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Shillington Book Club: The Art of Looking Sideways by Alan Fletcher

Adam Dudd, Full-time Teacher, New York

The Art of Looking Sideways
Author/Publisher: Alan Fletcher / Phaidon

The inimitable Alan Fletcher’s The Art of Looking Sideways is always the first book that springs to mind whenever I’m asked for a design book recommendation by students. When I was studying, The Art of Looking Sideways was a huge source of inspiration for pretty much every project I worked on.

I remember falling asleep face down on its open pages in the early hours of the morning, often!

The reason I think it had such a profound impact on me and why I consider it to be an essential tool for any designer, is that it introduced me to a whole world of inspiration outside of ‘graphic design’. It’s very easy to get caught in the trap of just looking at other graphic design for inspiration, which leads to a kind of comfortable creative complacency, a narrowing of ideas, and work which becomes repetitive, expected and boring. As a creative I’m always looking for new ideas, inspiration and challenges to keep it design exciting for myself. I think it’s critical to look at photography, sculpture, interior design, painting. Also I’d encourage designers to listen to music, walk in nature, visit art galleries, science museums and go to the cinema etc. This widens the pool of inspiration to draw from and increases the chance of me producing truly original and exciting design solutions.

The Art of Looking Sideways introduced me to far-reaching and obscure things such as Botswanan basket weaving, Dazzle Camouflage and a beautiful an old Italian custom of letter writing in two directions on the same side of paper, to save paper because it was an expensive and precious commodity. It was the place where I discovered Shigeo Fukuda and Paula Scher’s maps for the first time. It is bursting full of random stories, facts, quotes, puns, puzzles, wit, humour, imagery, thought, creativity and fun—pulled together in a perfectly eclectic way by one of design’s pioneering original creative thought leaders. It had a profound effect on me and my design, and is a book I constantly reference to this day.

The book itself is a physical behemoth whose size and presence is almost as impressive as the endless world of possibility presented within its pages. Go buy it, be inspired, look sideways, and never straigh on again.

R.I.P. Alan.

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