CreativeMornings Book Lists

10 Books on Play

January 15, 2014

This special book list developed in collaboration with CreativeMornings, a breakfast lecture series for the creative community, each with a monthly theme, is based on an earlier theme, from October 2013: “Play.” We see this as having a natural tie-in to January’s theme of “Childhood”  (we know play is not just for children!).

“Play” illustration for October 2013 CreativeMornings by James Stewart

Here are 10 books to encourage playfulness—in work and life—that have appeared on Designers & Books contributors’ book lists.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carroll

— Graphic designer Sagi Haviv (Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv) comments on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:

“Coming across this book as a child introduced me to the concept of fantasy, which informs my art to this day.”

— Graphic designer Angus Hyland (Pentagram, London) comments:

“My first book.”

— Illustrator and author Maira Kalman comments:

“None better. Logic. Mathematics. Madness. Screwball comedy. Hallucinatory magic. And wondrous everything.”

— Type designer Zuzana Licko (Emigre) comments:

“This is the first English book my dad read to me in Czechoslovakia, trying to expose me to the English language, he tells me. Regrettably I don't remember, since I was only five at the time. But it probably explains why I later enjoyed the Caedmon recordings, featuring Joan Greenwood (as Alice) and Stanley Holloway (as narrator), to the point that I could recite long passages from memory in my early teens. This book is best in the edition accompanied by John Tenniel’s illustrations—I remember poring over the details when I was learning to draw.”

— Graphic designer Deborah Sussman (Sussman/Prejza & Company) comments:

“In case you haven’t yet read this, do so!”

— Architect Daniel Libeskind comments on on Alice in Wonderland: Illustrated by Ralph Steadman:

“‘The best books have pictures,’ says Alice, and this is the best—and most scary!”

Building Stories Chris Ware

— Design critic and blogger John Hill (Archidose) comments on Building Stories:

“Reveals the fictitious lives of a single building’s inhabitants by hybridizing a graphic novel with architectural drawings, a board game, pamphlets, and other formats. It is less a book than a world within a box, 14 ‘easily misplaced elements’ without a beginning, an end, or a predetermined order.”

Design Your Self: Rethinking the Way You Live, Love, Work, and Play Karim Rashid

— Product designer Karim Rashid comments on Design Your Self:

“I wrote my philosophy and view of life in airplanes over a four-year period and hope it inspires you to embrace and shape your destiny, or at least makes you see some nuances of life differently.”

Eats, Shoots & Leaves Lynne Truss

— Interior designer Shashi Caan comments on Eats, Shoots & Leaves:

“A clever and easy to read book on ‘how to better punctuate’ in the English language, this is an essential companion for improving one’s writing ability. Delightful and witty in its delivery, it is as good a read as it is educational.” — On Shashi Caan’s Book List

Harold and the Purple Crayon Crockett Johnson

Graphic and book cover designer (Knopf) Peter Mendelsund comments on Harold and the Purple Crayon:

“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 learned: All you need is a crayon.”

Miss Piggy’s Guide to Life Henry Beard

Interior and product designer Jonathan Adler comments on Miss Piggy’s Guide to Life:

“An inspiring read from my camp youth. It’s a really brilliant and hilarious book.”

Multiple Signatures Michael Rock

— Graphic designer, curator, and author Ellen Lupton (Cooper-Hewitt, MICA) comments on Multiple Signatures:

“A rich picture emerges of how design is practiced in a large multidisciplinary firm with a unique critical voice. One essay features a cartoon-style conversation between Rock and his partners Susan Sellers and Georgie Stout; each character is illustrated with a deadpan drawing of a talking head. The ensuing conversation feels at once honest and contrived—like good theater. One head pronounces, ‘Our enthusiasm is one of our most recognizable products . . . it has also nearly driven us out of business a few times.’”

Playing and Reality D. W. Winnicott

From the Publisher. What are the origins of creativity and how can we develop it—whether within ourselves or in others? Not only does Playing and Reality address these questions, it also tackles many more that surround the fundamental issue of the individual self and its relationship with the outside world. In this landmark book of 20th-century psychology, Winnicott shows the reader how, through the attentive nurturing of creativity from the earliest years, every individual has the opportunity to enjoy a rich and rewarding cultural life.

A Smile in the Mind Beryl McAlhone
David Stuart

— Book cover designer (Penguin) Coralie Bickford-Smith comments on A Smile in the Mind:

“Perfect for those creative blocks, here is design showing off its sense of humor to its best advantage.”

Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist Michael Bierut Editor
Peter Hall Editor

— Graphic design critic (Eye, Design Observer) Rick Poynor comments on Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist:

“Tibor Kalman was the most inspirational graphic designer I have met, a dynamo who made the entire activity seem more exciting, risky, and relevant. Perverse Optimist, published in 1998, performs a subtle kind of ventriloquism. Kalman handed over responsibility for both the editing and design—he was by that time ill—yet his voice, attitude, humor, and spirit resonate through the project . . .”

Design Matters host Debbie Millman comments:

“An incredible book about an incredible designer, thinker, and bad-boy provocateur.”

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