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Chasing the Perfect part 1

I’ve been trying to write a review of Natalia Ilyn’s book Chasing the Perfect for some time but stuff keeps getting in the way. Too bad. People should read it. I’ve read it twice (and parts of it a third time.) It is, like all of her writing, smart, funny, and just plain well written. She’s one of those rare design writers who can really write. Like her previous book, Blonde Like Me, it plays with the sort of social/literary theory that plagued, er, informed MFA programs in the ’90s but makes it real and useful (not to mention interesting and enjoyable.)

Chasing the Perfect is a personal story, like one of those “I overcame bulimia and a Powerball addiction with the help of God, my cat, and the people at the William Morris Agency” except that it’s about how much design matters. Ilyn is a graphic designer but the book is about design more broadly. I don’t want to give things away but she claims that Walter Gropius played a part in her mental breakdown. And the Bauhaus Defense seems a lot more convincing than the Twinkie Defense did. Even if you’re too young to remember the Twinkie Defense, you’re not too young to read a book that makes a good case for how important design really is.

Buy it or check it out of your local library. Read it. I’m going to read it again. In three weeks I’m going to write a bit more about it. By then you’ll have plenty to say, too.

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PUBLISHED ON Jul.10.2006 BY Gunnar Swanson
Ed McKim’s comment is:

seems interesting enough. I'll have to check it out.

On Jul.13.2006 at 08:37 AM
Tselentis’s comment is:

Having read the book twice (and I'm going over it a third time to partipate in Gunnar's discussion), my biggest surprise was the 'no drawing' rule that Natalia opens up about. Has Modernism really erased any need (desire?) to draw? And how has this effected our creative process?

On Jul.13.2006 at 10:57 AM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

Jason, if Modernism has erased the desire to draw, I must have missed that imperative. I draw everyday.

Just back from New Orleans where I worked on my house and late in the evening I went out around town and drew everthing I could see: 10 month old piles of Post-Katrina garbage and realized how CUBIST garbage looks even when you draw it straight. I drew FEMA trailers with unforgiving geometric lines considering they're oversized sardine cans filled with humans. I drew - for the last time, for now - the delicate French Quarter balconies... missing it even as I drew it. Drawing is about being alive. How can you find a substitute for that?

Perhaps I'll find this book, Gunnar, and find out what they mean by this Modernist prohibition.

On Jul.14.2006 at 10:25 PM
Tselentis’s comment is:

Yes, you must find the book. And this is in the first chapter. The 'No-Draw Rule.'

On Jul.16.2006 at 12:48 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

We’ll get to it all in a week and change but the “no draw rule” is not the second rule in the old “You can’t win; you can’t break even; you can’t leave the game” series (even though some would apply that to design.)

In the mean time: Buy the book; it goes well beyond questions of drawing or not; reading it is worthwhile even if you don’t mind being left out of the upcoming conversation.

On Jul.16.2006 at 01:00 PM
Natalia’s comment is:

"Drawing is about being alive. How can you find a substitute for that?"

Couldn't have said it better myself.

On Jul.16.2006 at 07:29 PM