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Barbara Crane: Chicago Loop
Barbara Crane: Chicago Loop
by Sarah Anne McNear
Edition: Hardcover
28 used & new from $13.61

2.0 out of 5 stars Great images in a loopy design, March 15, 2015
The forty photos in the book are close-ups of buildings, old and new, in the Chicago Loop. Actually they could have been taken in any large American city because the reveal close-up sections of structures rather than the views from sidewalk and up. Barbara Crane took these to capture the texture and tones and using a long lens to compress brickwork and steel and as such I though they worked beautifully. The tight cropping (which removes the sky) and mostly straight on shots really deliver some remarkable patterns of vertical walls, windows, fire-escapes and shadows.

It's unfortunate that despite an excellent print job by Meridian (probably America's best art book printers) and using a three hundred screen I thought the book was hopelessly over designed. The problem is that the photos (6.75 by 4.75 inches) are centred on large black pages which overpower the images so that their quality is dramatically reduced. If the photos were kept at the same size but on a much smaller page the book would have been excellent. There is also a bit of designer whimsy with each photo retaining the small tabs that come at the top of plate film...it adds nothing to the appreciation of the photos in my view.

It's shame that design spoils great work. Another fine book of images from the LaSalle Bank Photo Collection published in 2004 looks at the buildings and people of Chicago over several decades and didn't have the design annoyances of Crane's book but rather oddly didn't include one of her photos.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 16, 2015 3:15 AM PDT


Comedy Movie Posters (Illustrated History of Movies Through Posters)
Comedy Movie Posters (Illustrated History of Movies Through Posters)
by Richard Allen
Edition: Paperback
33 used & new from $4.95

5.0 out of 5 stars The kings of comedy, March 8, 2015
'Comedy movie posters' is the twelfth volume in Bruce Hershenson's excellent movie poster series. I have another book: 'Crime movie posters' and as it's the same format as Comedy so I assume all the books follow the same visual style. The way the pages are poster heavy might not be to everyone's taste but (neatly) cramming them in was the only way to show so many in eighty pages.

The posters are for movies from the 1920s to 2000 and it's the ones from the late forties into the fifties that I like with their use of color, illustration and lettering creating an exuberant collage style that was used by all the studios. Into the sixties and seventies the style was a mix of photos and illustration and in the last decade of the century photography was the main visual element.

A worthy addition to any movie fan's library.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 8, 2015 10:25 AM PDT


Walker Evans: Signs
Walker Evans: Signs
by Andrei Codrescu
Edition: Hardcover
13 used & new from $7.50

3.0 out of 5 stars Sign language, March 8, 2015
This review is from: Walker Evans: Signs (Hardcover)
I've had the book for some years and every time I look through it I think it should have looked much better. There two problems:
1 The photos are treated as if they were ordinary graphic images so the designer, to create visual interest, has made them different sizes, butted some together into the spine, used black pages with the photos centered, run some off the edges of the page.
2 Perhaps more serious is the small type Technical Note on page ix (I can't think of any reason to use roman numerals for the first nine pages) that says some of the photos have been slightly cropped and a few severely cropped.

The cropping of the photos seems so unnecessary, if they had all been centered on the page with reasonable margins the reader could enjoy and appreciate these wonderful photos. Rather oddly they are captioned twice, once on the relevant page and again at the back with four pages of thumbnails and brief technical details.

The fifty photos reveal Walker Evans love of letters in the environment, especially on buildings though this is a common theme among all well known American commonplace photographers. Evans seems to have searched out the most obscure bits of typography, page thirteen has a photo of some stairs with a repeated sign on each step, page fifteen is a close-up of a female pedestrian holding a newspaper under her arm with just the letters CI and part of a T visible, page thirty-nine shows the interior of a room in a house with TICKETS on a piece of board and it's hanging just above a fireplace.

A wonderful selection of photos unfortunately presented in a rather uninspiring way.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 8, 2015 10:24 AM PDT


Taking My Time
Taking My Time
by Joel Meyerowitz
Edition: Hardcover
28 used & new from $488.42

5.0 out of 5 stars Captured moments, March 2, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Taking My Time (Hardcover)
A beautiful two-volume overview of Joel Meyerowitz's contribution to the art of photography. The 680 pages reveal 580 photos (400 in color) covering his work from 1962 to 2011. Apart from the eight page intro by Francesco Zanot all the text is by Meyerowitz, either as an essay with each chapter or deep captions for dozens of individual photos and I thought it's pity that there wasn't more of these because he reveals his interesting thoughts about what caught his eye and why.

I thought the selection of photos was excellent, with so many in the two books you might expect to see a few also-rans but no, virtually every picture pulls you into the frame, then you appreciate the subject, composition, color or mono and I found several that just kept me looking and looking before turning the page. The books have additional material: a twenty-page graphic novel in book two about a car trip Meyerowitz and his pop took from New York to Florida and back, the images are taken from the eighty minute DVD in the back of the book. Book one has a fascinating sixteen page landscape insert with six photos presented as color on the left-hand page and virtually the same shot in black and white opposite. Meyerowitz, in his essay, makes a very credible case for the superiority of color over mono images.

Inside the back cover of book one there is a fold-out that has a color print signed by the artist (it seems genuine too, not an ink-jet job, he had to do it 1,500 times for this limited edition run). The same image is shown over a spread in the book and raises an interesting point about the book's printing. The screen used by the Chinese printers could be 300 or 350 which is not too far off the quality of the color print. Most art books use a 175 to 200 screen so the printing for 'Taking my time' is very impressive in my view. The quality matt art paper helps, too.

I think it's worth commenting on the rather high price of these books, I can't see why they should cost so much (reassuringly expensive?). Steidl have publish several high quality photographer box sets, some with up to five books and none of them cost as much as this Phaidon set.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 6, 2015 4:39 AM PST


Logo Life: Life Histories of 100 Famous Logos
Logo Life: Life Histories of 100 Famous Logos
by Ron van der Vlugt
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $22.16
70 used & new from $16.87

5.0 out of 5 stars Making their mark, February 13, 2015
Any professional designer probably has a few logo books handy for reference and from my experience they can be divided into two types: those that are just full of dull, unimaginative marks that show no signs of creativity (and with current software it's so easy to churn them out) and those, like this book, that reveal well thought out designs that have stood the test of time.

The author has devised a simple, straightforward layout for the hundred companies, mostly American or European. Each starts on a left-hand page with a few hundred words about their history and specific details regarding the logo and changes over the years. The right-hand page shows how the logo has changed over time with several historical examples and nicely these are dated and frequently the designer or design company is named. Many of the designs run over onto the next spread with graphics of them in use.

The book is a handy size (check out the Product Details above) well printed though it does have the quirk of the Contents spread printed on yellow paper with white numbers next to the black company names. The white is unreadable in a domestic lighting environment.

The perfect complement to Logo Life is Taschen's Logo Book, a thick, chunky title with six thousand logos all in color on 776 pages (ISBN 978 3836534130)
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 13, 2015 9:11 PM PST


100 Years of Swiss Design
100 Years of Swiss Design
by Museum fur Gestaltung Zurich
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $47.98
34 used & new from $43.94

5.0 out of 5 stars The Swissness of things, February 11, 2015
This the second book of Swiss design sponsored by the Museum fur Gestaltung in Zurich. The first title covered graphic design, this book has a much broader scope looking at product design though it does concentrate more on consumer rather commercial products. The book is divided into decades and because some design trends and style don't stop and start so neatly some of the essays look at their subject in a broader way, for example in the chapter devoted to the 1930s Arthur Ruegg writes about 'The 'New' light: 100 years of Swiss lighting design'. The ground breaking product exhibition 'Die gute form' created by Max Bill in 1949 is another example of design that influenced designers (and the public) in the following decades.

Each decade starts with a mini photo portfolio followed by products that get a page each with relevant text and captions. The illustrated essays are mixed in with these product pages. I thought the choice of illustrations (about seven hundred) throughout the book was excellent, products are shown in use plus studio shots, designer concept drawings and graphics connected to the product.

Like the other book on graphic design this one is beautifully designed and printed, the upright shape of both books give them an air of credibility. The back pages have a very comprehensive bibliography followed by an Index and biographies of the sixteen contributors. I think it's worth mentioning the translation by Jennifer Taylor, she has done a first-class job turning the original text into everyday English.

The perfect overview of Swiss design culture over the decades.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 11, 2015 12:32 PM PST


Tasty Stories: Legendary Food Brands and Their Typefaces
Tasty Stories: Legendary Food Brands and Their Typefaces
by Karoline Neujens
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.08
54 used & new from $15.08

3.0 out of 5 stars Branded, February 2, 2015
This is really Logo Life lite (ISBN 978 9063692605). That book with a hundred company logos shown historically (some are in this book, too) was much more interesting than this one, least for designers. Tasty stories is more of a casual presentation of twenty-three company logos and PR histories of the companies. The brands are all big name food companies from Europe with eight American ones.

What I found intriguing looking at the various logo changes over the years is that some of the newer designs don't necessarily look better than a logo from the recent past. The current Douwe Egberts seems to lack any sparkle when compared to the 2010 design, Quality Street chocolates (now owned by Nestle) have a dull looking mark compared to the one used during the nineties. On the other hand the latest Duvel beer logo, still using the traditional black letter type, looks brilliant. A feature throughout the pages is seeing logos large. Page eighty-one has two from Kellogg's, one from 1970 and the other 2012, only a typographer would be able to point out the very slight differences.

Worth buying if you can find it cheap enough but 'Logo Life' is much, much better.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 5, 2015 11:30 AM PST


No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars POW...it's the sound that counts, January 28, 2015
Apart from my personal choice of not needing too much bass on the jazz I listen to I like these headphones. Excellent fit on my ears and I've not noticed that I'm wearing them even after a few hours. The swipe on the right-hand earpiece to change the volume (up and down) or the next or previous track (left or right) took a bit of trial and error to get used to, always the way when you can't directly see what your fingers are doing. The swipe action is a neat design idea though and something that separates this product from the others.

The Instruction Manual says the playing time is up to five hours but this Amazon page says twelve hours, I'm inclined to believe the manual. Nicely, if the battery has run down, so no Bluetooth, you can still use the headset by plugging them into your audio player with the supplied cable but the touch options on the right earpiece obviously don't work. Charging is done using the USB cable which comes in the box, the Manual says two hours.

The look of the headphones is very good, a smooth matt black and they are obviously head adjustable. A thing I've noticed with headphones is that the pads are the first thing to go. I don't know if MPOW sell replacement pads. They fold up to a convenient size for putting in a bag.

For the money an impressive set of headphones.


Word as Image
Word as Image
by Ji Lee
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.32
105 used & new from $0.30

5.0 out of 5 stars Just your type, January 23, 2015
This review is from: Word as Image (Paperback)
The rules are simple: Use only bits of letters to create a word's visual meaning. There are some wonderful examples here, who would have thought that ISRAEL and PALESTINE could be created by combining the letters in blue and dark orange or Good with the d becoming a thumbs up symbol. Ji Lee has about a hundred examples in this small square book.

Not exactly a new idea though, New York designers Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar created a little book in 1959 called 'watching words move' with the same idea but they only using one typeface and size. Their book had examples like sawwww, f1rst, +dd, mamMoth, nO!se, ?uestion (it was republished in 2006 by Chronicle Books ISBN 9780811852142).

Anyone who picks up this book will be intrigued the wordplay and nicely Ji Lee provides a few pages of guidance at the back of the book to kick-start your creative thoughts to do your own ideas.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 23, 2015 9:35 AM PST


Twentieth-Century American Photography: Flags of America
Twentieth-Century American Photography: Flags of America
by Claudia Fini
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $39.08
45 used & new from $10.47

2.0 out of 5 stars A slight look at a big subject, January 22, 2015
The sixty-eight photos in the book are from the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Modena.
collection and featuring twenty-one American photographers with most work dating from 1945. Though the names are all well known I found the selection rather disappointing. Turn the pages and the overall impression is of dark, obscure looking mono photos with the natural world providing thirty-three of the total. Can sixty-eight photos really sum up the American photographic scene -- probably not especially when several photographers only get one image but this is an inherent problem when a collection tries to build up a representative sample of a genre. No doubt everyone will have their favorites that are missing but there is no Walker Evans, William Eggleston, Eugene Smith, Joel Meyerowitz or any of the FSA photographers in these pages.

I think the book is only worth getting if you can find a cheap copy. What is included is certainly well printed. There are only four actual four color photos though the remainder are mono they have been printed using four colors and the paper is a gorguous silky semi-matt art. Each photographer has a short essay with the back pages having a bibliography (which really should have been included on the essay page).

There are far better overviews of American photography with 'An American century of photography' by Keith Davis probably the best (ISBN 0810963787).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 22, 2015 9:13 AM PST


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