Mark Lamster | Essays

Design Your Life


A (very) brief time out from my own self-promotion to celebrate the publication of the latest tome in Ellen Lupton's continuing project to better our life quality through design. Written in collaboration with her twin sister, Julia, Design Your Life is a joyful, thoughtful, rumination on the objects that occupy us, how we might tailor them, and how to get the most out of them. Beyond the writing and the design, Ellen has also illustrated the book with her lovely paintings. (No, there's nothing she can't do, though she did leave the cover to Chip Kidd — if you can't design it yourself, hire the best.) I learned a good deal of what I know about design from Ellen, and was privileged (truly, the word is used too freely) to work with her on a series of wonderful books for Princeton Architectural Press. Over the last few years she's taken some flack from professional designers and guardians of the ivory tower for her prosteltyzing zeal, the argument being that in opening up the field she has diminished the standing of those who do design for a living. These are designers who imagine themselves as members of some kind of formal society that should practically be licensed — like surgeons or lawyers or plumbers. But I think designers are more like writers. And teaching literacy isn't going to reduce the desire for the Updikes and Lethems and Hemons of the world — it will only increase it. Same story in design. The wider the population conversant in the language of design, the better for designers, and (more importantly) the better for everyone else. So all hail Ellen, design's educator-in-chief. Now go buy the book.

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