Ellen Lupton

Curator; Writer; Lecturer; Designer; Educator / Graphic Design / United States / Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum; Maryland Institute College of Art

Ellen Lupton’s Notable Books of 2013

2 books
Michael Rock

Michael Rock’s Multiple Signatures belongs to a new breed of monograph that showcases the work of a designer or studio through a diverse collage of documents rather than through lavish reproductions. Multiple Signatures attempts to perform the work rather than merely represent it. Some projects appear in tiny reference shots inserted into a discursive text (reminiscent of Robert Venturi's Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture), while others enter the stage as large-scale images that are not so much reproduced as re-enacted. 2x4, the design consultancy co-founded by Rock in 1994, emerges as the book’s primary subject; the book situates the studio’s influential practice within a larger discussion about design authorship and the techniques and clichés of visual form-making.

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.” The book also includes many of Rock's essays and lectures, covering a span of more than two decades.

Michael Haverkamp

Michael Haverkamp, an expert in sound design, is working to harmonize the cross-sensory driving environment at the Engineering Centre of Ford Motor Company in Cologne, Germany. His book Synesthetic Design is the most fascinating piece of design writing I've encountered in many years. Scientific yet accessible, Haverkamp’s book assesses mountains of research related to human perception to reveal correlations between the senses of sound, sight, smell, and touch. First, Haverkamp provides a useful, research-based update on the Gestalt psychology principles that most designers studied in school (grouping, common fate, figure/ground). Then, he applies these ideas from the visual realm to how we perceive sound and how we connect audio and visual input with input from the other senses.

The book’s layout, typography, and graphics, designed by Andreas Hidber, make this text a joy to read and navigate. Beautifully re-interpreted diagrams bring visual clarity to abstract concepts. Diagrams and illustrations are inserted into the text precisely where they are referenced, while elegant call-outs that summarize key points enable efficient scanning. Also included are a CD and a grid of QR codes connecting readers to a collection of sounds. This book is a must-read for any product designer, architect, interaction designer, or graphic designer seeking to understand design and the human experience.

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