A Designer’s Art by Paul Rand

Poster based on Rand's cover for Direction magazine, 1939

Paul Rand is a little gap on my bookshelf. Princeton Architectural Press’ recent reprint of his 1985 monograph A Designer's Art (complete with obligatory afterword by Steven Heller) pretty much lives on my desk these days. Over 27 essays, he discusses a wide range of subjects still pertinent to design today, all accompanied by numerous examples of his work (more of which can be found at paul-rand.com). Demonstrating Rand's ability to simplify shape and colour and space into the most striking form, it's surprising how contemporary much of it seems – there are posters and covers and identities in here from seventy years ago that could've been made yesterday. One gripe: given Rand’s distinctive use of colour, it’s a shame that some of the images are black and white. Still, it's a stunning collection and offers a valuable education from one of design's greatest teachers; open it on any page and there's something that will spark inspiration. An essential read for designers, artists and everything in-between.

A Designer’s Art, 1985

Minute Man National Historic Park poster, 1974

Dada poster, 1951

The International Design Conference in Aspen poster, 1966

IBM poster, 1981

AIGA poster, 1968

Yale University School of Art poster, 1988

Leonardo da Vinci exhibition catalogue, 1970

Westinghouse Annual Report, 1974

The Pebbles on the Beach

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We’ve just returned from three glorious days of seaside frolicking at Boggle Hole in Robin Hood’s Bay. Within moments of arriving, I dawned on me that I’d made a huge mistake and neglected to buy Clarence Ellis’ rock-spotter’s guide The Pebbles on the Beach. Faber's beautiful new edition, designed by Alex Kirby and illustrated by Eleanor Crow, has a wonderful fold-out jacket for easy reference and would’ve really come in handy for imparting some geological wisdom to my boy.

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In its absence, he had to make do with my own home-brewed classifications, such as: small pebble; largish pebble; black pebble with a stripe; pebble that is probably a new potato; don’t touch that pebble, a dog made it; and fossil it’s a fossil FOSSIL no wait it’s seaweed.

Personal project: Madame Bovary

Way over here on the furthest back of back-burners, I am very gradually working my way through David Bowie's list of 100 favourite books, redesigning the cover for each title. Here’s the latest, Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. The picture is Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot’s 1870 painting A Woman Reading. I’ve posted/deleted this four times now. The problem with personal projects is that there’s no client to take it off my hands, so I end up tweaking and tweaking and tweaking and …

Reading: A Burglar’s Guide to the City

I’ve been a fan of Geoff Manaugh’s BLDGBLOG for a years – his intelligent look at the world from a very particular architectural perspective makes it one of those blogs that leaves you feeling a little bit smarter after every visit. His post Nakatomi Space , which reappraises Die Hard as one of the all time great films about architecture, radically altered the way I read films and buildings.

That piece pops up again in A Burglar’s Guide to the City, Manaugh's entertaining and insightful exploration of how city and crime are shaped by one another. It’s filled with anecdotes from both sides of the law and across history. There's the 19th century architect and socialite who was at one time responsible for 80 percent of all bank robberies in the US; the burglar who lived inside a Toys R Us for months, setting up his own surveillance network using baby monitors; the inventor who developed a material so sturdy and impenetrable that his panic rooms may well be the last architectural structures left standing long after the collapse of civilisation.

It’s an absolutely cracking read, and well worth dipping your nose into even if your aren’t planning any heists in the foreseeable future – although by the end of it you may well be tempted.

Personal project: The Face Redux

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NME RIP. It was a slow, painful death, but it’s still left a great void in British pop journalism. Which seems like as good an excuse as any to relaunch The Face, right? But not your grandma's The Face; a different kind of magazine to the original, but retaining the same core pop ethos. Quarterly, thick, high production values, passionate writing about pop, not fighting the tide of the web. And NOT nostalgic. So no dragging back the old writers to relive the good old days; get some new voices out there (consider this a very optimistic job application). Structurally, the Little White Lies model would work well. One big fat interview with the cover star – guess who my suggestion for the first issue would be – followed by lots of tangentially related stories, offering the sort of depth you don't get online.

You never know, it could happen. 

New work: James Joyce

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A particularly fun element of last year's Wolpe Collection launch was the opportunity to redesign some classic Faber & Faber jackets using the new versions of Berthold Wolpe’s typefaces. I spent way too long mulling over whether or not this one needed an eyepatch over the O, but in the end I just let the Albertus Nova curly bracket do all the work.