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Pre-hurricane Sandy, I attended the Designers & Books Fair held at the The Katie Murphy Amphitheater at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). The Katie Murphy Amphitheater is one of those types of spaces that retains a sense of intimacy despite a seating capacity over 200 people, an ideal setting for Learning from Experience: Four Graphic Designers in Conversation.

One of the many fantastic programs included in the fair celebrating the relationship between designers and books, Learning from Experience explored the influence of books on designers Elaine Lustig Cohen, Tom Geismar, Prem Krishnamurthy and Hillary Greenbaum’s ways of thinking as well as their work. Conversation moderator Alice Twemlow, Chair, School of Visual Arts D-Crit did a great job of asking questions that were specific enough to guide conversation yet broad enough to encompass the breadth of the panel’s experiences.

The question of which book each designer had found to be most influential elicited an eclectic book list spanning a variety of topics. Greenbaum cited A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman, explaining that although the book wasn’t visually beautiful that “never before” had she “read a book and saw the world in a different way”, Lustig Cohen cited Monsieur Teste by Valéry Paul for its “elegant, beautiful designs” and “sparse type” and Krishnamurthy cited one of my own favorites—Ways of Seeing by John Berger which he described as an “absolute revelation”. Contrary to expectation these books were neither exclusively design books nor solely influential in design terms. More “most influential” picks from renowned designers can be found here.

FavoriteDesignBook.jpgWhat is Your Favorite Design Book?
Designers & Books Fair 2012

The impact of generational aspects on book access, content and format/medium was one theme that emerged from the conversation. For example, Lustig-Cohen described her experience in the 1950s of design books and magazines being less accessible and fewer being published overall. She recounted how she would go to Wittenborn’s bookstore in search of the few available new titles, exhibition catalogs or periodicals such as Domus, Typo and IDEA. She also described differences in the actual book design process.

Curation was another theme to emerge from the conversation. From the question of what designers had on their shelves to how the shelves themselves were organized to actual curation of the work of other artists for exhibitions. Some of the organizational methods mentioned were by subject, alphabetically, by time period or by function.

Highlights.jpgHighlights from Designers & Books Fair 2012

Post-panel attendees wandered the exhibition hall aisles filled with architecture, fashion, illustration, product design and graphic design books among others. The three day event was truly not to be missed. My only regret is that I was unable to attend more panels. If you missed it this time around mark your calendar for next year’s Designers & Books Fair 2013, October 25– 27, 2013.

ExhibitHallSet-Up.jpgExhibit Hall set-up Designers & Books Fair