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Famous Designers on Design: 5 Beautiful Book Covers

What the hate of Helvetica has to do with Nine Inch Nails and a three-legged lemon juicer.

It’s often said that the true measure of how famous you are is how many books you’ve published in your area of expertise. Surely enough, when it comes to design, the most iconic designers have bookshelves worth of design wisdom they’ve bestowed upon us mere mortals.

Today, we look at how well they’ve put their money where their mouth is with our selection of the five best covers of books by the world’s most famous designers.

PAULA SCHER

For a designer whose career was shaped by the violent hate of the Helvetica typeface, Paula Scher has done quite well for herself, becoming one of the most iconic magazine and theater graphic designers of our time.

Make It Bigger, a much-detested client refrain for all graphic designers, is a delightful exercise in switching sides: A look at design from the vantage point of the business community it serves. The indisputable stride-stopping power of the cover, as we cringe at its intentionally awkward grotesqueness, makes the book’s point before we’ve even opened it.

(On a bit of an aside, we’re be remiss to talk about Scher without mentioning her phenomenal Maps project — do check it out.)

DAVID CARSON

David Carson is perhaps best known for his groundbreaking magazine design and his passionate affair with typography. In trek: david. carson. recent. werk, Carson does what he does best — he sweeps us up with unexpected typography and hurls us into nearly 500 pages of turbulent impact with graphics that tug at our most polarized gut reactions.

carson

The book also includes Carson’s work for Nine Inch Nails, whose design sensibility we’ve praised before, so we’re tres happy.

PHILIPPE STARCK

Philippe Starck is, in our subjective opinion, the designer who has made the most dramatic, convincing leap between greatness and genius. (In what’s easily our favorite TED talk to date, he shares profound insight about the distinction between the two.)

His self-titled book, Starck, captures every ounce of genius and quirk and revolutionary vision of the eccentric French, revealing over three decades of his groundbreaking work. The cover itself is brilliantly appropriate — personal and odd — as every piece of Starck’s design work is so loudly stamped with the designer’s quirky personality.

starck

From Starck’s infamous three-legged lemon press to the fast food shop in Nimes, Starck also includes architectural projects, furniture, and interior design. Mostly, it fully lives up to the promise of the cover design — to take us on a journey into the liberty of vision, to help us believe again that as designers, we’re bigger than the sum of our work because every piece of creativity we offer to the world is deeply and unmistakably infused with our own unique personas.

KARIM RASHID

Karim Rashid‘s prolific work in interiors, fashion, furniture, lighting, art and music has landed him multiple MoMA gigs and just about every cultural praise there is. But he is perhaps best known for his advocacy of “democratic design” — the idea that even the best of design should be accessible to the masses.

Driven by that conviction, his book Design Yourself is a brave exploration of design’s role as a social actor rather than a mere aesthetic feature.

rashid

From socialization to work to sex, Rashid dispenses radical advice on how to handle the self, all framed by the breadth of his user-centric work. Essentially, Design Yourself is a book about optimization — optimizing all areas of life, from the aesthetic to the spiritual, in a way that leaves our physical, emotional and cognitive environment in a better state than we found it in.

STEFAN SAGMEISTER

Stefan Sagmeister is often considered the most important living designer. His design has helped define some of music’s most iconic personal brands — Lou Reed, David Byrne, Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones.

Things I have learned in my life so far grew from a list in Sagmeister’s diary from his year-long commercial hiatus. The book is a reflection on life, being human, and the meaning of happiness, all communicated through the medium of design at its most powerful.

In Things I have learned in my life so far, the very medium is just as playful and enticing as the message — Sagmeister’s relationship with design doesn’t unfold on the first page, it begins at the book’s cover itself.


Things I have learned in my life so far invites us to come along for a rollercoaster ride of tongue-in-cheek facetiousness and profound human truth, all reflected on through deeply impactful imagery and brilliant typography.

On a final aside, more confirmation for Sagmeister’s brilliance: He is one of the few cultural icons who have spoken at TED not once, but twice — both talks are more than worth the watch.

Update: That’s thrice now — we had the pleasure of seeing his third TED talk at TEDGlobal in July 2009.

BP

Monday Music Muse: The Midnight Show

A stride-stopping hit from Brooklyn’s notoriously hit-or-miss indie music scene.

The Midnight ShowThis week’s musical discovery takes us to Brooklyn, the grand stage where indie-folk-rock band Joanna Erdos & The Midnight Show gifts unsuspecting hipster audiences with supreme outstandingness.

(They also happen to be one of those last quintessentially “indie” bands left — think nada on Amazon, not even a two-liner Wikipedia page.)

From the keyboard magic to the fantastic vocals of lead-singer Joanna Erdos, The Midnight Show is indeed a rarity of talent. It’s also rare that we struggle to muster an appropriate comparison to better-known musical greats in order to put a band’s music in context. But, if we must: Imagine the low notes of Fionna Apple done right, the high notes of Rachael Yamagata layered over the equally excellent piano, all wrapped up in the musical aura of an early Tori Amos.

Joanna ErdosYou know what, stop imagining and just go give them a spin.

The Midnight Show is Joanna Erdos (vocals + piano), Jesse Krakow (bass + vocals), and Kevin March (drums + vocals).

Their ridiculously good self-titled debut album is available for the ridiculously low price of $8.91 on iTunes — so start practicing that “best indie band you’ve never heard” spiel for your next dinner party.

BP

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Word-of-Mouths

Salt mines, German sanatoriums, and how a social media rescue mission saved one lovable photographic underdog.

JPG logoPrint is dying. You hear it everywhere. And over the past couple of years, a number of excellent publications have indeed folded. (Business 2.0 and JANE, we’re looking at you.) But the latest title to be kicked into a publishing coma, JPG Magazine, ended up as a weird ray of light for the relationship between traditional and new media.

Here’s the story in a nutshell.

JPG MagazineIn 2005, husband and wife duo Heather Champ and Derek Powazek set out to found a magazine where the content was completely user-created and voted on by other users, so that the best of the best ends up in the print publication. (Published photos receive $100 to stash with their pride and glory.) A truly democratic magazine, if you will.

A magazine that brought us the alphabet in the sky…

type in the sky

…and the aerial wonder (yep, we’re going at it again) of Utah’s salt mines…

Moab salt mine

…and the beautiful decay of an early 20th century German sanatorium.

blue.

Unsurprisingly, JPG amassed a significant base of dedicated loyalists over the years — people passionate about both photography and the idea of an inclusive arena for photographic excellence open to more than just the handful of professional photographers circulating all the other photo pubs. A place for up-and-coming talent to truly showcase their work.

But in late 2008, something left JPG supporters utterly distraught: Editor Laura Brunow Miler announced the magazine was folding under the pressure of funding.

Issue 19: FaithThat’s when the social media rescue mission started. Supporters quickly launched SaveJPG.com and unleashed a flurry of Twitter and Flickr buzz that eventually landed JPG several big-time acquisition offers. As a result, the magazine was resurrected and just launched into a new future with the latest issue, appropriately titled Faith.

And while we love a good underdog story as much as the next guy, we must admit there was one wonderful upside to the temporary downside of JPG’s existence: One motivated fan, Derek Steen, put together a comprehensive PDF archive of every JPG issue ever published — 223.4MB of free goodness — so grab yours and start catching up, or head over to the Faith issue and see what all the fuss was about.

via Photojojo

BP

Vintage Russian Ads

What Dostoevsky has to do with sausage art and bicycles.

Today, we’re looking at that weird limbo of Russian heritage between the cultural zenith of the Dostoevsky era and the nadir of Russia’s current status as the Gas Grinch – namely, vintage Russian ads, the intersection of art and commerce.

Tobacco

From tobacco to tailoring, the collection speaks to a striking resemblance between the cultural valuables of Russian society and those of the Western world circa early 20th century, debunking the whole “us vs. them” notion of lack of cultural common ground.

Shoes

Cocoa

And while much of the typography and illustration appear to… ahem… “borrow” from their Western brethren, we notice some surprisingly sophisticated techniques rarely seen in Western vintage ads — such as this perspective treatment of type:

Bicycles

Soda

Courtesy of English Russia. (Remember sausage art?)

But before we get too caught up in the cultural common tangents here, let’s not forget the other side of the whole Soviet-American relationship, clearly and stride-stoppingly revealed in the Soviet propaganda of the day.

Freedom from the American

We encourage you to play around with English Russia, the second most addictive source of relentless amusement we’ve discovered last year.

via Coudal

BP

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