25 of the Best Design Books of 2015

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… Or, perhaps better put, a highly subjective (alphabetical) list of design books that the Print team read and loved in 2015. (And, of course, to check out the list of books HOW+Print published this year, click here.)

What was your favorite design book of 2015? Let us know in the Comments. We’ll be doing a random drawing for some of the titles below in early January.

And now! Books. Glorious books.


Art Chantry Speaks

By: Art Chantry, edited by Monica Rene Rochester

Official Description: “‘Art Chantry … is he a Luddite?’ asks a Rhode Island School of Design poster promoting a Chantry lecture. ‘Or is he a graphic design hero?’ For decades this avatar of low-tech design has fought against the cheap and easy use of digital software. Chantry’s homage to expired technology, and his inspired use of Xerox machines and X-Acto blade cuts of printed material, created a much-copied style during the grunge period and beyond. Chantry’s designs were published in Some People Can’t Surf: The Graphic Design of Art Chantry (Chronicle Books), exhibited at the Seattle Art Museum, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian and the Louvre. More recently, Chantry has drawn upon his extraordinary collection of 20th-century graphic art to create compelling histories of the forgotten and unknown on essays he has posted on his Facebook page. These essays might lionize the unrecognized illustrators of screws, wrenches and pipes in equipment catalogs. Other posts might reveal how some famous artists were improperly recognized. Art Chantry Speaks is the kind of opinionated art history you’ve always wanted to read but were never assigned.”

Why You Should Read It: Dethroning Paul Rand? A war against the “Great Man Theory” of design? Photoshop heresy? Regardless of whether you love Chantry or grind your teeth at the mere thought of him, his ideas and inimitable voice are valuable dissent in the design field—even if all they do is strengthen your own thoughts to the contrary.


The Art of Typewriting

By: Marvin and Ruth Sackner

Official Description: “The beloved typewriter―its utilitarian beauty, the pleasing percussive action of striking its keys, the singularity of the impressed page―is enjoying a genuine renaissance across the creative industries. In this authoritative publication, the founders of the Sackner Archive of Visual and Concrete Poetry, the largest such collection in the world, apply their experience, mining the collection they have created over four decades to present examples produced by more than 200 of the world’s finest typewriter artists. From the early ornamental works produced by secretaries in the late 19th century to more recent works that consider the unique position of the typewritten document in the digital age, there is an astonishing and delightful range of creativity in every artwork.”

Why You Should Read It: Following a preface by John Maeda and foreword by Steven Heller, The Art of Typewriting wows with historic and contemporary works grouped categorically—and alongside the aesthetics, presents a history of ornamental and art typewriting. A fascinating collection—and one that comes with a unique cover for every book generated (ironically?) by an algorithm.


The Best American Infographics 2015

Edited by: Gareth Cook

Official Description: “We find ourselves in the era of big data, a time when information moves faster than ever, and infographics provide us with quick, often influential bursts of insight—into the environment, politics, social issues, health, sports, arts and culture, and more. The Best American Infographics captures the finest examples, from the past year, of this mesmerizing new way of seeing and understanding our world. The Best American Infographics 2015 is the third volume in the series, and a New England Independent Booksellers Association bestseller. The guest introducer is Maria Popova, the creative force behind the wondrous Brainpickings.org, which receives over 1.2 million visitors a month.”

Why You Should Read It: As always, a collection of design pornography, from beautifully illustrated studies of how fast ideas move in the cultural zeitgeist to the cheeky (Boy-Band Blueprint) and the somber (drones).


Brodsky & Utkin

By: Alexander Brodsky and Ilya Utkin

Official Description: “From 1978 to 1993, the renowned Soviet ‘paper architects’ Alexander Brodsky and Ilya Utkin created an incredible collection of elaborate etchings depicting outlandish, often impossible, buildings and cityscapes. Funny, cerebral and deeply human, their obsessively detailed work layers elements borrowed from Egyptian tombs, Ledoux’s visionary architecture, Le Corbusier’s urban master plans, and other historical precedents in etchings of breathtaking complexity and beauty. Back by popular demand following the sold-out original 1991 edition and 2003 reprint, Brodsky & Utkin presents the sum of the architects’ collaborative prints and adds new material, including an updated preface by the artists’ gallery representative, Ron Feldman, a new introductory essay by architect Aleksandr Mergold, visual documentation of the duo’s installation work, and rare personal photographs.”

Why You Should Read It: A mind-bending collection. Our only complaint: We wish the plates in the 9-by-12 inch book were bigger to allow the images to truly stun in their full complexity.


e Debate

By: Wim Crouwel, Jan van Toorn and Frederike Huygen

Official Description: “The first English translation of a famous 1972 debate between Dutch graphic designers Wim Crouwel and Jan van Toorn, a public clash of subjectivity versus objectivity at Amsterdam’s Museum Fodor that helped set the stage for bold philosophical showdowns to come in design culture. Held in response to an exhibition of van Toorn’s work at Stedelijk Museum, including student posters protesting the Vietnam War—in an era of youth culture and increasing resistance to authority, capitalism and the power of media—the stakes were aesthetic, ethical and politically charged. Crouwel defended his approach of neutrality and austere rationalism, attention to typography and worksmanship, and professionalism in service of the client’s message. Van Toorn argued for his use of chaos, collage and photographs of everyday life; that a designer’s ideas, personality and political commitments are integral to the work. Dialogue on The Debate has reverberated in graphic design circles for the four decades since, and it is often referenced in modern design criticism as a key marker for the philosophical positions that continue to define the profession. The first English transcript of this key event in design history will allow a contemporary audience to discover the ongoing relevance of The Debate in an increasingly complex visual culture.”

Why You Should Read It: The debate itself, as pertinent today as it was when it took place in 1972, is now wrapped up in a small clothbound edition with a foreword by Rick Poynor. As Michael Bierut put it: “[It’s] the graphic design book of the year.”


Destruction Was My Beatrice: Dada and the Unmaking of the Twentieth Century

By: Jed Rasula

Official Description: “In 1916, as World War I raged around them, a group of bohemians gathered at a small cabaret in Zurich, Switzerland. After decorating the walls with art by Picasso and other avant-garde artists, they embarked on a series of extravagant performances. Three readers simultaneously recited a poem in three languages; a monocle-wearing teenager performed a spell from New Zealand; another young man sneered at the audience, snapping a whip as he intoned his ‘Fantastic Prayers.’ One of the artists called these sessions ‘both buffoonery and a requiem mass.’ Soon they would have a more evocative name: Dada. In Destruction Was My Beatrice, modernist scholar Jed Rasula presents the first narrative history of Dada, showing how this little-understood artistic phenomenon laid the foundation for culture as we know it today. Although the venue where Dada was born closed after only four months and its acolytes scattered, the idea of Dada quickly spread to New York, where it influenced artists like Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray; to Berlin, where it inspired painters George Grosz and Hannah Höch; and to Paris, where it dethroned previous avant-garde movements like Fauvism and Cubism while inspiring early Surrealists like André Breton, Louis Aragon, and Paul Éluard. The long tail of Dadaism, Rasula shows, can be traced even further, to artists as diverse as William S. Burroughs, Robert Rauschenberg, Marshall McLuhan, the Beatles, Monty Python, David Byrne and Jean-Michel Basquiat, all of whom—along with untold others—owe a debt to the bizarre wartime escapades of the Dada vanguard.”

Why You Should Read It: Destruction offers a deep look extending far beyond the casually thrown about term, bringing the origins of Dada to vivid life with fascinating detail.


An Eames Anthology

By: Charles and Ray Eames, edited by Daniel Ostroff

Official Description:An Eames Anthology collects for the first time the writings of the esteemed American architects and designers Charles and Ray Eames, illuminating their marriage and professional partnership of 50 years. More than 120 primary-source documents and 200 illustrations highlight iconic projects such as the Case Study Houses and the molded plywood chair, as well as their work for major corporations as both designers (Herman Miller, Vitra) and consultants (IBM, Polaroid). Previously unpublished materials appear alongside published writings by and about the Eameses and their work, lending new insight into their creative process. Correspondence with such luminaries as Richard Neutra and Eero Saarinen provides a personal glimpse into the advance of modernity in mid-century America.”

Why You Should Read It: As Karli Petrovic detailed in the Fall issue of Print, the beauty of this book is that it doesn’t merely showcase the end result of the Eames’ work, but rather their larger process—which is applicable across a variety of disciplines. (Plus, there’s an editorial in the book that Charles wrote for Print in 1960. What’s not to like?)


Embracing an Icon: The Posters of Bernard Villlemot

By: George and Jeanne Bon Salle

Official Description: “Bernard Villemont’s poster art can be seen everywhere―in galleries, museums and poster shops throughout the world. Whether promoting Perrier, Bally shoes or Orangina, his artwork has translated advertising messages into memorable images. Yet, as familiar as these posters may be, his body of work stretches over five decades and includes film posters, public service posters, and more. Here, for the first time, a lavishly illustrated book presents the most complete collection of Villemot’s work ever assembled, including many images that have never been seen before. Embracing an Icon: The Posters of Bernard Villemot is a unique look at the artist and his art, from Villemot’s time as a struggling graphic illustrator to his place as one of the last great poster artists of our time. Born in France in 1911, Villemot studied under Art Deco master Paul Colin, merging his use of sharp line with a modern interpretation of color akin to that of Matisse. At the time of his death in 1989, Villemot was the most lauded commercial artist of the late 20th century, and his many designs still strike contemporary audiences as fre
sh and exciting. Within this 320-page coffee table-sized book are images of the artist’s 565 commercial designs in full, vibrant color. In addition, Embracing an Icon provides insightful essays on the artist’s importance in the history of modern advertising and graphic art, as well as his long-time relationship with major brands.”

Why You Should Read It: Admittedly, while I had seen some of his work before, I was not familiar with Villemont. But perusing this book reveals a striking collection of work. (Side note: If the author’s name seems familiar, you’re probably a basketball fan: George Bon Salle, in addition to apparently being a voracious Villemont collector, was a pro.)


Graphic Design: The New Basics

By: Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips

Official Description: “[This] bestselling introduction to graphic design is now available in a revised and updated edition. In Graphic Design: The New Basics, bestselling author Ellen Lupton (Thinking with Type, Type on Screen) and design educator Jennifer Cole Phillips explain the key concepts of visual language that inform any work of design, from logo or letterhead to a complex website. Through visual demonstrations and concise commentary, students and professionals explore the formal elements of two-dimensional design, such as point, line, plane, scale, hierarchy, layers and transparency. This revised edition replaces 64 pages of the original publication with new content, including new chapters on visualizing data, typography, modes of representation and Gestalt principles, and adds 16 pages of new student and professional work covering such topics as working with grids and designing with color.”

Why You Should Read It: A longstanding excellent primer, in an equally excellent updated edition.


Graphique de la Rue

By: Louise Fili

Official Description: “Paris is a city of pure enchantment, and everyone who loves the City of Light has a Parisian muse, from the Tour Eiffel to crème caramel. For celebrated graphic designer and incessant flâneur Louise Fili, it’s the city’s dazzling signage. For more than four decades, Fili has strolled picturesque Parisian rues and boulevards with map and camera, cataloging the work of generations of sign craftsmen. Graphique de la Rue is Fili’s photographic diary of hundreds of Paris’ most inventive restaurant, shop, hotel, street and advertising signs. Classic neon café signs are juxtaposed with the dramatic facades of the Moulin Rouge and the Folies Bergère. Colorful mosaics cheerfully announce hotel entrances, department stores, fishmongers, even public toilets. Hector Guimard’s legendary entrances to the Paris Métro stations brush elbows with graceful gold-leaf and dimensional Art Deco, Futurist or Art Nouveau architectural lettering, as well as whimsical pictorial signs (giant eyeglasses announce optiques, and oversized hanging shears indicate a knife and scissors maker). A major influence on Fili’s own work, many of these masterpieces of vernacular design, now destroyed, live on solely in this book, a typographic love letter to Paris sure to inspire designers and armchair travelers alike.”

Why You Should Read It: In this book, Fili has graciously done what so many travelers have kicked themselves for forgetting to do in the City of Light: She documented the design at every corner. A lovely concentrated look at the city.

Graphique Cover r5

The Hirschfeld Century

By: Al Hirschfeld, edited and with text by David Leopold

Official Description: “Al Hirschfeld redefined caricature and exemplified Broadway and Hollywood, enchanting generations with his mastery of line. His art appeared in every major publication during nine decades of the 20th and 21st centuries, as well as on numerous book, record and program covers; film posters and publicity art; and on 15 U.S. postage stamps. Now, The Hirschfeld Century brings together for the first time the artist’s extraordinary 82-year career, revealed in more than 360 of his iconic black-and-white and color drawings, illustrations and photographs—his influences, his techniques, his evolution from his earliest works to his last drawings, and with a biographical text by David Leopold, Hirschfeld authority who, as archivist to the artist, worked side by side with him and has spent more than 20 years documenting the artist’s extraordinary output.”

Why You Should Read It: Come on. It’s Hirschfeld. And Leopold does him justice.


How to

By: Michael Bierut

Official Description: “Protégé of design legend Massimo Vignelli and partner in the New York office of the international design firm Pentagram, Michael Bierut has had one of the most varied and successful careers of any living graphic designer, serving a broad spectrum of clients as diverse as Saks Fifth Avenue, Harley-Davidson, the Atlantic Monthly, the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation, Billboard, Princeton University, the New York Jets, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Morgan Library. How to, Bierut’s first career retrospective, is a landmark work in the field. Featuring more than 35 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 mainta
ined for more than 35 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.”

Why You Should Read It: From his wit to the architecture of his process and his approach to design at large, this book is everything a design monograph should be. (And we don’t say that lightly.)


Judge this.

By: Chip Kidd

Official Description: “First impressions are everything. They dictate whether something stands out, how we engage with it, whether we buy it, and how we feel. In Judge this, renowned designer Chip Kidd takes us through his day as he takes in first impressions of all kinds. We follow this visual journey as Kidd encounters and engages with everyday design, breaking down the good, the bad, the absurd, and the brilliant as only someone with a critical, trained eye can. From the design of your morning paper to the subway ticket machine to the books you browse to the smartphone you use to the packaging for the chocolate bar you buy as an afternoon treat, Kidd reveals the hidden secrets behind each of the design choices, with a healthy dose of humor, expertise and, of course, judgment as he goes. Judge this is a design love story, exposing the often invisible beauty and betrayal in simple design choices—ones most of us never even think to notice. And with each object, Kidd proves that first impressions, whether we realize it or not, have a huge impact on the way we perceive the world.”

Why You Should Read It: An adaptation of one of Kidd’s Ted Talks, Judge this progresses with visuals shot on Kidd’s iPhone 5S—and grants an insight into the mind of one of modern design’s heroes, and how he sees the world and creates within it.


Ladies of Letterpress: A Gallery of Prints With 86 Removable Posters

By: Kseniya Thomas and Jessica C. White

Official Description: “Who can resist the tactile charm of letterpress? Not many, judging by its ever-rising popularity among artists and designers working with old-school printing methods. Ladies of Letterpress features the best work of the members of Ladies of Letterpress, an international organization that champions the work of women printers. Valuable as a handy resource, it includes a wide range of pieces, from greeting cards to broadsides and posters, printed in a variety of type and illustration styles. Each piece is accompanied by details of paper, inks and press used in its printing, and a profile of its printer. Whether you’re drawn to elegant greeting cards, humorous note cards or calendars and posters, you’re sure to find inspiration in this volume. And when you do, there are 80 detachable pages just begging to be pinned up.”

Why You Should Read It: The good: Letterpress, and the Ladies of Letterpress organization! The bad: You’re short on wall space and now face a crisis.


Ladislav Sutnar: Visual Design in Action

By: Ladislav Sutnar, edited by Reto Caduff and Steven Heller

Official Description: “Sutnar’s brilliant structural systems for clarifying otherwise dense industrial data placed him in the pantheon of Modernist pioneers and made him one of the visionaries of what is today called ‘information design.’ Visual Design in Action is a snapshot of Sutnar’s American period (1939-1976), and includes graphics for Carr’s Department Store, advertisements for the Vera Neumann Company, identity for Addo-X, and other stunningly contemporary works. He is best known for his total design concept for the Sweets Catalog Service and lesser known for introducing the parenthesis as a way to typographically distinguish the area code from the rest of a phone number. Visual Design in Action is a testament to the historical relevance of Modernism and the philosophical resonance of Sutnar’s focus on the functional beauty of total clarity. This reprint of Visual Design in Action (originally published in limited quantities in 1961) is as spot-on about the power of design and ‘design thinking’ as it ever was.”

Why You Should Read It: Visual Design in Action is an essential text in design history, reproduced with a beautiful array of colors and papers, resurrected thanks to the power of Kickstarter and a few passionate creators.


Metamedia: American Book Fictions and Literary Print Culture After Digitization

By: Alexander Starre

Official Description: “Does literature need the book? With electronic texts and reading devices growing increasingly popular, the codex is no longer the default format of fiction. Yet as Alexander Starre shows in Metamedia, American literature has rediscovered the book as an artistic medium after the first e-book hype in the late 1990s. By fusing narrative and design, a number of ‘bibliographic’ writers have created reflexive fictions—metamedia—that invite us to read printed formats in new ways. Their work challenges ingrained theories and beliefs about literary communication and its connections to technology and materiality. Metamedia explores the book as a medium that matters and introduces innovative critical concepts to better grasp its narrative significance. Combining sustained textual analysis with impulses from the fields of book history, media studies and systems theory, Starre explains the aesthetics and the cultural work of complex material fictions, such as Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves (2000), Chip Kidd’s The Cheese Monkeys (2001), Salvador Plascencia’s The People of Paper (2005), Reif Larsen’s The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet (2009) and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes (2010). He also broadens his analys
is beyond the genre of the novel in an extensive account of the influential literary magazine McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern and its founder, Dave Eggers.”

Why You Should Read It: While the subject matter may sound dense, this book is anything but. Rather, it provides a compelling answer for when you’re asked about the future of print media, and why print media still matters today.


Outside the Box: Hand-Drawn Packaging From Around the World

By: Gail Anderson

Official Description: “In an age of slick, computer-generated type and Photoshopped perfection, hand-drawn packing is enjoying a global resurgence. As shorthand for something more authentic, homegrown, handmade or crafted, hand-drawn packaging is found on everything from supermarket eggs to Chipotle drink cups. In this exhaustive and lavishly illustrated survey, organized by four types—DIY, art, craft, and artisanal—Gail Anderson pulls back the curtain on the working processes and inspirations of 40 letterers, illustrators and designers from all around the world through insightful interviews, process sketches and her infectious love of the medium.”

Why You Should Read It: In addition to the visual playground—featuring work by Pentagram, Sagmeister & Walsh, Jon Contino, Louise Fili, Daniel Pelavin, Dana Tanamachi and many others—the book offers strong commentary from the makers whose work is featured throughout.


Patternalia: An Unconvential History of Polka Dots, Stripes, Plaid, Camouflage & Other Graphic Patterns

By: Jude Stewart

Official Description: “We wake up in the morning and put on our striped socks and our plaid shirts, sit down to breakfast at a gingham tablecloth, perhaps eyeing the wallpaper with its fleur-de-lis. Patterns are everywhere—yet they can go unnoticed. In fact, every pattern is a story, a surprisingly deep trove of historical information and cultural associations. Jude Stewart, author of ROY G. BIV: An Exceedingly Surprising Book About Color, brings her same sprightly sense of humor, sparkling personality and roving curiosity to this cultural history of patterns. From camouflage to keffiyeh, plaid to paisley, slipping out of the Carmelites’ scandalously striped mantle and into an itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny yellow polka-dot bikini, Patternalia plumbs the backstories of individual patterns, the surprising kinks in how each developed, the parallels between patterns natural and invented, and the curious personalities these patterns accrue over time. Boldly designed by Oliver Munday and cleverly cross-referenced, Patternalia is pure pattern pleasure: a beautiful object and a dazzling read that will appeal to anyone interested in design, fashion and the cultural history buzzing all around us.”

Why You Should Read It: For years, Jude Stewart has been the go-to sage for all things color and pattern, and for good reason: She’s brilliant, funny, and takes the reader down the rabbit hole with style and charm.


Presenting Shakespeare: 1,100 Posters From Around the World

By: Mirko Ilic and Steven Heller

Official Description: “A skull held aloft, a lovesick donkey, a bloodied dagger—these familiar icons are instantly recognizable shorthand for the plays of William Shakespeare. In the 400 years since his death, the Bard of Avon’s exalted place in the pantheon of theater and poetry—indeed, all of Western culture—is unequaled. As Ben Jonson proclaimed, Shakespeare ‘is not of an age but for all time!’ And just as centuries of theatrical artists have reimagined his works through the lens of their own time and culture, so too have illustrators and designers been inspired to create posters that reinvent Shakespeare’s well-known themes for each new generation of theatergoers. Presenting Shakespeare collects 1,100 posters for Shakespeare’s plays, designed by an international roster of artists representing 55 countries, from Japan to Colombia, India, Russia, Australia and beyond. A fascinating trove of theatrical artifacts, Presenting Shakespeare is a necessary volume for theater and design lovers alike.”

Why You Should Read It: When I began compiling this list and sorting through books, I set a daunting challenge for myself: Feature only one of Steven Heller’s 10 new books. Ultimately, this tome, a collection of the bard from around the globe, won the day. The artists’ interpretations of the plays are as varied as the takes of actors and directors who have approached the material over the many decades since they premiered, providing a diverse visual archive that amazes.


The Process: A New Foundation in Art and Design

By: Judith Wilde and Richard Wilde

Official Description:The Process: A New Foundation in Art and Design is a compendium of 13 experimental projects designed to teach conceptual thinking and problem solving to art and design students. The projects, created by Judith Wilde and Richard Wilde, focus on developing formal excellence and a strong sense of aesthetics, along with the ability to generate new ideas. Each project is illustrated with multiple visual solutions, provided to inspire creativity and illustrate that there can be multiple solutions to a single problem.”

Why You Should Read It: The book unfolds as an excellent primer to show new designers—via myriad examples—that the craft is anything but one-size-fits-all.


Sony D
esign: Making Modern

Official Description: “An impressive book dedicated to the innovative designs of Sony, a trailblazer in personal electronics and pioneer of the legendary and highly successful WALKMAN, Handycam and other portable electronics. Emerging from the ashes of the Second World War, Sony Corporation pioneered the miniaturization of electronics and created some of the most innovative technologies of the postwar period. Following the model of one of its founders, Masaru Ibuka established Sony with the goal of doing what had never been done before. Beginning with the TR-63 from 1957, the world’s first truly pocket-sized transistor radio, Sony launched the consumer microelectronics industry and gave rise to some of the most memorable products that transformed the way billions of people consume media. Notable for their ease of use, Sony’s products embody the utility of good design and have themselves become objects of desire. This book beautifully catalogs their vast achievements in design and impact on global culture for almost 70 years. In-depth case studies from Sony’s archives on the development of the WALKMAN, the Handycam, the flat-screen TV and the PlayStation make this the definitive history of Sony design. Through Sony’s relentless pursuit of innovation, this book is a tribute to the passion that continues to live on in their products today. With a stunning cover and interior design inspired by some of the most memorable Sony products, this book is a must-have for design and technology enthusiasts.”

Why You Should Read It: For the sheer beauty of the photography and layout throughout. While similar books might have overloaded the pages, here the technology is presented in stark treatments (each often featuring only a single product) that allow the chronological story of Sony’s design to speak for itself.



By: Nick Sousanis

Official Description: “The primacy of words over images has deep roots in Western culture. But what if the two are inextricably linked, equal partners in meaning-making? Written and drawn entirely as comics, Unflattening is an experiment in visual thinking. Nick Sousanis defies conventional forms of scholarly discourse to offer readers both a stunning work of graphic art and a serious inquiry into the ways humans construct knowledge. Unflattening is an insurrection against the fixed viewpoint. Weaving together diverse ways of seeing drawn from science, philosophy, art, literature and mythology, it uses the collage-like capacity of comics to show that perception is always an active process of incorporating and reevaluating different vantage points. While its vibrant, constantly morphing images occasionally serve as illustrations of text, they more often connect in nonlinear fashion to other visual references throughout the book. They become allusions, allegories and motifs, pitting realism against abstraction and making us aware that more meets the eye than is presented on the page. In its graphic innovations and restless shape-shifting, Unflattening is meant to counteract the type of narrow, rigid thinking that Sousanis calls ‘flatness.’ … Fusing words and images to produce new forms of knowledge, Unflattening teaches us how to access modes of understanding beyond what we normally apprehend.”

Why You Should Read It: I became aware of this book too late. I read it just as our Text Issue was going to press, but had I read it sooner, we would have excerpted it. What began as Sousanis’ comics dissertation was eventually picked up by Harvard University Press—and the end result is, frankly, genius.


Vargic’s Miscellany of Curious Maps

By: Martin Vargic

Official Description: “A stunning full-color collection of inventive, poignant, humorous and controversial maps of the world from the internationally recognized digital artist behind the stunning ‘Map of Stereotypes.’ Slovakian artist Martin Vargic rose to international fame in 2014 when his ‘Map of the Internet 1.0’ went viral. Using old National Geographic maps as inspiration, he drew a striking and meticulous map of the most visited websites in the world, portraying Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple as sovereign countries; the eastern continent as the ‘old world’ with originators like Microsoft and IBM; and at the most southern tip, a forgotten wasteland of outdated and obsolete places of the past like You’ve Got Mail and Friendster. … Beautiful, unique, and packed with intricate and brilliant details, Vargic’s Miscellany of Curious Maps showcases this visual artist’s rare talent as never before in a gorgeous edition sure to be treasured by fans. Along with eight exquisite and unexpected conceptual atlases, he has imagined The Music Map, The Map of YouTube, The Corporate World Map, and many more. An additional 50 mini-maps of the world display a diverse list of data, such as the number of heavy metal bands per capita, the probability of getting struck by lightning, average penis length, NSA surveillance rate, and number of tractors per 1,000 inhabitants. Extensively mapping various subjects from all corners of our modern civilization, Vargic’s Miscellany of Curious Maps is a fresh and thoughtful look at Western culture that will spark conversation and continually surprise and fascinate readers.”

Why You Should Read It: It’s funny, smart, insightful and often delightfully random. And what they don’t tell you above: Vargic is only 17 years old. (!)


Variations on a Rectangle

By: DJ Stout

Official Description: “An internationally renowned graphic designer and partner in Pentagram, the world’s most famous graphic design firm, DJ Stout is a fifth-generation Texan whose strong sense of place has inspired his design work for over 35 years. His contributions to Texas Monthly, where he was art director for 13 years, helped the magazine win three National Magazine Awards. American Photo
magazine named Stout one of its “100 Most Important People in Photography,” and I.D. International Design magazine selected him for “The I.D. Fifty,” its annual listing of design innovators. The Society of Illustrators honored Stout with the national Richard Gangel Art Director Award, and he was made a Fellow of the Austin chapter of the AIGA for his lifetime achievements. Variations on a Rectangle presents both a career retrospective of DJ Stout’s work and his inimitable, often humorous perspectives on publication design. Using nearly 800 images to illustrate more than 250 major design projects, Stout describes the inspiration and creative process behind his highly innovative designs for magazines, books, brochures, posters and even a fiberglass ‘batcow.’ He tells fascinating, behind-the-scenes stories of Texas personalities such as Tommy Lee Jones, Sissy Spacek, and Ann Richards, who figured prominently in Texas Monthly’s pages, while also discussing how his Texas heritage has influenced his more recent design work. … An essential primer for younger graphic designers and a revelation for everyone who values exceptional design, Variations on a Rectangle proves Stout’s maxim, ‘A publication without style is just a document, and documents don’t do well on the newsstand. And that’s why you need editorial art directors. Amen.'”

Why You Should Read It: In her introduction, Paula Scher notes that Stout’s designs are “uniquely American,” and this book is a catalogue that delivers on that assertion. Fans of studying design by geographic region (as we at Print tend to) will delight in Stout’s stylistic renderings that all showcase his deep roots.


William Addison Dwiggins: Stencilled Ornament and Illustration

By: Dorothy Abbe

Official Description: “There has never been anyone in the design world like William Addison Dwiggins (1880–1956). The first American to call himself a graphic designer, he applied his prodigious talents in the fields of typography, calligraphy, illustration and even puppeteering—a more fitting title might have been Renaissance man. He is best known for his book designs, which combine his expertise in calligraphy, use of stencils and typography. Very little has been published on Dwiggins, until now. The first of several planned volumes on his incredible legacy, this reprint of Stencilled Ornament & Illustration includes the original book, hand-set in an experimental Linotype face he designed, along with stencils and plates illustrating a dizzying array of graphical elements. A new introduction by Bruce Kennett shows how Dwiggins used ornaments, rules and other elements in his final book and jacket designs. Originally published in a letterpress edition of 120 copies, this important book introduces the unique genius of Dwiggins to a broader audience.”

Why You Should Read It: Steven Heller says it best: “When the American type and lettering virtuoso W.A. Dwiggins turned his hand to stencil making, the design world knew that this otherwise primitive method had reached a level of sophistication. This reprint of Dorothy Abbe’s celebration returns Dwig’s stencil lettering and ornament to its rightful place as high typographic art.”


Postcards From PRINT

PRINT magazine, one of the world’s most revered graphic design publications, turned 75 in 2015. In celebration, Steven Heller curated a collection of 75 postcards, each featuring an iconic cover of PRINT magazine straight from the archives.


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About Zachary Petit

Zachary Petit (@zacharypetit on Twitter) is a freelance journalist, the editor-in-chief of Design Matters Media, and the former editor-in-chief of PRINT.

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