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Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design

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Cover Art Michael Bierut’s book Seventy-nine short essays on design mostly posts he published on the Design Observer site. Many of those posts contain amusing anecdotes or witty observations. Few of them deserve to be called essays. When reading many of them in one go I got the impression that Bierut has a number of stories to tell but that he probably wrote too much ‘copy’ in his life to produce a text without catchy opening lines and on-the-side name-dropping all over it. Many of the texts also restrict themselves to plain observations rather than adding the author’s own opinion or insights on the topic. Perhaps I’m giving him too much credit, but as he seems to have been in the graphics business for some time, his opinions might actually be based on experience and be interesting, so it feels like he’s keeping the best parts for himself.

As most of the texts are available on the internet as well and their snippet sized length makes reading them on screen no problem, there isn’t that much going for the book on the content alone (unless you like carrying books when you’re moving). However, each of the 79 texts is set in a different typeface. As a typeface geek I really enjoyed that. You can read something and get an impression of how a typeface feels at the same time. If you thought ‘yup, that was nice to read’, you can either say ‘… because it was Garamond/Palatino/…’ in my case or for the typefaces you don’t know flip to the back of the book and look up the name. A great idea that certainly beats your typical Lorem ipsum text. That said, it would be useful to also have an index of typefaces at the back, for convenient finding of the text using it.

Now I’ll just need someone to explain to me the choice of tiny non-matching typefaces for headers and page numbers as well as the urge to write the author’s name and the book’s title in the running headers rather than perhaps the current text’s title. I’d appreciate an explanation of the lack of images to illustrate the examples or issues mentioned in the text as well - the book deals mostly with graphic design after all. And ‘we were too lazy’ would seem like a disappointing answer.

Read more detailed and also justified criticism over at Joe Clark’s.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

Bookmark: 11-03-2004 - Flight AA1961 Dallas Fort Worth to San Diego, Seat 25A.

May 23, 2008, 8:55

Tagged as blog, book, design, michael bierut.

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