About love of the written word. Barthes celebrates the fact that the 26 letters of the alphabet are not images, and as such they can be reinvented to mean whatever needs to be said. Giving meaning to the written word—using an alphabet that's not loaded in advance with stereotypes—is indeed one of the greatest challenges for the graphic designer.
The theme is the novel—fiction—as a form of narration that can still be an antidote to the numbing effect of mass media. I see a strong parallel between the work of the novelist and that of the graphic designer.
The French sociologist and philosopher Morin, who is in his early 90s, is the author of On Complexity, among many other books. In his latest book, La Voie (published in 2011), the title of which translates as The Way: For the Future of Humanity, he pleads for a new way of analyzing global issues, one that doesn’t take for granted the very notion of progress. As far as he is concerned, transdisciplinarity is the only methodology that will help us solve the present crisis—a conviction most graphic designers would support!
Perec’s first novel, written in 1965, is a criticism of the consumer culture as perceived in the 1960s. As one of the founders of the Grapus collective, this is a topic I have wrestled with all my life. For any designer with left-leaning convictions, Things is a pivotal text.
This book was my childhood favorite. A celebrated French classic (The Stories of the Cat on a Perch, not translated into English), it describes a world in which children and animals are accomplices, united in their perplexity in the face of a befuddling adult world. I can’t explain why this book is important, but I feel that the characters’ candid search for meaning is not unlike my own quest as a graphic designer.
Most admirable is the authors’ ability to introduce the notion of poetry in a political discourse. These two famous black writers/philosophers from Martinique introduced the concept of “créolisation” as a form of postcolonial engagement. In this book, they promote a vision of the world in which “beauty” is a lot more than an aesthetic notion—it’s a call to action. The Intractable Beauty of the World (not translated into English) is an open letter to Barack Obama upon his election.