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Elements of Design: Rowena Reed Kostellow and the Structure of Visual Relationships Paperback – July 1, 2002
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"A loving tribute to an influential design instructor presented in lesson form. Part profile of a great instructor, part tutorial, this overview of Kostellow's work remains a source of inspiration and coaching for future industrial designers." -- Design Issues
"Any book about such an important figure deserves to be read again and again, especially its essays by such luminaries as Paola Antonelli and Judy Collins." -- Metropolis
"An invaluable resource to students, designers and instructors, the book reconstructs Kostellow's teaching methodology and exercises, which oncehelped shape American design and now resets the stage to do so again." --I.D. Magazine
"This book collects, for the first time, her exercises on abstract visual relationships. The work is of interest to anyone involved in any aspect of design as it explores the fundamentals of form, structure, and space." --DesignLink
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Top Customer Reviews
Recommended, but for designers rather than design critics.
The last time I saw Rowena in 1985 she told me she was working on a book. At the time, I was teaching three dimensional design at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. I too wanted to write a book about three-dimensional design and had given it a good start. Along the way I realized the impossibility of writing about dimensional design. It can't be done. It can be approached, as this present work does. But when you get right down to understanding the words on the page, they are as slippery in writing as they were with Rowena in person. I couldn't conceive how she could write it down. It is not surprising that she did not finish it. Her thoughts were too abstract to concretize them.
I recall one dialog with her:
"Not quite," she said turning my work. "Just look at it."
"I'm looking, Rowena, "I replied.
"Well look at it some more. You need to get the balance."
The book outlines a series of exercises that Rowena used to develop the ability to see dimensionally. As her student, I did all those exercises, and looking at them in the book and reading the comments of others (many of whom were my classmates) brings back many memories.
I recall how, four years after graduation, I was working in an ID office designing a typewriter, when suddenly it all became clear. I phoned her that evening. "Well, you were a smart kid, Winston. I figured you'd get it."
And then six more years from there, seeing the "convexity" problem that my parents had so proudly displayed in their living room, and realizing that I now *at that instant,* saw why she had been disappointed with it. My experiences are echoed by many of those quoted. It is nice to know that I was not alone.
The reader can look at the projects shown (and beautiful pictures they are!), and read her words and the words of her pupils, and perhaps they will get a glimmer of what an amazing force this woman was. But her text is slippery, and by being that slippery, it is the quintessential Rowena.
Her method, as is stressed in the book, was completely experiential. You can read *about* it but to fully understand it you have to do it-- and do it with guidance. You need to *do* the work in three dimensions and have her (or someone who studied with her) standing over you to say, "Not quite. Look at it some more."
If this book can get a younger generation interested in doing this work before all the "old guys" die off, then it will be a even more lasting monument to her vision.
There are two kinds of problems in the world, ill-defined and well defined. 1+1=2: this is thought of as a well defined problem, the answer will always be 2. Design is subjective for the most part, and for a single problem there might be multiple answers, there are no perfect or no one answer for a design problem. Different people have provided methods of simplifying a design problem, making it easy for a designer to frame a design problem. One of the methods of framing and thinking about design problems are provided in this book. The idea of Dominant, Subdominant and Subordinant, is easy to understand for students. I believe that this book should be read by every design student (Interior Design, Architecture, PD, Industrial. Design etc.) Sure, it might not be of much value for a seasoned designer. Using this book with practical exercises is my recommendation.