Jonathan Barnbrook

Graphic Designer / United Kingdom / Barnbrook

Jonathan Barnbrook’s Book List

None of these are design books. I don’t read directly about design, but instead look to the philosophies and experiences found in literature to influence my work. To be a good designer, you need to understand human beings, and for me the novel is still the best way to understand how people experience, affect, and are influenced by the world around them.

2 books
William Shakespeare

Yes, I know you have heard of him and this play to the point of cliché, but Shakespeare is like the Beatles: you think that they can’t possibly be any good because of the kind of person who usually says, “I like The Beatles,” and then you listen—or in this case, read—and you think, “Hey, actually they are really very good.” After years of struggling with Shakespeare, I have just started reading him properly and was helped with a version that had clear English translations next to each piece of text. If you take your time and read both, then the magic, complexity of thought, amazing understanding of human nature, romance, humor, and beautiful use of language will be revealed. I believe that if you don’t know about some of the scenarios or characters in his works then you are missing out on a whole part of English culture that references him. Macbeth is a good place to start reading Shakespeare as it is fairly short and also has a lot of dark motives—always good for holding your attention.

Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett puts in words the noise of my existence, the internal monologue that is on repeat inside my soul and that questions why I am here, what I am doing,  and whether there is any point to doing it. If it sounds heavy, you would be both right and wrong. It’s full of big questions (as one of the greatest pieces of 20th-century literature should be), but balancing the heavy is simple slapstick silliness and observations on the pettiness of humans. This manages to make the idea of existence—knowing you are alive—even more absurd. See it performed at the theater first, if you can, to understand the meaning of silence. The silences are as important as the words in this play—oceans that last a few seconds but contain centuries of human existence: life, death, and everything.


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