Everyone knows that the all-time worst question you can put to a creative type is Where do you get your ideas? I’m going to come clean here, though, and admit that I think it’s kind of a great question. Maybe not to ask outright, but to wonder about. As readers of this blog are probably aware, I’m always interested in a book’s genesis—where it came from, what its backstory is, which seeds germinated and where the surprises lay. And conversely, I like cross-pollination—discovering the books that served to inspire authors, visual artists, musicians, designers.
So I was pleased to find Designers & Books, a new site devoted to exploring exactly those relationships. A broad selection of designers and architects of all stripes have come aboard to discuss the books that have moved them, inspired them and instructed them. Some are as you’d imagine—Edward R. Tufte’s Envisioning Information is on at least four lists—but there are a number of surprises as well. Stefan Sagmeister includes Consider the Lobster and The Corrections, and Daniel Libeskind, master planner for the World Trade Center redesign, offers a list capped off by Flaubert’s The Temptation of St. Anthony. But the point isn’t just to assemble a series of odd shelves, or to indulge our inner voyeurs. As the site’s creator, Steve Kroeter, puts it:
1. There is a special relationship between designers and books. Designers read books, write them, design them, collect them, learn from them, and are inspired by them.
2. Similar to the way that “good design can make your life better”—we also believe that “good books can make your life better.”
3. Because of #1 and #2, it is worthwhile to pay attention to the books that designers pay attention to.
In addition to the design crew and their choices, Designers & Books has a commentary section where academics, critics, curators, editors, lecturers, and writers can weigh in, and a space for longer-form essays. Comments are encouraged, and there is a blog. Kroeter has been steadily adding more voices and books, so it seems like the conversation could get pretty interesting—and maybe generate some ideas of its own.