DESIGN AND INTERFACES > CORPORATE / LOGOTYPES / EDITORIAL DESIGN / ADVERTISING
Paul Rand by Steven Heller
255 pages, full color, $25
Reading up on the masters is a must in the design field just as much as in the fine arts, and Paul Rand is one giant whose meteoritic career, 10 years after his passing, is still a presence and inspiration to designers worldwide. Rand was a natural designer, self-trained thanks to an innate understanding of all aspects of the field. Uncertainty seems to have been absent from his life, and he dealt with clients accordingly, not that they ever regretted yielding to his ideas. We can't all follow his example, but taking a leaf out of his book (or this book, for that matter) paid off on more than one occasion. Heller's biography has that quality: to cover all aspects of Rand's professional life. It offers a substantial amount of text, but an even greater abundance of pictures of the designer's work. From work habits to design philosophies to teaching method, it's all covered in this "concisely informative and deeply informed profesisonal appreciation" (to quote the New York Times.)
Looking at Indian Art of the Northwest Coast by Hilary Stewart
112 pages, b&w, CAD17.95
It is very rare to find a book that deconstructs an artistic tradition to the level achieved by HIlary Stewart. If I could find one like this for every culture, I'd buy them all no questions asked. Beginning with the basic shapes used in the art of the Northwest Coast Indians (ovoid, U form, S form...) she then methodically moves on to anatomical features (eyes, tongue, claws...) and how they are used, then to structural variations. There follows a long chapter to identify design motifs (i.e. the animals, mythical creatures and people used in representations), and then a discussion of cultural variations between the various tribes. Many pictures illustrate the text, showing traditional as well as modern work. Quite a few stories are recounted where appropriate, giving more insights into the cultural context.
The book provides the tools to decipher and therefore fully appreciate NWC art, but by extension, it also provides artists with the tools to try their hand at it with awareness of the correct design elements and of their meaning. A gem of a resource for students and admirers of traditional arts.
ARTISAN CRAFTS / EDITIORIAL DESIGN / FASHION ILLUSTRATION
Fairie-ality : the Fashion Collection from the House of Ellwand by Eugenie Bird, David Downton
128 pages, full color with special paper/printing. £25.00
This book is not about art, it is a piece of art! I'm don't usually go for fairies but I could not walk out without this book once it caught my attention. It is a fashion catalogue from the House of Ellwand, top fairie couturier...
Designed like a genuine high-end catalogue with fashion illustration and fancy inserts, Fairie-ality is rich in textures, whether from the different papers used or the beautiful photography, always consistent with what the aesthetics of a tiny nature-dwelling people might be. The star, of course, is the collection itself, a treasury of tiny outfits made of natural materials feathers, leaves, petals, shed snakeskin, you name it and photographed for the catalog. The ingenuity of the creations and the dazzling presentations still make me squeak at every page. There are dresses, hats, bathing suits, jackets, shoes, and just when you think you can't be stunned anymore... the wedding dress. Who'd have thought fairies could be so trndy?
The one things I regret, to nitpick a bit, is the somewhat cheap-lokoing drop shadow used for the pieces such a beautiful realization deserved better!
But don't let that deter you if you love fairies, fashion or simply beautiful things, this is a bouquet of inspiration and wildflowers.
ARTISAN CRAFTS > TEXTILES > CLOTHING
The Book of Kimono The Complete Guide to Style and Wearby Norio Yamanaka
144 pages, b&w with color plates, ¥3200
Enter "kimono" in the search engine and you'll see just how popular traditional Japanese fashion is. It is not, however, as straightforward as it may seem: it is one of the most refined and conventionalized costumes in the world, and one should not attempt to draw it without understanding its "anatomy" and the rules that go with it. I've seen more comprehensive books on this subject, but they are large and expensive, so this is a good compromise for lighter purses.
The opening chapter is a "brief history" with a thumbnail illustration for each period discussed: not an in-depth survey but enough visuals and description to get the general idea and figure out how styles fit with each other.
The following chapters cover the making of a kimono, the dyeing methods, different types and occasions to wear them, outer ornaments and garments, footwear, accessories... Most of them are illustrated, and though the pictures are small and black and white, again it is a useful survey to start from. The obi has a chapter for itself, and one of the most interesting sections is putting on the kimono and obi, illustrated step by step for both women and men. There are detailed instructoins for several obi knots. The proper way of wearing a kimono is described, as knowing what it's made of is not enough to draw or wear it properly. There are also chapters on how to clean and care for the kimono, and how to move in it.
All in all the book was made to teach people how to wear a kimono properly, which is perfect for our purposes, as illustrators are like directors: they don't just need to know how their actors-on-paper should look, they should also "tell" them how to move. Not to mention, it is detailed enough to help textile artists make their own.
Arabic Typography :a Comprehensive Sourcebook by Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFares
264 pages, b&w, $35.00
I review this book reservedly; the author was one of my teachers, and I am among those who believe she had no business writing about a topic she is not specialized in, especially seeing she made up by her lack of expertise by plagiarizing the life work of two other of our teachers. The book is the first tot ackle the subject of Arabic typography, but it's not as good as it could have been if written by proper authorities, and it also contains historical inaccuracies. While we wait for a better alternative, though, it is a much-needed reference for designers who have to deal with Arabic type. Just don't take the contents as gospel.
Beginning with the distinction between calligraphy and typography, the book then presents a (summarily) illustrated timeline of the evolution of writing and the different Arabic scripts. There follows the timeline of Arabic type since the earliest attempts, and of reform projects for it. Curiously there is no discussion of the charactristics of Arabic that make it so difficult to adapt to printing types, a serious failing.
The chapter for which I bought the book, Aspects of Arabic Type, turned out to be a disappointment. I was hoping for a detailed study of letterforms based on which it would be possible to create or modify Arabic fonts in line witht he rules of the script. Instead these rules are merely evoked. Like the rest of the book, the chapter is just a survey. The vocalization marks are described, but the letters themselves are skimmed over. There is a feeble attempt at describing the proportions of letterforms, but as that varies with the style, and is not where the essence of the characters lay, it just looks like an attempt to make the chapter look more substantital and useful than it really is. The chapter on non-alphabetic symbols is so irrelevant I believe she just wanted the book to be structured like Robert Bringhurst's excellent Essence of Typographic Style, which I reviewed previously (I am not imagining things either. She uses a quote form his book as an opening to hers but she misspelled his name).
No less than 80 pages are then dedicated to type design in general, from production tools to type style classifications, reprinting what you can find in any book on type, a fact camouflaged by throwing in illustrations of Arabic type here and there. 80 pages wasted, that could have been used to give us some meat about Arabic type design in particular, which I thought is what the book is about. Only a few pages at the end of this chapter deign give us some clues as to how design considerations for an Arabic font differ from those for a Latin one.
Finally, in a way again remarkably reminiscent of Bringhurst's volume, a number of Arabic typefaces are presented and summarily described.
In conclusion, I don't know if I want to recommend this book flipping through it to review it made me aware of failings I hadn't noticed when I first read it as a fresh graduate. So consider this more as a warning that the "comprehensive sourcebook" is not so comprehensive, nor so much of a sourcebook.
Previous issues: vol. 1, vol. 2, vol. 3
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