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Thoughts about Design (& other stuff)

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As a busy father of two frenetic girls, and a busy graphic design schedule, I don’t have much time to sit down with a good book. When I do, I usually trying to catch up on my pile of unread comic books. So when the Christmas holidays roll around, I try to soak up as many pages as possible. It is my goal to catch up on the books that piled up in the studio over the past year, as well as the gems that I acquire as X-mas gifts. A well designed book is always inspirational (even if it isn’t specifically about “design”).

Here is a quick rundown of what I caught up on over the holidays and into January;

While Your’re Reading (Gerard Unger)

I had heard whisperings of this 2007 book by type master Gerard Unger. From what I could gather, it sounded interesting, but very academic and dry as tinder. As a result, I didn’t put in the extra effort to hunt it down. Imagine my surprise when I opened this Christmas gift from my father-in-law (the books he gets me for Christmas and birthdays are shockingly bang-on, and with zero hints). I couldn’t have been more wrong about this gem. Unger handles the content matter with ease and it is put together in a manner that is a pleasure to read. That makes sense because it is a book all about reading. Great anecdotes, and great examples to illustrate the content. I particularly enjoyed the section about becoming immersed in reading, which pinpointed my daughter’s reading experience perfectly.

I can’t recommend this book enough.

Typo Latino (Jordi Villafranca)

Typo Latino is basically a showcase of Latin based type designers and their typeface designs (and some typography work). Sprinkled with quick bios, some minimal process insights and anecdotes, this is pretty much a picture book… type porn. But it is gorgeous type porn and the kind of stuff that I am a sucker for. 400 pages of beautiful work, in a wide variety of styles, most of which I was unfamiliar with. Lots to make me envious, I’m sure I’ll spend many hours pouring over this one.

Art of McSweeney’s (McSweeney’s) 

This is another one that was a Christmas gift from my Father-in-law (how does he do it!?!). I must admit that I have never owned a copy of the quarterly literary journal “Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern”. Sure, I’ve seen the accolades and all the gushing design awards, leafed through copies in the magazine shop (remember those? kinda like video stores), read lots of their stuff on the internet, and although I have a couple of Dave Eggers’ books, I never got around to purchasing one of the witty publications. The Art of McSweeney’s makes me feel like a real loser that missed the boat. How could I have not known what I was missing!?! The book itself is stunning and a design treasure. The material is very funny and I very much appreciated the insights into all the trials and tribulations that it took Eggers and the McSweeny’s team to birth the books into the world are worth their weight in gold. From a designer’s perspective, I LOVED these little vignettes… “Let’s make the cover a piece of tree bark!” (good luck with that). Glad to have this one on the shelf. I might even try to go track down some of those past “Quarterly Concern” issues; #13 is “Comics” (although a quick ebay search reveals that is probably out of the question).

Once Upon an Alphabet (Oliver Jeffers) 

OK, this one isn’t mine, it belongs to my daughter Mia. But I am in love with this book. I am crazy jealous of Oliver Jeffers, and Once Upon an Alphabet is the kind of book I would probably have sold my soul to have made. It very well might be the PERFECT book (children’s or not). Not really a “typography” book, it is all about letters, so obviously I am instantly attracted to it. The illustrations are killer, the design couldn’t be more appropriate, the production value is tasteful, and even the size and weight are spot on. The dark little short “stories” are very funny, and I love that they overlap all the way from A to Z. Owl and Octopus are my new favourite heroes.

Vivian Maier: Street Photographer (Vivian Maier, Geoff Dyer, John Maloof) 

A few months back, Sue and I (along with some of our Emily Carr pals) went to see a screening of  “Finding Vivian Maier”.

The story about the discovery of some of Vivian’s undeveloped rolls of film and negatives bought sight-unseen at an auction in 2007 fascinated me. I remember reading as much about her as I could find when the story worked its way across the internet in 2009. I very much enjoyed the documentary (we all did), and I immediately put the book on my Christmas wishlist. Beautiful stuff, and the book reproduces her work wonderfully.

Drawing Type

Not as good as I was wanting.

I draw a lot of letters. Obviously. The more reference material that I can add to my library on the subject the better. I was looking forward to “Drawing Type”. Unfortunately, the Instructional portion of the book, was fairly weak. Almost not even worth including in the book. However, the remainder (and the bulk of the publication) included so many excellent examples of one-off and custom lettering work, that it is worthwhile holding onto.

However lacklustre as Drawing Type was, it was not nearly as pathetic as;

Creative Lettering and Beyond: Inspiring tips, techniques, and ideas for hand lettering your way to beautiful works of art  or Hand-Lettering Ledger: A Practical Guide to Creating Serif, Script, Illustrated, Ornate, and Other Totally Original Hand-Drawn Styles, both which I ordered online, and were so rudimentary and disappointing, that I sent them back.