What should designers read in the times of social distancing — I

First of the five part series on essential reads for a designer

As responsible citizens, we all have to go under self-exile, courtesy Coronavirus. Exiles could also be times of intense learning, absorbing and improvising. In this 5 part series, we will recommend three books everyday for designers to read. This is the first of the five part series:

Ways of Seeing by John Berger

“The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled,” is the opening line of Ways of Seeing, arguably, John Berger’s best and most famous work. It’s also a work that has influenced a generation of art critics and theorists. The four-part BBC eponymous TV series produced by Mike Dibb, popularised Berger’s approach to art and his perspective that ‘looking is a political act’. The book came after the series and has pure, distilled wisdom of Berger on way of seeing the world. For those in creative pursuits, Ways of Seeing is an essential, essential read.

Tibor Kalman, Perverse Optimist, edited by Peter Hall and Michael Bierut

We wanted to include a biography in this list, and it couldn’t have been any other than Tibor Kalman’s. This book is collection of Kalman’s work and ideas, and it gives a rare insight into his mind, his way of working, and his life. Kalman, was not trained as a graphic designer (and never failed to remind people of the fact), and his work was quite verbal. The depth and honesty of his observations has an impact on the reader. The book also reveals his thoughts on magazines, advertising, sex, bookstores, food, and the design profession. Kalman’s biography connects the dots between the moments of brilliance and some of the great works produced by his studio, M&Co. This is a wholesome book of a creative and his work.


Design as Art by Bruno Munari

Munari was an Italian visual artist and designer, yet you will find this book on reading lists of all the architects. This book was published first in 1966, is now a classic and still widely read in 2020. Design as Art will help you turn a critical eye towards design, and explore the questions of design, aesthetics and art. The distinction, if at all there is, between art and design is addressed in the beginning. The essays are categorised as—Designers as stylists, Visual design, Graphics, Industrial Design, and Research. Here is tiny extract from the book that we love: “The designer is therefore the artist of today, not because he is a genius but because he works in such a way as to reestablish contact between art and the public, because he has the humility and ability to respond to whatever demand is made of him by the society in which he lives, because he knows his job, and the ways and means of solving each problem of design.”


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