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Graphic Design Book Club

We’re curious how many of you would be interested in participating in a graphic design book club as part of Speak Up. We would choose a book every so often, have dates at which we should reach certain points in the book, and have a forum discussion at those intervals.

Suggestions for books would be welcome, of course. The most consideration should be given to how well the title lends itself to discussion and its relevance to issues discussed here at Speak Up.

If there seems to be enough interest, we’ll do a trial run. If there is a lot of interest and participation in a trial run, then it will become a permanent part of Speak Up.

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PUBLISHED ON Feb.25.2003 BY brook
atley’s comment is:

hell yeah

On Feb.25.2003 at 02:46 PM
anthony’s comment is:

Count me in. I think I would be most interesed in topics about historically significant design, and practical business applications.

On Feb.25.2003 at 02:55 PM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

The book would most likely have to be purchased I assume? If one is not around a good university or art school it'll be hard for people to get a hold of the titles.

Great idea. Count me in.

On Feb.25.2003 at 03:07 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

It's a good idea, though aren't most graphic design books picture books? ;o)

On Feb.25.2003 at 04:50 PM
Lee’s comment is:

Sounds like a good idea, count me in!

On Feb.25.2003 at 05:21 PM
Thomas Shebest’s comment is:

Count me in. I'm all about reading lately, I have been out of school long enough now to enjoy reading again.

On Feb.25.2003 at 05:36 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>though aren't most graphic design books picture books?

Darrel, Darrel, Darrel....

I had already told Brook it was a great idea. It's probably going to be hard to find lots of books, but we will find enought o keep us entertained and educated for a while.

Should we throw some recommendations and get a vote for the first book?

I have two at the moment:

The always popular and highly entertaining "Cheese Monkeys" by Chip Kidd and "Orbiting the giant hairball" by Gordon MacKenzie, a must read for any creative who has been inside a big corporation.

On Feb.25.2003 at 05:53 PM
brook’s comment is:

There's plenty of good design books to keep us going indefinitely. There are lots of picture books, but there are lots of theory, history, culture, etc. The Cheese Monkeys would be a great first book. It's rather short and definitely affordable. It's also very funny and very clever. Camera Lucida would be a good non-design book.

On Feb.25.2003 at 07:11 PM
pnk’s comment is:

The Cheese Monkeys looks great. I'll read that for a dollar.

Aw hell, I'll read it for nothin'.

On Feb.25.2003 at 07:12 PM
Michael S’s comment is:

I'd be interested as long as it doesn't turn into an Oprah love fest. Another possible contender The Justification of Johann Gutenberg by Blake Morrison

On Feb.25.2003 at 09:02 PM
ben’s comment is:

I'm in. I'm sure that Heller will continue to write more books then we could ever catch up on...

I think that Cheese Monkeys would be a great first book, it's a good excuse to pick it up.

One thought: we should set up an Amazon affiliate account so that Speak Up can get some of the money spent on the books.

On Feb.26.2003 at 12:46 AM
damien’s comment is:

Count me in -

I know that Graphic Design is the focus, but would it remove the chance to look at other books - for instance, What is a Designer, or design firm monographs?

Just a question.

On Feb.26.2003 at 02:18 AM
graham’s comment is:

lovely idea, definitely into participating. how about 'designing designing' by john chris jones? 'modern typography' by robin kinross, or his book on anthony froshaug? or 'albion' by peter ackroyd? anyway, absolutely into the trial run idea.

On Feb.26.2003 at 05:01 AM
Armin’s comment is:

>we should set up an Amazon affiliate account so that Speak Up can get some of the money spent on the books.

Great idea! I'll use that money to go on trips... I mean to pay for the hosting. I'm working on it.

Would it be safe to say that the cheese monkeys should be first book?

On Feb.26.2003 at 09:16 AM
Gahlord’s comment is:

I'm in. Just give me some time to read whatever it is decided should be first.

You should absolutely set up an amazon affiliate. You won't make much but you might as well get what you can.


On Feb.26.2003 at 09:24 AM
brook’s comment is:

lets do it. how long should we give for everyone to buy the book? a few weeks or a month?

On Feb.26.2003 at 09:25 AM
Armin’s comment is:

I started the affiliate site. It will take a few days to get approved.

It's settled then. The cheese monkeys is the first book. Get the book by March 10?

On Feb.26.2003 at 09:38 AM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

Dope! Already read it.

On Feb.26.2003 at 09:41 AM
graham’s comment is:

cool. i'll track it down and join in.

On Feb.26.2003 at 10:00 AM
Sam’s comment is:

Sounds good to me. I haven't read The Cheese Monkeys, but I do love cheese. Perhaps an interview with Chip Kidd should be slated for around the time of the discussion?

Some other suggestions (might be nice to read some fiction that's only tangentially related to design, and see what the discussion turns up in the way of connections to design):

Eric Gill, Typography

Howard Norman, The Design of Everyday Things

Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities(fiction)

Charles Simic, Dime-Store Alchemy (about Jospeh Cornell, semi-fiction, semi-criticism)

Fournier's Manual of Typefounding (hard to find)

Something by Buckminster Fuller?

Any issue of McSweeney's

I will tell you all right now I am not reading no Marshall McLuhan! That guy is a total fucking fraud!

On Feb.26.2003 at 10:31 AM
pnk’s comment is:

Great suggestions Sam!

There are several on there that have been must-get-aroound-to-them-eventually books for me. (eg, I love Calvino, but have never read Invisible Cities...)

On Feb.26.2003 at 10:43 AM
Redberger’s comment is:

know where i can possibly get a secondhand copy of that monkeys book? the used copy being sold at amazon is still a little bit steep for my 3rd world tastes. =)

On Feb.26.2003 at 11:49 AM
redberger’s comment is:

i btw tried searching for all the books you guys recommended above on amazon... got the used ones (very cheap!) and ordered them...the da$%m system does not support shipment to our country. ho well...

On Feb.26.2003 at 12:26 PM
Thomas Shebest’s comment is:

Graphic Design Sources by Kenneth Hiebert is also excellent.

On Feb.26.2003 at 12:48 PM
Damien’s comment is:

redberger - where are you?

On Feb.26.2003 at 04:48 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

Hey...I have that hairball one laying around somewhere...I should read it...

On Feb.26.2003 at 05:01 PM
christopher may’s comment is:

> I am not reading no Marshall McLuhan! That guy is a total fucking fraud!

understanding media... medium is the message... coining the term "global village". Fraud??? what's up with that? that guy totally has it on the money.

who want to power read sm,m,l,xl?


On Feb.26.2003 at 07:08 PM
Sam’s comment is:

I am so anti-McLuhan I could spit little Canadian icicles! He may be credited with coining the term 'global village' but he's hardly the one who originated the idea of globalism. Slogans do not a theory make (that's my slogan). What was that term supposed to describe in the first place--a feel-good sense of wired community? This is his brilliant contribution? Does the term 'global village' even mean anything anymore, now that all the euphoria of if information superhighway has gone kaput? I am trying not to scream.

I would put both 'Understanding Media' and 'Medium is the Message' on my list of worst books ever written. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I agree with the school that says it's impossible to have a good thought that's expressed poorly. If McLuhan had good thoughts, you'd never know it because the man cannot write lucidly. Oh right, that's the point of his style! It's thought-provoking. Ha! is only shining moment is his appearance in Play It Again, Sam when he's in line at the movies behind Woody Allen.

Sorry, I didn't mean to jump all over you, Chris. S-M-L-XL is great and pretty readable. (Koolhaas's Delirious New York by the way, is one of the greatest books I've ever read. It had me literally laughing in disbelief at the part about the midgets in full royal regalia.) Bruce Mau's Life Style is very readable and discussable too.

But damn that McLuhan! By jickity!

On Feb.26.2003 at 09:40 PM
ben’s comment is:

Other books might be:

Design for the Real World by Victor Papanek

Counterpunch by Fred Smeijers

Design Writing Research by Lupton and Miller

On Feb.26.2003 at 10:01 PM
Kevin’s comment is:

mmmmm.... design writing research. I''ll let you guys know when I get the interview we did with Ellen up! Might take a while to edit though, it was a long interview.

sorry to join the conversation so late... Cheese Monkeys is great, I'll read it again for the drop date.

> I am not reading no Marshall McLuhan! That guy is a total fucking fraud!

Fraud is a little harsh I think. He had some amazing ideas that were well before his time. Just because some of them didn't pan out the way he predicted (while most did imho) doesn't make him a fraud, just human rather than a prophet! His initiative opened a whole new discourse on media theory/literacy. Sure some of his ideas were wacky, but all great thinkers have wacky ideas. Sorry its late, I 've been inhaling varnish fumes from the place downstairs, I'm using the word WACKY... The Gutenberg Galazy is an amazing book. I will try to come up with a better defense for Mcluhan tomorrow, when the air has cleared...

On Feb.27.2003 at 01:30 AM
Redberger’s comment is:

Damien- i'm in manila.

On Feb.27.2003 at 01:37 AM
Gahlord’s comment is:

I'll read cheese monkeys.

Love to re-read Gill and Smeijers some time. I've been wanting to read Bruce Mau's book since it shipped but it's pretty pricey.

In the typography realm I might also suggest:

The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst

Finer Points in Spacing and Arranging of Type by Geoffrey Dowding

Letterforms by Stanley Morrison

Information design books:

The Visual Display of Information Edward Tufte (he'd make an excellent interview too btw) or any of his books.

There's also some info design book from MIT press that's real good. Saul Wurman etc.

Geek Books:

Being Digital Old and outdated in a lot of ways, but still worth a look I think.

Design by Numbers by John Maeda. I've been wanting to do this one for soooo long but I think I need a support group to get through it. If we'd rather just look at pictures then maybe Maeda @ Media .

Got an address redberger? I'll chump up for a copy and send it if your local library doesn't have one. You might try Bookfinder.com too. If you can't get one email me.


On Feb.27.2003 at 08:18 AM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

Ben I found Design for the Real World rather strange (for lack of a better word) despite it being a classic. Without jumping the gun, did you really enjoy it?

On Feb.27.2003 at 08:50 AM
Armin’s comment is:

>did you really enjoy it?

Hey, hey, hey! save it for the book club you two : )

On Feb.27.2003 at 08:57 AM
barry mcwilliams’s comment is:

Sounds like fun. Keep us in the loop.


On Feb.27.2003 at 12:27 PM
Damien’s comment is:

Redberger - I was going to offer what 'g' did in the end.

Either way - I'll too extend the help to posting a book to someone if they find it difficult to get hold of a copy. I'm in San Francisco.

On Feb.27.2003 at 12:37 PM
redberger’s comment is:

damien and gahlord, how about a link to an ebook version? do you think someone already put it online somewhere?

On Feb.27.2003 at 01:01 PM
Ben’s comment is:


Not to jump the gun, but quickly, I enjoyed it as an alternate viewpoint. I agree that at times it's odd--and that may be because of the time it was written. But, as a book that I was required to read as a freshman in college, it really opened my eyes. Some of the criticism in it is off base, but a lot is on target.

In a way, it reminds me of a Michael Moore movie...

On Feb.27.2003 at 01:07 PM