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How to See: A Guide to Reading Our Man-Made Environment

by George Nelson

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1262172,968 (3.93)None
"A new edition of George Nelson's classic guide to visual appreciation, released on the fortieth anniversary of its original publication Originally published in 1977 by iconic American furniture manufacturer Herman Miller, George Nelson's critically acclaimed manifesto on how to recognize, evaluate, and understand the objects and landscape of the man-made world has influenced generations of design professionals, students, and aficionados. Forty years later, this cult book has been brought back to life with a fresh, new look and feel. At a time when our collective fascination with design has gone global, by one of the 20th century's most important design thinkers and will continue to educate and inspire readers everywhere."--Publisher's website.… (more)
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Oh goodness.? This is so much fun.?á Not much about fine art, more about design.?á Not more than a few passing references to the sciences of processing visual information.?á Not so much a straight text, but a bunch of photo-essays tied together by a theme made clear in the thoughtful introduction.

Of course, as written four decades ago (1977), by an author who lives and works in a megalopolis, pre-computer, pre-limits on billboards, the perspective is a bit dated.?á We've gotten much better, imo, about trying to make man-made environments less of an eyesore, at least in some communities.?á And Nelson doesn't realize that on a trip through rural areas, say from Reno to Elko, a few billboards are a welcome diversion from all the hills of sagebrush.

But that's what's extra-wonderful about it.?á The perspective is different.?á It was an interesting (not too large) 'coffee-table' book at the time it was created, fretting about things like how attached we are getting to our machines, giving a full spread to the cyborgs" of the sculptor Ernest Trova, and having no idea that some families would be, within half a lifetime, equipping their pre-teens with smart phones.

That is to say, it's interesting & enlightening at face value, as created.?á But when viewed as an historical document, with the reader paying attention to what has and has not changed, it's even more fascinating.?á Even my 20 yo son is intrigued enough to inform me that he wants to read the entire book.

Some bookdarts:

"Outdoor sitting brings out the contortionist in all of us: just changing positions from time to time can profitably occupy an entire summer afternoon."

Suggestions to help us really see our environment, and to make our walks more interesting, and to exercise our minds as well as our legs & lungs:?á Count circles.?á Find the digits 1-100.?á See how many different shapes you can find on each block.?á Look for harmonies one day, and dissonances the next.?á For example "soft and hard... soft lips, hard teeth....?á manhole cover, made of cast iron, was once liquid...."

"Too much of what we see has been designed by computers which tell the boys in the drafting room what to draw."



" ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
Wow, what a fascinating read! "How to See" is unlike any book I've ever read (note: maybe I need to read more design books) and is packed with interesting thoughts and new ways of viewing and understanding the space in which we live. George Nelson is clearly writing from the perspective of an architect, but this is not just a design book, it is a call for public awareness and social change. Though this was written in 1977, all of the issues discussed in this book are still very relevant (some even more pressing than they were when this was written). From the visual and emotional pollution produced by billboards to the physical pollution from garbage dumps, this book covers quite a range of subjects and does so in a concise, thoughtful and intriguing way. I did think that a few sections contradicted themselves a bit... Nelson seems to arbitrarily approve some older, highly-worked designs while criticizing others and I was not quite sure of the reason (see the Crystal Palace vs. a Louis XIV-style cabinet) and I would have liked if the pictures had captions, but these were minor issues. Overall, brilliant, thought-provoking and accessible book. Great writing. Great photography. I would recommend this to anyone. 5 Stars. ( )
  Peleiades44 | Feb 24, 2012 |
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"A new edition of George Nelson's classic guide to visual appreciation, released on the fortieth anniversary of its original publication Originally published in 1977 by iconic American furniture manufacturer Herman Miller, George Nelson's critically acclaimed manifesto on how to recognize, evaluate, and understand the objects and landscape of the man-made world has influenced generations of design professionals, students, and aficionados. Forty years later, this cult book has been brought back to life with a fresh, new look and feel. At a time when our collective fascination with design has gone global, by one of the 20th century's most important design thinkers and will continue to educate and inspire readers everywhere."--Publisher's website.

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