ARLIS/NA Collection Development SIG Blog

For ARLIS/NA members interested in collection development issues.

Designers & Books / Steve Kroeter

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I am happy and grateful to have this chance to introduce myself to the ARLIS community.

Because I believe that books are important sources of creative inspiration for the art and design communities, in 2011 I launched the website Designers & Books.

The core idea behind Designers & Books is to ask internationally esteemed designers (architects, fashion designers, graphic designers, interior designers, product designers, etc.) to share the list of books that have been particularly important to them, and why they are important. We have 2,000 books from 178 designers on the site—and well over 200 contributors if you count the writers, editors, curators, and critics who have sent in lists.

My inspiration for the website came from visiting hundreds of design studios over the years and noticing that the common visual element in the studios was that there was always a major presence of books. I learned that when you have to be creative on demand, since in design there’s always a timetable, you can’t leave it to chance about when inspiration will hit. You need to “seed” and nurture along the inspiration process. Books are a great way to do that.

I am often asked which of the book lists is my favorite, and of course they all are. But one does stand out for its surprising claim. Peter Mendelsund (the acclaimed book cover designer) starts the introduction to his list by saying: “I don’t believe I’ve ever read a “design book” in my entire life.” Rather than books about graphic design and typography, his book recommendations include novels (Dostoyevsky, Nabokov, Joyce), philosophy (Wittgenstein), and a children’s book (Harold and the Purple Crayon). Given my belief in the value of a general education, I love the idea of a designer reading widely.

In addition to publishing Designers & Books I am happy to have the distinction of managing the only book fair in the world devoted exclusively to design books. My partner in the Designers & Books Fair is the Fashion Institute of Technology.

My interest in books also extends to how they originate and how the wind their way to their intended audience. This has led me to experiences with Kickstarter. I’ve launched two book on that website. In 2015 I was the project manager responsible for the campaign for Visual Design in Action; and earlier this year I led the campaign for a new antiwar book by hall of fame graphic designer and illustrator, Seymour Chwast. Both campaign were successfully funded.

I look forward to finding ways to participate in the ARLIS community.

SWK

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