Themed Book Lists

5 Fiction Books Featuring a Designer as a Main Character

August 6, 2013

Our designers and commentators have chosen or written these 5 fiction books featuring a designer as a main character. One of our vintage lists in our new format. See which books are on lists from Michael Bierut, Neil Denari, Paul Goldberger, Chip Kidd, Deborah Sussman, Stanley Tigerman, and Adam Tihany.

Concrete Island J. G. Ballard

From the Publisher. Robert Maitland, a 35 year-old architect, is driving home from his London offices when a blow-out sends his speeding Jaguar hurtling out of control. Smashing through a temporary barrier he finds himself, dazed and disorientated, on a traffic island below three converging motorways. But when he tries to climb the embankment or flag down a passing car for help it proves impossible, and he finds himself imprisoned on the concrete island. In this twisted version of Robinson Crusoe, Maitland must learn to survive—using only what he can find in his crashed car. As in all Ballard's best work Concrete Island provides an unnerving study of our modern lives and world. With his alienating, “Ballardian” view of normal events, this is a unique novel from one of our finest writers.

The Cheese Monkeys: A Novel in Two Semesters Chip Kidd

From the Publisher. After 15 years of designing more than 1,500 book jackets at Knopf for such authors as Anne Rice and Michael Chrichton, Kidd has crafted an affecting an entertaining novel set at a state university in the late 1950s that is both slap-happily funny and heartbreakingly sad. The Cheese Monkeys is a college novel that takes place over a tightly written two semesters. The book is set in the late 1950s at State U, where the young narrator, has decided to major in art, much to his parents’ dismay. It is an autobiographical, coming-of-age novel which tells universally appealing stories of maturity, finding a calling in life, and being inspired by a loving, demanding, and highly eccentric teacher.

The Fountainhead Ayn Rand

— Graphic designer (Pentagram) Michael Bierut comments on The Fountainhead:

“The designer as hero.”

— Graphic designer and art director (Knopf) Chip Kidd comments:

“A bit obvious, and more than a little embarrassing, this book nonetheless truly made me reevaluate what it means to be a designer, at a crucial time in my life (late college). It is NOT to be taken as gospel, but more as a cautionary tale of megalomania. Plus, as a soap opera it’s pretty hard to beat.”

— Architect Stanley Tigerman comments:

“I read The Fountainhead when I was 13 years old in 1943, put it down and decided to become an architect. One may question Rand’s politics, even the ideology of the self, but her gripping tale of an architect unapologetically motivated my prepubescent psyche.”

The Learners: The Book After The Cheese Monkeys Chip Kidd

Sequel to Kidd’s The Cheese Monkeys, this novel captures the experiences of Happy, a 21-year-old working as a graphic designer for an advertisement agency in 1961, during which time Happy participates in a devastating Yale psychology experiment.

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House Eric Hodgins

From the Publisher. Mr. Blandings, a successful New York advertising executive, and his wife want to escape the confines of their tiny midtown apartment. They design the perfect home in the idyllic country, but soon they are beset by construction troubles, temperamental workmen, skyrocketing bills, threatening lawyers, and difficult neighbors. Mr. Blandings’s dream house soon threatens to be the nightmare that undoes him.

This internationally best-selling book by Eric Hodgins is illustrated by William Steig and was made into a film starring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy—and a later film starring Tom Hanks called The Money Pit.

comments powered by Disqus