Rudy VanderLans

Graphic Designer / United States / Emigre

Rudy VanderLans’s Book List

The books I’ve listed here came to mind immediately upon receipt of the invitation. They have inspired my design, photography, and editing work, and I know that I’ve learned from them and often refer back to them. What exactly I’ve learned from them is difficult to determine. But my work has improved over the years—at the very least it has grown more mature—and that didn’t happen all by itself. I blame that on the books I’ve read, particularly the ones listed here.

Also, I love this website. Just the fact that anybody would care to make such a big deal about books and about what designers read gives me hope. It feels good to know that people are still interested in books, particularly printed books. And I love it when a new technology is used to celebrate an old one.

7 books
Robert Adams

Just as quiet and unassuming as his photographs, Robert Adams’s writing is an exercise in restraint—clear and concise, yet nuanced and complex. Here’s a taste: “At our best and most fortunate we make pictures because of what stands in front of the camera, to honor what is greater and more interesting than we are. We never accomplish this perfectly, though in return we are given something perfect—a sense of inclusion. Our subject thus redefines us, and is part of the biography by which we want to be known.”

This is the first design book I purchased shortly after I started design school. I was supposed to read Tschichold, Ruder, Hofmann, and all the other reductionists, which I did, eventually. But Glaser made graphic design look alive, vibrant, and human. The work seemed effortless, yet it was impossible to emulate. I know, because I tried.

Edward Ruscha

Not much of a book in the traditional sense of the word, but inspirational for expanding the notion of what a book can be.

Jack Kerouac

I figured that if I have read a book three times from cover to cover, it would be unfair not to list it here. On The Road painted a picture of the soul of America that I fell in love with.

Michael Ondaatje

I'm unsure what I like more about this little book: the story, or the way the story is told. The book is a collage of various writing forms including memoir, verse, interview, poetry, newspaper account, dime store novel, even a sprinkling of images. It is a postmodern portrait of Billy the Kid and the West. It is like no other book on the topic. It opened my eyes to new possibilities of how to tell a story.

Anne H. Soukhanov Editor

This is by far the most used book in my library. It's been broken in like an old baseball glove, and it has all the wear and tear to show for it. I simply love to pull this book from its shelf, hold it in my hand, and flip through its pages. And each time I open it, I learn something new. It's an indispensable tool for design, writing, editing, and punctuation.

The idea of blending design into the environment by incorporating common, everyday forms, as opposed to applying a rigid, dogmatic language, was liberating for me.

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