Books Every Graphic Designer Should Read
I thought that I had an idea that would make me rich. I wanted to develop a smart interactive “wand” that would help me geo-locate my favorite books, many of them tucked in my bookcases in the wrong place or forgotten on a pile somewhere on a table, a ledge, or a chair. This “Book Beeper,” as I called it, would be able to identify a misplaced book with a beep, the same way some devices help you find misplaced phones, remotes, or car keys.
“For your device to be interesting, it has to speak to as large an audience as possible,” said the product designer I eventually consulted. “If it only speaks to you, it’s a prosthesis, not a product.”
A prosthesis, he told me, is a design solution to a specific problem, whereas the kind of objects that make sense nowadays do more than offer answers—they create value and become part of social ecosystems.
Jargon aside, he had just described what makes books still relevant today. They do create value and become part of social ecosystems. There is no faster way to bond with someone than to mention the title of a book and say, “You’ve got to get it. I couldn’t put it down.”
I am sure that soon enough a genius will come up with an iPhone GPS app that can tell me where I stowed away my copy of In Praise of Shadows by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, Diana Vreeland’s memoirs, or the English translation of Boris Vian’s endearing novel L’Ecume des Jours. They are among the books that have helped me understand what design criticism is all about. I’d like to make an argument that they should be on the list of “Books Every Graphic Designer Should Read.” Meanwhile, I recently pulled from my bookcase ten odd volumes I’d like to put on that list as well.
My hope is that the following comments will inspire you to search your own shelves for books you want to find, dust, reread, and maybe put aside in a special place in case no one ever figures out the graphical information system that will allow you to track their coordinates.