Dec 15, 2017
THEME: Point of View

What We’re Reading: Holiday Edition

Seriously, who doesn’t like talking about books? 

Matt Petermann, Digital Practice Manager, Chicago: I’m really enjoying Algorithms to Live By, by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths. As we continually look for ways to unleash the power of computing in our daily practice, this has been helpful for me to understand which factors to look out for and take advantage of. I’ve learned a lot about the existing research into decision-making processes and how we mentally sort information. It doesn’t just occur in computation, it comes up in daily life, in questions like which car to buy or which person to date. It sounds funny. But the logic behind these choices is really applicable across fields.

Annie Milewski, Business Development Strategist, New York: I’ve been reading Sweetbitter—it’s about a girl who moves to New York and gets a job at Union Square Café, just around the corner from our office! She learns the ins and outs of working at an iconic New York restaurant and the author is pretty poetic, so it’s doubly great for foodie fans. It’s a Knopf book (Penguin Random House), and since they became our client I’ve developed a bit of brand loyalty to PRH. Also, I can’t necessarily afford the Café’s $40 squid-ink pasta for lunch, but their cinnamon sugar crullers are a great 3pm pick-me-up. I like to bring mine back to Perkins+Will so that everyone can gaze at them longingly.

Mary Baker, Interiors Knowledge Coordinator, Chicago: I’ve had The Beatles Anthology for years and am finally attempting to read it cover-to-cover. I’m sure you’ve seen it on the coffee table of a friend, and if you’ve ever opened it, you’ll know what a true work of art it is. The book uses rare photos, sketches, stories, and jokes to tell the history of The Beatles in the members’ own words. Which ultimately makes the book less of a history and more of an autobiography. It’s inspiring to read as a researcher, because it shows how history is the result of the stories we share with each other.

Ingrid Stromberg, Cities+Sites Knowledge Manager, Los Angeles: Definitely read On Poetry, by Glyn Maxwell. I really like it for a number of reasons: it’s a conversational and loose sort of instruction manual on how to read poetry, which I appreciate because I’ve never really figured out how to approach a poem outside of a school setting.

But more than that, Maxwell treats poetry, language, and the written word as tools of structure and space, and doubles down on rigor in all parts of expression. It’s a new way for me to think about storytelling as design, and vice versa. He posits that a poem is both the white space and the black ink—the first chapter, called “White,” meditates on different types of emptiness and how different words enter that space to convey different feelings. Just as positive and negative space create a mood, rhythm and line-form can reinforce or contradict the words themselves. Even the first words of a poem, interacting with the shape of the empty space, can instantly convey audience, speaker, and tone.

As someone who has spent my entire career looking for ways to reflect complex issues in design and planning, the chapters on structure have opened my mind to the implicit and explicit expression of foundational ideas. The form of what we say can be as expressive as the words themselves, and can add another layer of meaning. Plus, the book is short 🙂

What are YOU reading this holiday season? Let us know in the comments. 

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