Design Resources, Vol. 1

Last summer, I had just graduated from community college and decided to pursue a double major in Communications Design and Industrial Design at my local university. It was a fairly sudden decision, and it worried me that I knew almost nothing about design or design history, apart from some basic Photoshop and Illustrator skills . . .

So, in true Hermione fashion, I dedicated that summer to researching DESIGN (whatever that means). While I didn’t do much in the way of learning new skills, I did learn a lot about design history and the design community. Which was helpful later on, simply because it lent a certain amount of context to my classes that first semester.

This summer, I’m planning to hit the books and documentaries again, because the best thing about summer is getting to learn and research whatever you yourself choose. Since it can be slightly hard to find recommendations and reviews for that type of thing, I decided to put together a list of my favorites for anyone else who’s interested in soaking in some design this summer. I’m sure I’ll have more to add to this list in the next few months!


IMG_1054Visual Families
I just got this book through the interlibrary loan after seeing it at a Denver bookstore, and I’m flipping through it as I write this post. It jumped to the top of my favorites list after the first two pages, because it’s charming, humorous, and gorgeous. There’s not a lot of text, just large, beautiful illustrations. If you can possibly get your hands on it, do.

Typography Sketchbooks
My grandparents gave me this book, and I like picking it up for a couple minutes at a time. There are lots of inspiring designs, but it’s unique because it doesn’t focus on completed ideas or images. Almost everything is scanned from a sketchbook, and it’s fascinating to see what the process and jotted sketches of successful designers look like.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
This is the only fictional item in this post. I’m including it because the main character is a graphic designer (albeit unemployed), and the book is chock full of design language and references. The story centers around books and typography . . . in fact, a fictional typeface is a pivotal part of the plot. How nerdy and fun is that?


Eames: The Architect & The Painter
Recognize any of these chairs? They’re the work of Ray and Charles Eames, as are countless iconic designs from that time period. If you don’t know the Eames, you’re missing out. They’re just fantastic, and the documentary itself is great too.

Currently free to watch on PBS.

If you don’t know what industrial design is, start here. It’s all about manufactured products and their designers. You’ll get an inside look at the making of products ranging from vegetable peelers to the Macbook Pro. It’s like a grown-up edition of Mr. Rogers’ “How It’s Made” segments. (Tell me I’m not the only one who has fond memories of those.)

Currently available on Netflix.

Ah, Helvetica. Some swear by its perfection, while others scorn it as an overused cliche and lazy solution. This documentary details Helvetica’s history, while examining both sides of the controversy.

Design is One: Lella and Massimo Vignelli
Like the Eames, the Vignellis have been a huge influence in American design, particularly in New York City. It’s an interesting look at old school design. Massimo in particular is astonishingly stubborn about his design philosophy and has a very specific point of view.

Currently available on Netflix.


IMG_1065Design Matters
This podcast has been my most valuable resource, because every episode has me googling books, movies, and designers. Each one features a different designer, who always have great stories about their childhood, education, and path to success.


AIGA’s Eye On Design 
First off, the overall design of this site is just plain fun (that blinking eyeball always makes me smile). Secondly, it’s a fantastic resource pinnable quotes, and links to interesting design news. Most recently, Eye of Design took me down the deep rabbit hole of presidential candidate logo critiques, which is an amusing way to look at the upcoming elections. Let me tell you, Jeb Bush is getting some harsh criticism over kerning issues, and the general consensus is that Hillary’s “H” looks like a hospital sign or worse.

I actually heard about this site from conversations with my teachers and classmates. I’d definitely recommend it if you want to get a full picture of what industrial designers do. There’s always something insanely cool or clever on Core77.