Books We Like

Louise Fili’s Typographic Love Letter to Paris

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Over the past four decades, New York-based designer Louise Fili has returned often to Paris, camera in hand, to document the signage of the Parisian streetscape. Graphique de La Rue is what Fili calls her “typographic love letter to Paris.” From the classic neon that illuminates bistros and cafes to the dramatic facades of the Moulin Rouge and the Folies Bergere to Hector Guimard’s legendary art nouveau metro entrances, Fili shows us the sensuous elegance and dazzling beauty of Paris street signs. This book is a sequel to her Graficadella Strada: The Signs of Italy, which is equally sumptuous.
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Book Excerpt

Jonah Lehrer’s Five Tips for
Reaching Your Creative Potential


From the bestselling author Jonah Lehrer comes “Imagine: How Creativity Works” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Lehrer explains that his latest book “is about our most important mental talent: the ability to imagine what has never existed. We take this talent for granted, but our lives are defined by it. There is the pop song on the radio and the gadget in your pocket, the art on the wall and the air conditioner in the window. There is the medicine in the bathroom and the chair you are sitting in…” He gives real world examples from Pixar and Second City to Bob Dylan and Yo-Yo Ma. He goes on to say that “creativity is not a gift possessed by a lucky few; it’s a variety of distinct thought processes that we can all learn to use more effectively.” Here he offers five tips from his book on how to increase your creative potential.

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Book Excerpt

How to Spot Amateur Clients — and Avoid Them.

The Creative Professional's Guide to Money

Editor’s Note: This snippet is from “The Creative Professional’s Guide to Money: How to think about it. How to talk about it. How to manage it.” By Illise Benun, founder of Marketing-Mentor.com. Published by HOW Books, 2011. It’s a book we highly recommend because it is filled with practical, knowledgeable advice, and encourages designers to respect what they have to offer and to find clients who feel the same. From time to time, Ilise has said we can reprint sections.

Book Excerpt

An Aesthetic Look at Business

In his book “The Designful Company,” Marty Neumeier, director of transformation at the brand marketing firm, Liquid Agency, argues that business management itself has an aesthetic component. “Of course, everyone knows you can apply the principles of aesthetics to the curve of a fender, the typography of a web page, or the textures in a clothing line. Yet you can also apply them to upstream strategy, organizational change, and marketplace reputation,” he says. In the chapter “The Rebirth of Aesthetics,” Neumeier charts the elements of aesthetics and attaches questions to them that all types of businesses – even design firms, large and small – should ask themselves to become more innovative, identify how the parts relate to the whole, operate more creatively, and arrive at a strategy that will lead to market distinction and long-lasting growth. It’s good to end the year by taking stock of what you’re doing and where you want to go.

Book Excerpt

The Story of Graphic Design

“For all graphic design’s importance, it is only within the last three decades that the subject has been considered worth studying in the round…” relates UK-based designer/historian Patrick Cramsie in the introduction of his newly released book, The Story of Graphic Design (Abrams, 2010).

“Part of the reason for this lack of attention is that graphic design’s role as a service provider masked whatever artistic merit it might have possessed. However, much artistic skill was brought to a particular design, the design always had a job of work to do. It was either selling or informing, or sometimes doing a bit of both. This lack of clarity about the status of graphic design has been compounded by its ephemeral nature. Are posters really meant to be hung in galleries long after the events they promoted have passed? Is there really any social value in collecting beer mats or luggage labels? …The range of objects under its purview is vast and with every innovation in information technology the range only increases. These factors make graphic design a rich and rewarding area of study, but they also make it a difficult one.”

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Book Excerpt

“Your Good Name” ( and How to Create It )

Editor’s note: Here’s more thoughtful advice excerpted from branding expert Marty Neumeier’s book, The Brand Gap. Marty is the director of transformation at Liquid Agency.

Why are there so many sound-alike names? The short answer is this: Most of the good names are taken. Between a rising tide of startups on one hand, and a flood of URLs on the other, companies are continually forced to dive deeper for workable names. The latest trend is to push the boundaries of dignity with names like Yahoo!, Google, FatSplash and Jamcracker. Where will it end?

It won’t. The need for good brand names originates with customers and customers will always want convenient ways of identifying, remembering, discussing, and comparing brands. The right name can be a brand’s most valuable asset, driving differentiation and speeding acceptance. The wrong name can cost millions, even billions, in workarounds and lost income over the lifetime of the brand. George Bernard Shaw’s advice applies to brands as well as people: “Take care to get born well.”

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Book Excerpt

Design for Disassembly

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from “Design Is the Problem,” the latest book by Nathan Shedroff, chair of the MBA in Design Strategy program at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. Contrary to the book’s title, Shedroff presents practical, specific and executable solutions to designing for sustainability, covering topics from biomimicry and life cycle analysis to dematerialization.

Recycling is an important tenant of sustainability, but in order to be effective, products need to be easily disassembled into component parts and separated by material. If this is difficult, these products simply end up in the landfill instead.

The worst parts, in terms of recycling, are those made from two different materials bonded together, because they can’t be easily separated. The Cradle to Cradle framework designates these as “monstrous hybrids.” A good example of this type of hybrid would be milk and juice cartons that come with circular pour spouts and caps built into the side. The plastic cap and spout can’t be recycled with the waxed cardboard, and yet there are no easy ways for recyclers to separate these quickly. While this design is particularly convenient for some users, it makes recycling nearly impossible (a good example of opposing goals). The only way to recycle these is for users to cut the plastic spout from the rest of the container before placing them both in a recycling bin.

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Book Excerpt

Brand Strategy: Good, Bad and Indifferent

Editor’s Note: In his inimitable style, Marty Neumeier, author, lecturer and director of transformation at Liquid Agency, makes complex marketing principles seem logical and easy to understand. Here from his book “Zag: The #1 Strategy of High-Performance Brands,” Neumeier explains why in a world of “look-alike products and me-too services” it is important for brand marketers to zag when everyone else zigs.


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Book Excerpt

Empathy: Standing in the Shoes
(or Lying on the Gurneys) of Others

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Editor’s Note: In his new book, Change by Design, Tim Brown, CEO of the celebrated innovation and design firm IDEO, steps back from focusing on creating elegant objects and beautifying the world around us, to examining design thinking itself. The best designers, he says, match necessity to utility, constraint to possibility and need to demand. Most people are “ingenious at adapting to inconvenient situations that they are often not even aware that they are doing so,” Brown claims. “Traditional research techniques such as focus groups and surveys, which in most case simply ask people what they want, rarely yield important insights…Henry Ford understood this when he remarked, ‘If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.’” This is an excerpt from the chapter where Brown talks about three mutually reinforcing elements of any successful design program – insight, observation and empathy. We asked to present the section on empathy.

It’s possible to spend days, weeks, or months conducting [ethnographic and behavorial] research, but at the end of it all we will have little more than stacks of field notes, videotapes, and photographs unless we can connect with the people we are observing at a fundamental level. We call this “empathy,” and it is perhaps the most important distinction between academic thinking and design thinking. We are not trying to generate new knowledge, test a theory, or validate a scientific hypothesis—that’s the work of our university colleagues and an indispensable part of our shared intellectual landscape. The mission of design thinking is to translate observations into insights and insights into products and services that will improve lives.

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Book Excerpt

Customer Wooing Styles

Editor’s note: People often ask the difference between how a public relation expert goes about wooing customers versus an ad agency, a designer, etc. In his top-selling book Zag: The No. 1 Strategy of High-Performance Brands, Marty Neumeier summarizes the differences in this tongue-in-cheek visualization. Neumeier is the author of several books on branding, lecturer and Director of Transformation for Liquid Agency, where he helps companies build their brands from the inside out. His book was published before social media caught on, so we don’t know how Twitter would fit into this comparison? Maybe a courtship between two emoticons.

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Book Excerpt

What Goes Into a Brand Brief

Editor’s Note: Alina Wheeler’s book, Designing Brand Identity, just released in its third updated printing, is a reference for anyone involved in branding. A comprehensive review of branding fundamentals, Wheeler’s book showcases best practices and pares away complexities so that common processes are easy to understand. It is a great guide for those entering the business, and for old pros, her book can be used in the same way that experienced cooks consult a cookbook to make sure that they haven’t forgotten any essential ingredients.

Brand-Brief

Here’s Wheeler’s schematic of components that go into preparing a brand brief. “Many entrepreneurial companies have visionaries who walk around with this information in their heads; getting it on paper helps anyone who has the responsibility to execute the vision,” she says. “The best briefs are succinct and strategic, and approved by the most senior levels in an organization early in the process. If these briefs are approved, the balance of the project is more likely to be on track and successful.”

Book Excerpt

“Rules of Thumb” by Alan Webber

by Gary Kelly / @issue Interview / vol. 6 no. 2
by Gary Kelly / @issue Interview / vol. 6 no. 2

Editor’s Note: Alan Webber, who co-founded Fast Company magazine in 1995, has long recognized the role of design as the great differentiator in business. In his most recent business book, “Rules of Thumb,” Webber shares insights gleaned from his own life and work experiences over the past 30 years and distills them down to 52 rules of thumb. Webber’s rules aren’t the end of the discussion; they are the beginning, with readers invited to add their own rules. Here we reprint Rule #28. Webber’s other 51 rules are just as pertinent and interesting.

Rule #28
Good design is table stakes.
Great design wins.

In the last few years since I left Fast Company and started traveling a lot, I’ve noticed a global leitmotif, as if the same piece of music were being played in different countries all over the world.

In Tokyo at a conference on innovation I sat down with an old friend, a business sociologist and strategist for leading Japanese companies.

“Japan used to be a low-cost exporter of manufactured goods,” I said. “But those days are clearly over. What’s Japan’s new national strategy?”

“We don’t think there’s a problem,” she told me. “Japan intends to compete globally on the quality of our design.”

It made sense to me. Japan has an exquisite sense of style and presentation.

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Book Excerpt

Design, Design, Where Art Thou?

Editor’s Note: Although branding expert Marty Neumeier claims that he compresses his thoughts to be quick-read “airplane books,” his insights are so thought-provoking and inspirational that they are best read in short segments so you can chew on what he has to say. This is a chapter from his latest book.

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Excerpted from “The Designful Company”
by Marty Neumeier

The discipline of design has been waiting patiently in the wings for nearly a century, relegated to supporting roles and stand-in parts. Until now, companies have used design as a beauty station for identities and communications, or as the last stop before a product launch. Never has it been used for its potential to create rule-bending innovation across the board. Meanwhile, the public is developing a healthy appetite for all things design.

One survey by Kelton Research found that when 7 in 10 Americans recalled the last time they saw a product they just had to have, it was because of design. They found that with younger people 18-29, the influence of design was even more pronounced. More than one out of four young adults were disappointed in the level of design in America, saying, for example, that cars were better designed 25 years ago.

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