The Art of Looking Sideways

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You know when you have a really cool coffee table book, and you see it on your shelf every day, and you think ‘that’s one great book’? I get that with The Art of Looking Sideways by Alan Fletcher, the late graphic designer. I often want to open it to look at its graphical goodies but everything else seems so important at the time. I had a presentation today, so as a reward – my evening off, finally – I had a leisurely cup of tea on the sofa and a flick through. Such a beautiful pleasure.

Image taken from

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The book is designed to be opened at random. There is no narration. It is a very large collection of observations, wisdoms, and ideas, all impeccably presented. I often think about opening it for inspiration as a designer. In fact, if there’s any book for inspiration, for me this is it. However – inspiration is not as easy as that. Seeing the same page of the book will mean different things to me at different times. Sometimes inspiration hits when you least expect it, and can be even more difficult to come by when you’re hard in search of it (like love and happiness too). For this reason, it can actually be better to open the book when you’re not on the lookout for a new idea. Enjoy the book now, and perhaps inspiration will hit you today. Record that idea – in the future you might need it.

Out of all the coffee table books I own this is the most timeless. I could not recommend it enough. And I’m not even being paid for this review.

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I remember the first time I got interested in graphic design was when I went to the Alan Fletcher retrospective at the Design Museum a few years ago. He designed the V&A logo when he worked for Pentagram. He had a collection of cut out paper letters, from everywhere he could find, collected over years. There was a drawer full of the letter A. There was a drawer full of every other letter too. Can you imagine? That’s obsessive design research! It was a great exhibition, it really translated the joy of graphic design.

Image from Paul Carvill’s Flickr.


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