Looking at the modest library of design books I own, it strikes me that very few of them might truly be knockout examples of the craft of writing in and of themselves — none of them are, in fact. Among my favorite books on my shelves are other expert accounts of influential design subjects, like Steve Heller’s excellent “Paul Rand,” monographs so beautiful that I return to them again and again just to pore over the images, like Lella and Massimo Vignelli’s “Design: Vignelli,” and fascinatingly definitive texts like Robert Bringhurst’s “The Elements of Typographic Style.” But none of them are the kinds of reads that reward repeated visits of the text beyond the academic value provide therein. They’re all fascinating, but almost none of them are entertaining.
Don’t get me wrong, these are books to be cherished and revisited, for sure, and they’ve added immeasurably to the discourse of a trade that can only benefit from more similarly powerful academic works. But none of them are resolutely fun… none of them could be handed off to a friend with the assurance that, even though he or she might know nothing about graphic design, they’ll still be entertained in some significant fashion by the words between the pictures. And wouldn᾿t it be great to have a design book that you find endlessly fascinating but that you could also confidently share with a friend in, say, the field of accounting?
This is something that I’d like to see, a “Moneyball” of graphic design; a book about the profession that’s so entertainingly written that it sweeps up its readers regardless of their prior familiarity with or fondness for the subject matter… and yet still provides salient, unique lessons for even the profession’s veterans. Such a book would amount to a turning point for our trade, too, a meaningful further step into the popular culture that we’re so much a part of, and yet from which we remain perpetually distanced. Graphic design needs a book like that, I think. Is it possible?