Books

A Case For Art and Architecture Books

When most people think of a book, rarely do they think of it as a work of art. Most of us think of books as a tool for the communication of ideas and information. If the layout, typesetting, and design are well executed the book becomes a seamless experience. You might be attracted by the cover, subject, and writing style, but it’s still just a book. The publisher Taschen has found a way to transcend this concept by producing limited edition books that elevate the content to a true art form. 

I often turn to the Taschen website for design inspiration simply because their book designs are so good. Page layout, use of typography, color pallets, etc. When it comes to visual design, Taschen nails it. Lately, I have been returning to the Limited Edition section of the site, not for inspiration but out of pure lust for what can truly be called works of art. Case in point “Piano Virtuoso” a $1250.00 limited edition, 200+ page tome on the life work of architect Renzo Piano. 

This book is limited to a run of 200 and comes delivered in a hand-built wooden crate that is identical to the ones his studio uses to deliver architectural models to his clients. It has a hand-pulled lithograph of an original drawing by Piano that is signed and numbered of the Menil Collection Foundation in Houston, Texas that also elevates this to a status beyond what we typically consider a “book”.

With this being limited to an edition of just 200, and a price point of $1250.00 I’m going to have to be content either browsing online and dreaming or opt for the less expensive version of the book with no hand-built case or lithograph. One of the local Barnes and Nobel stores actually has a copy of the non-limited edition books so I had a chance to actually see to see it in person last week. 

Like everything Taschen produces, the quality is top-notch. Beautiful page spreads that built a visual rhythm as you scan from page to page. There is an elegant use of photography, illustration, and type that helps to anchor the body copy and showcase Piano’s genius. Gatefold spreads are used to show the architecture in the context of its surroundings allowing for panoramic views. The copy is crisp and concise giving just enough information without becoming overwhelming or granular. The book does a great job of building the story of Piano’s career to date and the many existences of his singular aesthetic.

As for the Limited Edition version f the book being a work of art, I would contend that it’s close. It’s definitely a piece of fine craft when you think about the hand-built case and the limited edition print that come with it. Maybe not a work of fine art but a highly collectible hand-crafted object showcasing the art of a genius. If I could justify it, I’d add it to my small collection of Taschen XXL books. From the photo’s I think it looks absolutely amazing. That wooden case is exquisite. 

The Anticipated Death of Illustration Never Happened.

When I first began my career the world of design, marketing, and advertising was 90 percent analog. There were phototypesetting tools available, but most of the work was very much old school. The copy was written up on typewriters, layouts were assembled via paste-up, color separation was done by hand and illustration was created with paint, pencils, ink, and other tangible items.

I remember having a discussion with a colleague in the early 1990’s where he proclaimed that the art of illustration was over. That digital had ushered in the end of an era and that Photoshop and Illustrator (maybe Freehand) were going to rule the world. Fast forward a couple of decades and take a look around. Just like the Kindle and iPad were going to kill off books, digital didn’t kill off traditional illustration methods.

There were extraordinary eras of illustration before mass media changed our viewing habits. Illustration was the most primary means of illuminating the word on paper. Today, when we get our words and images on screens as small as a watch face the role of illustration, might have shifted, but it is more free and varied than ever. Designers, artists, and illustrators are holding their own producing content for every kind of media.

Taschen recently released a new book “The Illustrator. 100 Best from around the World” showcasing 100 illustrators compiled by Steven Heller and Julius Weidemann over a ten-year period of time.

This 600-page book contains examples of work, bio’s of the artists that created them and truly shows sheer quality, diversity, intensity, comedy, and the vivacity of the work that is being produced. From veterans like Brad Holland, whose works for the New York Times’ op-ed section revolutionized illustrative content in the 1970s, to rising stars like Robin Eisenberg, with her pastel aliens cruising in spaceships on album covers, the 100 artists in this collection are just the tip of the iceberg, but they represent a compelling snapshot of the styles, techniques, and use of color by artists across the world.

What an inspiration.

The End Of The World Is Coming. Lets Study Some Art.

In a world where everything seems to be going to hell in a hand basket, and science is predicting the end of life in the next great mass extinction, it’s nice to know that there is art in the world. The world might be coming to an end at some point in the future, but you still have a chance to educate yourself about art thanks to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum loading 205 free art history books to the Internet Archive, all of which are available as PDF’s or ePub books.  Yes now as you contemplate the end of the world and hone your apocalypse survival skills you can bone up on the finer things and learn about Max Ernst, The Italian Metamorphosis, French Art in the 1970’s, Joseph Cornell, Francis Bacon, Pop Art in the 60’s and so much more.

Yes now as you contemplate the end of the world and hone your apocalypse survival skills you can bone up on the finer things and learn about Max Ernst, The Italian Metamorphosis, French Art in the 1970’s, Joseph Cornell, Francis Bacon, Pop Art in the 60’s and so much more.  Just be sure and pick up a solar powered charger for your phone or tablet so you can keep reading them after the power grid fails.

For the last 5 years, theGuggenheim has been digitizing its exhibition catalogs and art books, placing the results online. So if you want to study some art history this is the right place.  The collection also includes catalogs of retrospective exhibitions on masters like Paul Klee, Robert Rauschenberg, and Mark Rothko. Or you can explore older art with Chinese art in the 20th centurycraftsmen of ancient Perusculpture and works on paper or  Masterpieces from the Guggenheim Collection: From Picasso to Pollock. What better way to spend your time when you aren’t trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.

Remember it is the arts and culture that separate us from the animals. Well that and opposable thumbs, larger brain capacity, the ability to create advanced tools, and a few other things.

The 1977 EPA Graphic Standards System

Well, thanks to Kickstarter I’ll be dropping 80 bucks on yet another design book. The 1977 EPA Graphic Standards System is being reissued, and it is a gorgeous piece of graphic design. If you have seen any of the other Graphic Standards books that have been reissued, like the one for NASA, or the New York Metro, you know how these can be a valuable resource and source of inspiration.

Designed by Chermayeff & Geismar the book will be reissued as a hardcover book printed in 14 Pantone® colors. It will come with a slip-case and the reissue will also include 48 pages of photographs from the EPA-commissioned Documerica Project (1970-1977). If you want to see what you are getting for your money the video below gives you a brief history of the system and shows off the original book as well as the new reissue. For a bit of irony, Republican President Richard Nixon narrates sections of the video dedicating the founding of the EPA. I wonder if 47 years from now we will all be watching a video where President Trump kills it?

Graphic Design Today from Gestalten

coverHaving spent more than half of my life working in the graphic design and communications business I have seen many design trends come and go. One thing that is certain, is the state of graphic design is in constant flux. This is reflected in “Graphic Design Today” an in-depth survey on progressive contemporary graphic design from Gestalten. In recent years, graphic designs relationship with adjoining disciplines such as illustration, three-dimensional installation art, industrial design, interactive design, UI/UX design has pushed the further development of the discipline. And this in turn is  raising the bar for graphic designers.

 

This book from Gestalten examines and documents the current state of graphic design, identifying some of the most visionary young designers at the top of their game with examples of their progressive design aesthetics in the printed form. The book features a wide range of graphic design samples ranging from poster design, book, and magazine editorial design as well as typography. Most of the work is print oriented and shows a trend that I find interesting, a desconstructavist approach to visual design that blends elements of the 1980’s 90’s and early 2000’s into a unique style that intentionally manipulates and distorts traditional rules and ideas with a playful and experimental verve.

Graphic Design Today features  design trends from Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands, France, Great Britain and the USA. Through abundant visuals and illuminating texts accompanying each featured project, and a foreword by François Rappo, renowned typographer, and teacher at ECAL Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne, this expansive volume provides an in-depth look at the state-of-the-art of contemporary graphic design and is going in my design library.

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James Lovelock’s Tool Kit For The Future

Well this will definitely be going into the personal library. When I was a kid this is the kind of book I would spend hours reading and re-reading, especially if it was filled with gorgeous illustrations like this one is. ” The big picture James Lovelock’s tool kit for the future.” By Taschen is illustrated by Jack Hudson, a British illustrator with a particular interest in scientific subjects and the interaction of macro and micro scales, and features contributions by quantum physicist Lisa Randall, Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, Pulitzer Prize–winning biologist Edward O. Wilson, and Nobel Prize–winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel. The book was Conceived by James Lovelock, inventor of the Gaia theory, this illustrated essay collection brings together an all-star lineup of thinkers and scientists to offer essential understanding about who we are, how we live, and where we might be going.

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Logo Modernism from Taschen.

phpThumb_generated_thumbnailpngOver the last seven years, Jens Müller has been collecting and compiling modern logos created from 1940 to 1980. As Müller puts it, this was the golden age of the modernist aesthetic in design, architecture, art, product design. And to a point he is right. Some of the most visually memorable brand marks and logos come from this four decade period. Müller’s collection is what makes up the content of Aachen’s 6000 page tome  Logo Modernism.

The book covers pretty much every business and organization of note, and represents a sweeping retrospective modernism and how the style changed over time. Broken into specific sections the book’s main chapters cover Geometric, Effect, and Typographic. Each sub-chapter breaks down each style even further into sections such as dots and squares, overlays, alphabet, color, etc.The book features an introduction from Jens Müller on the history of logos, and an accompanying essay by R. Roger Remington on modernism and graphic design. In addition there are series of designer profiles on masters of the craft Paul Rand, Yusaku Kamekura, and Anton Stankowski focusing on their legendary work.

In typical Taschen heritage, the book is physically huge. at 10 by 14 inches in size and 432 pages of content. And as always from Taschen, the book is multilingual. It’s available for pre-order and this just made my list of books to add to the reference library. Oh and it’s affordable. Just $69.00 on the Taschen site.

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