Véronique Vienne

Writer; Editor; Lecturer / Graphic Design / France /

Books Every Graphic Designer Should Read

. . . 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. . . . View the complete text
10 books
Edward R. Tufte
 . . . this historian of information and disinformation has for more than 25 years been advocating a return to clear, legible graphics that intimately associate numbers, letters, diagrams and drawings in order to inform, instruct and inspire. His system is based on the sound management of complexity. The eye, he says, is an instrument eager for minutiae: sometimes, adding compact details suffices to shed light on what would otherwise be misleading information or statistics. . . . View the complete text
John Berger
. . . Influenced by Walter Benjamin‘s seminal essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, [Ways of Seeing] attempts to expose a conspiracy that has kept the work of artists, and the ideologies their images promote, out of the political discourse. Adapted from a four-part BBC television series, it is a direct transcription of Berger’s script, and it reads as such, as a series of declarative sentences and short emphatic statements. A British painter as well as a novelist, a poet, and art critic, Berger speaks confidently about topics that are familiar to him. His point of view is always based on experience—on what it feels like to paint, observe, touch, watch, look, see, and be seen. . . . View the complete text
Jonathan Crary

[Crary's] first book, Techniques of the Observer, is considered a classic. Its cover features an anatomical drawing of a frightened patient whose eye is undergoing a surgical intervention, an image that dramatically illustrates Crary’s own probing into the various forms of inquiry that are at the origins of our visual culture. His account of how the concept of “paying attention” was manufactured in the nineteenth century challenges the assumption that being mentally focused is a natural state.

Also see my comments on Suspensions of Perception for an appreciation of Crary’s work.

Edward R. Tufte

In his chapter on “ChartJunk” in The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Tufte shows that a black speck, the size of a dot on the “i” in six-point Garamond Light, is perfectly visible when extraneous graphic clutter is removed.

Also see my comments on Beautiful Evidence for an appreciation of Tufte’s work.

Edward R. Tufte

See my comments on Beautiful Evidence for an appreciation of Tufte’s work.

Susan Sontag
 . . . Published in 1977 as a collection of essays reprinted (in a slightly different form) from The New York Review of Books, On Photography is a prophetic book whose chilling analysis describes the way photography, more than ever, mediates our experience of reality but also controls it. Webcams, iPhones, video-conferencing, Skype conversations, surveillance cameras, intimate pictures showing up on Facebook (just to name some of the phenomena that define our time), are evidence that “through photographs, the world becomes a series of unrelated, freestanding particles; and history, past and present, a set of anecdotes and faits divers.” . . . View the complete text
Jonathan Crary
If you love books with footnotes, as I do, you’ll enjoy reading the work of Jonathan Crary. Footnotes are to books what lingerie is to clothes: the furtive underpinning of a narrative. Crary’s footnotes are chatty, gossipy and erudite. They are as fun to decipher as the text they annotate, and if you were to count the words, you’d find out that they are just as lengthy as the main document. Because of the footnotes, reading Crary’s books requires that you split your attention between the top and the bottom of each page, which is appropriate considering the subject matter of his dissertation: the history of human vision and the volatile role of attentiveness in Western culture. . . . View the complete text
Edward R. Tufte

See my comments on Beautiful Evidence for an appreciation of Tufte’s work.

William Strunk Jr.
E. B. White
Maira Kalman Illustrator
. . . For those dogged utopians who, like me, still believe that less is more, the humble grammar guidebook turned out to be just as much of a modernist touchtone as the Bauhaus manifesto or Lissitsky’s famous minimalist compositions. Beginning with a stern “Omit needless words!” Strunk spelled out principles that not only fostered clarity of mind but also translated in simple, brief and bold terms the spirit of a new era. . . . View the complete text
Herbert Muschamp
Herbert Muschamp, who eventually became the architecture critic for the New York Times between 1992 and 2004, was only 27 years old when he wrote this quirky manifesto. Printed on craft paper and bundled like a small parcel between two corrugated cardboard covers, it weighs only nine ounces, no heavier than a couple of twigs. . . . The layout is so unassuming and legible it soothes your eyeballs—which is a good thing, considering the audacious, contentious, and insolent nature of Mr. Muschamp’s prose. . . . View the complete text
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