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The Art of Looking Sideways
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The Art of Looking Sideways [Hardcover]

Alan Fletcher
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 20, 2001

The Art of Looking Sideways is a primer in visual intelligence, an exploration of the workings of the eye, the hand, the brain and the imagination. It is an inexhaustible mine of anecdotes, quotations, images, curious facts and useless information, oddities, serious science, jokes and memories, all concerned with the interplay between the verbal and the visual, and the limitless resources of the human mind. Loosely arranged in 72 chapters, all this material is presented in a wonderfully inventive series of pages that are themselves masterly demonstrations of the expressive use of type, space, color and imagery.

This book does not set out to teach lessons, but it is full of wisdom and insight collected from all over the world. Describing himself as a visual jackdaw, master designer Alan Fletcher has distilled a lifetime of experience and reflection into a brilliantly witty and inimitable exploration of such subjects as perception, color, pattern, proportion, paradox, illusion, language, alphabets, words, letters, ideas, creativity, culture, style, aesthetics and value.

The Art of Looking Sideways is the ultimate guide to visual awareness, a magical compilation that will entertain and inspire all those who enjoy the interplay between word and image, and who relish the odd and the unexpected.


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Editorial Reviews Review

Alan Fletcher's The Art of Looking Sideways is an absolutely extraordinary and inexhaustible "guide to visual awareness," a virtually indescribable concoction of anecdotes, quotes, images, and bizarre facts that offers a wonderfully twisted vision of the chaos of modern life. Fletcher is a renowned designer and art director, and the joy of The Art of Looking Sideways lies in its beautiful design. Loosely arranged in 72 chapters with titles like "Colour," "Noise," "Chance," "Camouflage," and "Handedness," Fletcher's book, which he describes as "a journey without a destination," is "a collection of shards" that captures the sensory overload of a world that simply contains too much information. In one typical section, entitled "Civilization," the reader encounters six Polish flags designed to represent the world, a photograph of an anthropomorphic handbag, Buzz Aldrin's boot print on the moon, drawings of Stone Age pebbles, a painting of "Ireland--as seen from Wales," and a dizzying array of quotations and snippets of information, including the wise words of Marcus Aurelius, Stephen Jay, and Gandhi's comment, "Western civilization? I think it would be a good idea." Fletcher's mastery of design mixes type, space, fonts, alphabets, color, and layout combined with a "jackdaw" eye for the strange and profound to produce a stunning book that cannot be read, but only experienced. --Jerry Brotton,

From Library Journal

This vast collection of assorted visual and verbal content is loosely strung together by the common thread of whatever captures the attention of celebrated designer Fletcher best known for his founding roles in the English design firm Fletcher Forbes Gill and the internationally recognized design group Pentagram. A table of contents (with headings such as "Learning," "Noise," and "Imagination") provides a loose structure for what is an otherwise unfettered stream-of-consciousness outpouring. In the author's own words, the book is "a journey without a destination." The book is tailor-made for those with short attention spans, since any given thought or narrative rarely runs for more than a spread. A worthy companion to other large, contemporary, designer-orchestrated explorations of visual culture, such as Bruce Mau's Life Style (Phaidon, 2000) or John Maeda's Maeda @ Media (Rizzoli, 2000), this book will delight anyone who enjoys unexpected visual and verbal play, cultural and historical observations and insights, and staggering amounts of trivia and anecdotes. Best suited for larger public libraries or libraries with extensive liberal arts, fine arts, or art history sections. Phil Hamlett, Turner & Associates, San Francisco

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1064 pages
  • Publisher: Phaidon Press; 1st edition (August 20, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0714834491
  • ISBN-13: 978-0714834498
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 2.2 x 9.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews
81 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm buying one for all my friends. January 27, 2002
The Art of Looking Sideways is an instruction manual of sorts for adults to deconstruct their preconceived belief systems of reality. Readers are encouraged to look, see, explore, turn upside down, rip apart, and to ultimately rebuild that which everyday people believe to be true through a series of word plays, found quotations, paradoxes, and unusual truths. There are no answers. Just questions, and differences of perception.
The book challenges, enlightens, entertains, and ultimately inspires. It's absolutely not a book of gee-whiz optical illusions, a la psychedelic "Mind's Eye" pointillism or perception bending Escher, but rather a playful, witty scrapbook of collected thoughts, newsprint clippings, poetry, photographs, illustrations, and assorted junk found on globe trotting vacations by the book's compiler.
The design of the book itself is a work of art. No two pages are the same. Each idea, or question, is presented with it's own lyrical typeface and placement to further convey the essence of the topic at hand. At my count, there are well over 1,000 different original works of typography and layout -- a stunning feat in and of itself.
"Sideways" is quite simply a fringe experience that is impossible to label, describe, or place in a particular section of a bookstore. As a designer, I felt more inspired, more aware, more energized after just a handful of pages than I can remember feeling in years of buying design and art related books.
It's big, heavy, and worth its weight in gold. A classic.
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44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
I had never heard of this book before I saw it and no introduction is better than just getting the huge, heavy thing on your lap and looking through it. As most reviewers of this book have said, it cannot be described, but they have tried. I too can only give you an idea about this book and giving ideas is what this book is about.
One day my friend Martine said that I must see this book and dropped it into my lap, I have not yet give it back. I sat there in my comfy chair and leafed through the many, many pages reading a little here, looking a little there. After a while I realised that this book was an amazing source of information and inspiration and so I started reading from the beginning, taking notes along the way.
Todd Dominey, a new media designer, wrote, "As a designer, I felt more inspired, more aware, more energized after just a handful of pages than I can remember feeling in years of buying design and art related books." As indicated by its title, this book is meant to open your mind, to get you seeing the things you never noticed before, to give you a fresh perspective and a new way of understanding.
On the first real page of the book a quote by Montaigne reads "I quote others only the better to express myself." This book has over a thousand quotes from writers, philosophers, artists and anyone who has ever said anything thoughtful. A quote starts each of the books 72 chapters, each having a loose theme such as 'Imagination', 'Noise', 'Wit' or 'Colour'.
But this is so much more than a book of smart remarks, it is a scrapbook of a lifetime of visual awareness.
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81 of 95 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Difficult to tell you what this book actually says, except that it's author is a genius. Or at least he quotes lots of other people who are.
But whatever the author is saying, I agree with it. It's about expressing interesting thoughts in a visually interesting way in a conceptually interesting arrangement. I am a smarter, richer, wiser, person for having read it, but I can't say how.
(This isn't going to earn me many helpful votes, is it?)
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful! December 21, 2003
I came across this book in the local bookstore, randomly finding it while buying a gift certificate for christmas. If you're into artistic expression in any way, buy this book. It's full of delightfully random illustrations, quotes, and wisdom. If you're not the artistic type, I'd suspect you'll find this book a bit tedious or perhaps even pointless. If, however, you are a creatively minded person who enjoys some visual delights (some of the pictures are just amazing to experience) and some mental stimulation, go for it! This would make a great book to pick up and open to anywhere, then see what you find. I've paged through a lot of it, looking at things. I'm now attempting to start from the beginning and read through it. This book is incredible. Worth owning without a doubt.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, thought provoking, brilliant May 9, 2002
By obediah
This book will open your eyes to a world you never knew existed. Superficially it appears to be the Seinfeld of the literary world, that is a book about nothing. The book appears to be a random collection of quotes and anecdotes on seemingly unrelated topics.
I like this book because it covers such a diverse range of topics in an interesting manner. You can open up virtually any page in the book and find something amusing, thought provoking or plain bizarre. As an example did you realise that in actuality the world is a very dull place? There is no such thing as colour or sound. These are simply waves with different wavelengths and frequencies. The sensation of light and sound is simply the brain parsing information in a specific way, probably because this model was conducive to survival in primitive times.
I must admit a lot of the pages in the book were quite beyond me. I didn't understand why they were there at all and in fact I feel that some of the material should be omitted from the book because it has little value. It also became annoying at times because you have to flip the book sideways and upside down due to its unusual layout (no easy feat with such a hefty tome!).
However all in all this book is an excellent read. One of the best books I've read in awhile. Highly recommended if you are interested in exploring the unusual and thinking outside the square.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Creative inspiration
Assume book for a coffee table or the office. Great to go to for quick creative inspiration.
Published 2 months ago by Lester
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Insights & Ideas
By far the greatest book I have ever purchased. If you are a creative thinker, designer, or curious soul you will LOVE this book. Endless exploration and insights.
Published 2 months ago by Megan Hall
2.0 out of 5 stars Cheaply made. Doesn't sit flush on a flat surface.
Cheaply made. The screw underneath the bottom tier makes it so it doesn't sit flush and secure on a flat surface; it wobbles around if it's not weighted down. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Stefanie
5.0 out of 5 stars A GREAT gift idea!
I gave this to my 16-year-old son for a Valentine's Day gift (it was on his wish list). He has been reading it each day and even took it to school to show friends and teachers. Read more
Published 5 months ago by KEW001
5.0 out of 5 stars It makes a great coffee table book because it's not a straight-through...
Really interesting stuff in here. If you're a fan of random quotes or historical anecdotes, then you'll be a fan of this book. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Jennifer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
a must on anybodys shelf.
Published 15 months ago by Vivek Durgam
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent book and I received in great condition!
Published 17 months ago by L Perry
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Exceptionnel !
Published 21 months ago by Roux de Bézieux
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I love this book
Published 22 months ago by Hal
5.0 out of 5 stars that almost disguises the intellectual strength of the design...
Alan Fletcher, founding member of Fletcher Forbes Crosby Gill, (possibly the most influential British design group) has produced a book that gives full expression of his genius as... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Harry Williamson
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