on your list this season.
Need even more gift ideas? Through December 25, MyDesignShop.com is holding a “Merry Christmas to Me” sale with 25% off design tutorials, back issues of Print, and lots more.