Peter Mendelsund

Graphic Designer / United States / Alfred A. Knopf Books, Pantheon Books, Vertical Press

Peter Mendelsund’s Book List

I don’t believe I’ve ever read a “design book” in my entire life. (I don’t think I’ve ever read a single book devoted solely to the visual arts or architecture either, unless you include the occasional biography of a painter, or an essay collection here and there that might have happened to include some piece or other on design or the visual arts.) Furthermore, I have no formal training as a designer so I wasn’t asked to read these books in an academic program either. All of which is to say: I am completely virginal when it comes to the literature of art and design.

How I became a designer is anyone’s guess, but it certainly had nothing to do with reading design books. The seminal books, for me, were books that related to design only inasmuch as all of life is related to design—and literature and philosophy books have taught me about life: the forms life takes, the ways in which those forms of life can be organized, disorganized, and reorganized. These non-design books are the books that made me a better designer.

1 book
Crockett Johnson

One of the ancillary benefits of having children is that it offers one an excuse to reread one’s favorite children’s books. Many times. I came back to Harold and the Purple Crayon when my first daughter was born and have subsequently read it out loud to both my children approximately one billion times. And the book holds up. It is a tale of a boy who makes his own adventure, and his own way through this adventure, with nothing more than the eponymous crayon. It was my first and most profound lesson in world-building. Lesson(s) learned: All you need is a crayon.

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