Last weekend’s Designers and Books Fair brought a capacity crowd of students, faculty, and design devotees and connoisseurs for book browsing and presentations. It was a star-studded Art and Design School affair. The Who’s Who and the Who‐Will be Who’s of the publishing design world were in attendance.
Attendees came to leaf through and touch (yes touch!) the pages of stimulating and daring design books, many available at hefty discounts. Among book signers were Steven Heller, Demetrios Eames, Chip Kidd and Andre Leon Talley. To no one’s surprise, Milton Glaser brought down (so to speak) the Katie Murphy Amphitheater with audience enthusiasm and admiration.
“As visual and tactile practitioners, it was great for us to touch the books,” says Dean Joanne Arbuckle. You’re making a more personal connection to the books’ content and glorying in the design and thought process. Some of the books were even designed to be touched.”
Typography and environmental graphics professor and author Keith Godard (above) manned the Les Trois Ourses table. “They are most unusual books in form and shape, at heart interactive and playful with a simplicity that appeals to children” And, we might add, to deans and professors!
Many established publishing houses stylishly showcased design books that beckoned creatives. “We’re always looking to discover new artists and new writers,” said Andrea Kiliany Thatcher of Schiffer Fashion Press.
Hamish Smyth and Jesse Reed, partners in the design firm Pentagram, signed copies of their reissue of the 1970s MTA signage design manual. The last of its kind it’s currently available in full- and compact-size. Speaking on a panel about crowd-sourcing campaigns for publishing design books, Smyth said “The subject matter is esoteric for a general audience. It’s understandable it’s not a fit for a traditional publisher.”
“It was great to see designers who have dedicated part of their careers to introducing great design of the past to the world,” says Craig Berger, chair of Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design. “Of particular note are Smyth and Reed who discovered one of the great design treasures and endeavored to make it accessible to the world.”
Attendees and guest speakers received gracious welcome from FIT deans Joanne Arbuckle of the School of Art and Design and Patrick Knisley of Liberal Arts.
“It’s wonderful to have great colleagues who support such broad initiatives like this,” says Dean Arbuckle. “This brings together visual, scholarship and the huge talent from the design world for a lasting experience.”
“It’s so gratifying to connect with those who write so eloquently about design talent especially here in New York City, FIT’s home,” said Dean Arbuckle following the Architecture and Drawing panel discussion.
“I came to get my Milton Glaser fix,” says Suzanne Anoushian, chair of Communications Design. “He talked about the newer iterations of books and where they will go. He continues to talk about design and things I need to hear.”
“The idea of something existing in the mind and making it material is most exhilarating…Drawing is about inventing what you’re looking at,” said celebrated graphic designer Milton Glaser.
“I know I spent a small fortune. There were too many great books and fabulous opportunities,” says Associate Dean Sass Brown. “I’m still carrying them home!” Laurence King Publishing had Ms. Brown’s two books on eco-fashion for an unprecedented half off.
A conversation about design is not complete without old media magazine and newspaper design directors and editors. From left to right, The Paris Review art editor, Aperture magazine editor, New York Times Magazine design director.
Graphic design writer Steven Heller brought to the audience’s attention Czech-born Ladislav Sutnar, founder of information design and a “lost master.” Heller’s facsimile of “Visual Design in Action,” a book Sutnar originally self-published was available at the Fair.
Philip Pearlstein who worked with Sutnar talked about Sutnar’s involvement in the Bauhaus movement and having started his own school based on practical design. “His greatest contribution to civilization are the boys and girls symbols for restrooms.” Other designs he invented that we take for granted include the area code parenthesis and airport symbols, less meant for glory than helping humanity. “His credo was that design could improve life.”
The emphasis on ink was cathartic for many. A session on “What it Takes” included Indie included (from left to right above) American Chordata and The Great Discontent, editors, Pitchfork art director, and Lucky Peach editor, moderated by author of “Print Is Dead. Long Live Print.” They discussed culling expertise and funding, design versus photography (“also cartoons are cool,”) and how big your staff should be.
One takeaway: Lucky Peach does not yet have the funds to hire the likes of David Foster Wallace to write about lobster. But all hope to offer contributors good pay. Finally, “Don’t not be on the internet because you want to be cool,” said Meehan. “It’s faster to find an audience online.”
Book lovers browsed leisurely up to the last minute…
While the next generation kept a keen eye on design and book sales.
Photos: Rachel Ellner