Book List: Design Inspiration
Portfolio Review
RGD Members share the resources they turn to for inspiration and perspective. If you're facing creative block, in need of an inspiring pick-me-up, or looking to explore a new way of thinking, these books provide a fresh take on design and the role of the creative communicator. 


Recommended by Katalin Kovats RGD, Toronto

Sense of Sight and About Looking by John Berger

These books by John Berger are not specifically about design but they have changed the way I look at everything. Both books are collections of essays, mostly on art. They are academic in nature and may not furnish immediate inspiration or solutions for graphic design issues. They are more contemplative in nature and draw parallels between unexpected subjects and thoughts such as: Francis Bacon and Walt Disney; Modigliani's Alphabet of Love, The Suit and the Photograph. These writings opened my eyes and made me look at things differently. They were first published more than 30 years ago and deal with topics of alienation, love and observation. I still find them relevant, providing a unique view of art and all forms of visual communication in general, and how these influence our society.


They have also led me to get other books with similar titles, including The Art of Looking Sideways by Alan Fletcher. This book also holds many unexpected parallels. Each spread is a surprise: trivia, wisdom and observations of a lifetime, expressed by wonderfully diverse graphics, layouts and typography throughout the book. These books taught me to take interest and look all around; to be inspired by ordinary things and see extraordinary things in a different light.


Recommended by Antonio Lennert Prov RGD, Toronto

Design’s Delight by Jan Van Toorn

This is a book that every visual communicator who cares about the effect of their work should have at their desk. Jan Van Toorn is one of the most relevant practising Dutch designers and educators. His approach to design and visual communication is radical, personal and provocative; exposing his audience to the manipulative tactics employed by modern communication media. Van Toorn’s work is heavily influenced by the critical theories on media by Marx, Habernas, Debord, Eco and Chomsky. He serves as a mediator between the masses and the ruling forces, taking a critical position on current socio-economic issues while challenging traditional approaches to visual communication. Theory aside, the book is stunning. With an exposed spine that makes direct reference to the author’s intent, the title carefully placed on the outside of its safe area, and striking photography combined with a good dose of awkward typography that only the Dutch can do—the book is just bliss! 


Recommended by Jim Ryce RGD, Toronto

Fully Booked – Ink on Paper: Design and Concepts for New Publications by Andrew Losowsky, R. Klanten, M. Hübner, S. Ehmann

Publisher: Gestalten

This is a book that I would put in the “inspiring" category. The book is a fun read starting with the cover copy lamenting the end of digital: “Let me state this for the record: The internet is not dead. Digital will not disappear. Print will not kill the web…


The book is broken into five categories: The Storyteller, The Showmaster, The Teacher, The Businessman and The Collector. Each one showcases beautiful work, featuring innovative print and bindery techniques with both editorial and design concepts. The work is wonderfully crafted and filled with many inspiring samples. In the digital age, it’s nice to see such a strong emphasis still being placed on print. This book is a great addition for any design library and is good to have on hand when looking for inspiration.


Recommended by David Taylor RGD, Toronto
The Cheese Monkeys: A Novel in Two Semesters by Chip Kidd 

While Chip Kidd is universally known in design circles as the creative force behind more than 1,500 book covers during his career at Knopf, this book is his first turn as author. The Cheese Monkeys is inspired, in part, by Kidd's experience at university, and focuses on "Happy" (the only name given to the main character) as he signs up for his first Graphic Design course, taught by the equally charismatic and terrifying Winter Sorbeck. It is both a coming-of-age novel as well as a graphic design primer, and the design aspect of the novel steamrolls the rest of the storyline with Kidd's sheer force of storytelling. The graphic design assignments are so poignant, and the critiques so sweat-inducing, it's hard to put the book down. It may be classified as fiction but this novel has given me a more intense design education than most textbooks.
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