Best Books Ever! (Part 6!)

Best Books Ever! (Part 6!)

As promised, compelling submissions from artists and design aficionado friends of SPD... who probably spend a good portion of their incomes on books that ought to make our list. Inspiration from some unique sources follow.

51MJ1ZSM3CL._SS500_.jpg26. The one book that keeps finding its way to the top of my pile of design books again and again is Printed Ephemera: The Changing Uses of Type and Letterforms in English and American Printing by John Lewis. It never fails to get my juices going. There are lots of great books about "good" design, but this is a book about cloakroom tickets, death announcements, tobacco labels, certificates, proclamations, wine and beer labels, invitations, invoices, trade cards, hardware labels, menus, and all the other wild fleeting paper that was produced without the benefit of design -- things that would otherwise have been lost or forgotten. Most of the ephemera in the book are from the eighteenth and nineteenth century, a time when typefaces were designed by punch cutters, and there was no such thing as a graphic designer. There are a few examples of twentieth century ephemera, which, though carefully and beautifully designed, somehow manage to look bloodless and effete next to their unschooled cousins.

                                                                                                                        --Ross MacDonald, Illustrator

51BeQ8BUUyL._SS400_.jpg27. I love Gary Panter's book Gary Panter: The Book, which came out in conjunction with his one-man show "Gary Panter: Pictures from the Psychedelic Swamp, 1972-2001 at the Clementine Gallery back in Spring 2008. This two volume boxed set, brilliantly designed by Helene Silverman, published by Picture Box, is amazing in its originality, intensity and consistent vision. You will step inside his brain and wonder where you are and your iPhone will be of no help!  I have been one of his biggest fans since we first met way back when...

                                                                                                           --Barbara Nessim, Illustrator


51FYER21KEL._SS500_.jpg28. A compilation of work from seminal design group Hipgnosis and one of it's main collaborators, Storm Thorgerson, Taken By Storm: The Art of Storm Thorgerson, is a favorite of mine. Pre-CD and MP3 album art, his concepts were usually more than just an outtake from the band's portrait. It's a richly described back-story account of some the greatest album art made and the ideas behind them: Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here, Animals, Dark Side of the Moon and Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy, to name a few.  Some of the later stuff in the '90s, when the process became less analog and more Photoshop, feels a bit dated and garish. But, the early stuff is a treat and it's amazing to read how they came up with solutions to their sometimes outrageous concepts like the 40-foot helium-filled pig.  No satin jacket or wizard-head bong required to enjoy!

                                                                                                                 --Carlos Serrao, Photographer

productImage.jpgEditor's note: More recently published, and equally impressive, do check out For the Love of  Vinyl: The Album Art of Hipgnosis  by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powel.

6c9453a09da01acb241a4110.L.jpg29. "Cognitive Art" is the catch-all term coined by physicist Phillip Morrison to describe train schedules, scientific diagrams, topographic maps, and pretty much any other two-dimensional stretch of page that demystifies, deconstructs or analyzes the world. The godfather of the genre, Edward Tufte, creates meta-cognitive art, in a way, each of his books is a treatise of visual information spanning space and time. Tufte's goal? To explain, through examples both good and bad, how best to conjure up meaning and intelligence out of a bunch of ink and pulp. Crack the spine on his first tome, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd edition, and you'll be hooked. Eventually, a large box with hundreds of dollars of his meticulously produced volumes (all lead type, 100 percent rag paper) will show up on your doorstep. You'll deadbolt the door, break out the scotch whiskey, and lose yourself for a weekend, shunning the world at large for the one presented in Tufte's pages. And sure, you'll end up learning a thing or two about design. But you'll also feel your brain swell a little bit, page by page. There's never been better proof that the content we create sculpts the way we think.

                                                                                       --Matt Bean, Brand Editor; Men's Health

KurtCobain.jpg30. It's hard to choose just one book to write about, but I would point to Cobain by Rolling Stone Press. This isn't your ordinary celebrity pictorial. Yes, it showcases stunning photography and bears an impressive roster of photographers, illustrators and writers. But it's also a careful study in typography and color, using only three: yellow, red and grey. It is slick without feeling overproduced and leaves nothing behind. From the end papers to the credits, everything has been crafted to stay true to the subject and the surrounding angst, sweat and constant motion. It seems so complete, and yet I always go back, uncovering nuances that are a pleasure to find even after the 100th read.

                                                                    --Rob Hewitt, Principal; Curious Outsider Design Studio

See all of the titles from the Best! Books! Ever! Series here and visit our store for all the SPD essentials.

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