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

3 books
Tom Dixon

How do designers represent themselves in the medium of the book? Tom Dixon has released a fascinating self-portrait constructed in the medium of print. Crafted as a marvelous physical object that unfolds over time, Dixonary takes its inspiration from the designer’s own slide lectures, which pair an object or image from the world of pop culture and technology with a piece created by Dixon. The book introduces each work with a spare page of text and an image suggesting a cultural reference (pin-up girls, machine parts, genre paintings). The reader turns the page of text to reveal a Dixon object; these range from one-of-a-kind chairs bent from steel bars to sleek totemic stools and lamps. The text pages have been printed on a soft, warm stock that contrasts with the hard surface of the photographic plates, and they have been cut short at the fore edge to modulate the experience of flipping through the book.

Dixon is a hands-on maker who began creating furniture and objects in Britain in the late 1970s, where his raw, welded pieces attracted an immediate association with punk. Dixon claims to have never really been a punk, but he did draw energy from the movement’s rough-and-ready, do-it-yourself rebelliousness. He went on to become an influential designer with a diverse output, from art furniture to manufactured pieces. Dixonary is alive with the designer’s own voice as well as the culture that inspires him.

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.

Pat Kirkham Editor
Pat Moore
Pirco Wolframm
Photographs by Brent C. Brolin

At once scholarly and intimate, this book honors the unique life and artistic achievements of Eva Zeisel. Born in Hungary in 1906, Zeisel endured two world wars and the Soviet revolution, spending 16 months in a Russian prison and escaping Nazi persecution before emigrating to the U.S. in 1938. Pat Kirkham’s biographical essay unfolds beneath a timeline of historic photographs plucked from over a century of family history. Kirkham’s personal friendship with Zeisel adds depth and feeling to the biographer’s meticulous research. Shortly after the turn of the millennium, Zeisel told Kirkham about watching the countdown to the year 2000. “‘It was my century,’” Zeisel said with tears in her eyes, having lived through the best and worst those decades of violence and invention had to offer.

After the astonishing life comes the equally astonishing work, photographed with magical light by Brent Brolin and chronicled by Kirkham and her co-authors, Pat Moore and Pirco Wolfframm, who also became devoted friends and scholars of all things Zeisel. Whether emerging out of darkness or basking against a warm, bright glow, each piece pops with boldness of contour and subtlety of surface. Zeisel was a master form-maker, but she also had a flair for decoration. A 1930 tea set is spotted with soft blue and yellow dots; a 1955 kitchenware ensemble for Hall China Company is glazed in a v-neck of pink and blue. Zeisel called herself a modernist with a little “m.” She knew enough about the so-called Machine Aesthetic to reject it for something all her own. She made her pieces in families, creating relationships of form and counterform that suggest love among people rather than things. That love, and the love that people had for her, comes through on every page.

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