Two Design Books to Stop You in Your Tracks

If I were a secret agent assigned to take down an evil graphic designer who was plotting to destroy the world, I know just what I’d do: I’d give the designer the book The Process: A New Foundation in Art and Design. That’s all it would take to save the planet, because they would start flipping through the pages and it would stop them dead in their tracks, unable to put it down.

This book is one surprise after another. First of all, the only thing worse than the incredibly boring book title is the even more boring book cover—which proves, once and for all, that you cannot judge a book by its cover.

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But if you can get past the title and the cover, the interior of the book is amazing. The premise is simple: give art students 13 basic challenges in thinking conceptually, and give them some rules, and see what happens. Each project is displayed in order, with little background or explanation, and the student’s work speaks for itself.

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Obviously some students have a harder time following directions than others… sometimes the work cleverly subverts the exercise, other times it follows the rules to a T but includes an unexpected twist so that you can’t help but smile.

No new ground is mined here, no deep new ideas unearthed, but these images are a wondrous testament to the power of the artist and designer to communicate ideas through a myriad filters and facets.

Presenting Shakespeare

If the last book didn’t foil the evil graphic designer’s plot, Presenting Shakespeare surely would. Once again, the book title sounds a bit dull, the concept is simple (collect and display over 1,100 posters from Shakespeare plays produced around the world), and the goal is to show how different designers attack the same problems. But once again, the results amaze. It’s the kind of book you can flip through quickly and see several images that make you go wow; or you can slowly peruse and study, letting the designers’ works expand your mind slowly, inexorably.

Presenting Shakespeare

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You can see more of the book here on this Behance page.

Surely, the more you know about these Shakespeare plays, the more you will enjoy the book, each chapter of which tackles a different play. But even if you’ve never read the Bard, you can’t help but be amazed at how each play’s ideas come to life through the still images of a poster.


Side Note: There is a rather amusing story attached to these two books. I first learned about them in an article from Print magazine, titled 25 of the Best Design Books of 2015, and I mused, very casually in a Facebook post that all of these books looked great and I wanted them. Then suddenly, the week before Christmas, deliveries started arriving. First a box with just a few of the books arrived. Then, over the next few days, five more boxes and envelopes arrived until all 25 of these books were stacked up in my kitchen. I did not order them. There was no gift note nor indication of who had ordered them. While my wife wondered where we would put them, I wondered the deep mystery of who had sent this incredible treasure trove of books. I finally posted a query back on Facebook, and after some joking by friends, my benefactor came forward: Michael Ninness (who has played a number of important roles in our industry over the past two decades, and who is currently Adobe’s Senior Muckity Muck of Design Products—or something like that). So my deep thanks goes out to Michael, a wonderful “secret santa,” who a) taught me the joy that can come from a pile of boxes; b) taught me to be careful what I ask for; and c) helped bring these books into my life so I can share them more fully with you.

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Posted on: January 4, 2016

David Blatner

David Blatner is the author or co-author of 15 books, including Real World InDesign, Spectrums: Our Mind-Boggling Universe From Infinitesimal to Infinity, and The Joy of Pi. He is also the author of InDesign Essential Training and the InDesign Insider Training titles at lynda.com. David is the co-host of InDesignSecrets and PePcon: The Print + ePublishing Conference, and is the co-founder of Creative Publishing Network.

1 Comment on Two Design Books to Stop You in Your Tracks

  1. Both books are as good as ordered from Amazon…Thanks!

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