Lust: A Travelling Art Journal of Graphic Designers by James Victore

22 Mar

What would you do given complete freedom?

In a quest to explore the possibilities of limitless creative freedom, James Victore sent blank workbooks to an array of graphic designers all over the world (with an address headed, “if LUST please return to”). They were instructed to fill it with their dream jobs, passions and things that they lusted after. After sifting through the books of over forty graphic designers, from golden oldies to new found talent, James presented his findings in this kooky little book.

One of his own designs was quite funny, a billboard that said ‘life is what happens when you are busy texting. Kill your i-Phone’. Another design by Claudia Schmauder was so sweet and liberating, an illustration of lots of brightly coloured birds and a tagline that wished that she could free those that were captured. Things like these were quick to evoke a philosophical contemplation and amounted to a contemplative read. Other designers like Catherine Zask disappointed me; her contribution was merely a few smudges and a couple of words on the page. Although the concept of the book was to explore the wildest dreams of other designers, in reading the book I was hoping to gain an insight into the personality and imagination of each person within it and a couple of these contributions did not enable this to happen. An interview with each contributor is featured at the end of the book to enlighten the reader in regard to the pieces they have seen. With this in mind, LUST has a fantastic variety of design styles that would be brilliant to accompany a discussion on how we really define art.

A la Mode Appraisal: 7/10. A brilliant concept, but points are deducted for the price of this book. It is a little more expensive when considering that it is a scrapbook, albeit a very fascinating one.

LUST is published by Rockport Publishers and will act as a coffee table conversation starter for £20.00.

If you liked this, you may also like Hyperactivitypography by Gestalten.

Figure Poses for Fashion Illustrators by Sha Tahmasebi

20 Mar

Scan, trace, copy: 250 templates for professional results

What a fascinating thing the imagination is. Without need for evaluating budget, practicality or feasibility, one can invent all sorts of wild and wonderful things and allow them to exist happily in their own mind’s eye. Unfortunately for fashion designers, this creativity needs to translate into fabulous drawings if it is ever going to manifest itself in a show stopping garment. With this in mind, Sha Tahmasebi has composed Figure Poses for Fashion Illustrators to teach designers how to express their ideas with paper and pencil.

Divided into three main chapters, Dynamic Fashion Figures, Basic Garment Blocks and Rendering Techniques, Sha teaches her readers how to sketch the body in a number of positions and in relation to lots of different garments and styles of clothing. For instance, she may use this sexier silhouette for something like an underwear sketch. As well as providing tips and hints for how to sketch correctly, Sha also ensures that she provides lots of information about fashion terminology so that students understand the facts and figures behind their creations. This would prove particularly useful for the budding business fashionista.

Not only does Sha provide an understanding of shapes and garments, but she also gives the reader suggestions for creating the illusion of different textures in shading and how to digitally enhance images. By including finishing touches like these, sketches can be transformed into concepts and thus the reader is capable of presenting completely refined designs. A CD is included with over 250 copyright-free images and the pages of the book include lots of different sketched figures, allowing for easy scanning, tracing or copying. Spoilt for choice when deciding how to create these images, it is merely up to the student to inject the sketched figures with wild and wonderful clothes. This book would be a brilliant starting point for budding fashion illustrators as it contains a perfect combination of beginner’s tips and professional touches.

A la Mode Appraisal: 10/10

Figure Poses for Fashion Illustrators is published by Search Press and will teach you to sketch the perfect silhouette for just £14.99 – an absolute steal when considering the CD of images that is also included.

If you liked this book you may also like Fashion Drawing in Vogue by William Packer.

Style Diaries by Simone Werle

17 Mar

World Fashion from Berlin to Toyko

Gone are the days when Vogue was the definitive guide to what you would be wearing each month. Obsolete is the notion that fashion relies upon trends and current fads. With the click of a button, those in need of inspiration now have endless realms of opportunity via the most influential fashion forums of the 21st century… blogs.

“Fashion blogs might not (yet) be the biggest stars on the fashion firmament, but they are definitely the brightest.”

Fascinated by the broad spectrum of fashion blogs that are moulding the wardrobes of vintage-lovers and Topshop fanatics, Simone Werle has concocted a sophisticated encyclopaedia of the most fashionable people online. From Philadelphia to Paris and even to my hometown of Birmingham, style is explored by bloggers of different ages, shapes, races and personality types. Featuring well known icons such as London’s Susie Bubble to lesser known gems from all over the world, Simone manages to present an eclectic mix of style and provide the reader with endless outfit encouragement.

Although each blogger gives a small account of themselves and what makes them tick, the real beauty (as often is on the blogs themselves) lies in the fact that the photographs tell a story. Fashion bloggers have a way of capturing their outfits with immense attention to detail and consequently a close up of a button or a neon seam can be all it takes to trigger a fashion idea in your head. Anyone with an interest in fashion, photography or journalism who has not yet immersed themselves in the culture of blogging would find this book to be particularly useful. For anyone like me who enjoys reading blogs and tends to seek a lot of inspiration online, it will be a peculiar change to enjoy the best of the internet in a traditional bound book. A true representation of the diversity of Style, this book is the ultimate reminder that Yves Saint Laurent was right when he said that “fashions fade but style is eternal”.

A la Mode Appraisal: 9/10

Style Diaries is published by Prestel and will encourage you to get creative with your wardrobe for just £16.99.

If you liked this you may also like The Fashion File by Janie Bryant.

The Fashion File by Janie Bryant

14 Mar

with Monica Corcoran Harel
Advice, Tips and Inspiration from the Costume Designer of Mad Men

Winner of multiple Emmys and Golden Globes, the US television series Mad Men has recieved endless acclaim for its striking visuals and fabulous representation of 1960s America. In order to create the sense of such a time period, one enormous element of design comes into play during every single episode… costume. In The Fashion File, Janie Bryant, the show’s costume designer, shares all of her creative secrets and enlightens the reader as to how the styling for the show really unfolds.

The book contains a foreword by Mad Men star January Jones, an introduction, and eight chapters that take the reader on an elaborate journey of styling. Despite drawing heavy reference to all of the Mad Men characters to illustrate her points and to juxtapose different styles, Janie provides styling advice that anyone can adapt for their own personal use. For example, in a small section entitled ‘Colour Me Chic’, Janie advises you to “hold a few different coloured pieces up to your face and see if the palette brings out your eyes or warms your complexion”. The end of each chapter comes hilariously with some trivial fashion ‘Cocktail Chatter’ and a checklist for the reader to tick off before continuing on their style mission.

As well as offering her own recommendations about styling, Janie constantly reminds the reader that she is someone who looks to other people for inspiration. I was fascinated to read that Janie compiles inspiration boards (boards on which you attach cuttings and pictures to help you reach an end goal – in this case, styling) and encourages other fashionistas to do the same in order to “capture the mood of how you want to look”. She also features an entire section of her icons and inspirations, featuring the likes of Rita Hayworth and Elizabeth Taylor. With these facts in mind, there is a constant undertone that each woman is capable of compiling her own individual style and that – although these tips may be useful – the reader ultimately has the power and creativity to style themselves perfectly. This, for me, is what sets The Fashion File apart from other books of its kind; it exhilarated me to want to concoct my own fashion recipes.

With so many fabulous elements, from descriptions of typical fashions in different eras to rules on how to dress for your personal silhouette, The Fashion File would be an asset to the bookshelf of any fashionista and is a compulsory buy for a Mad Men fan.

A la Mode Appraisal: 10/10

The Fashion File is published by Apple Press and will provide you with the priceless advice of Janie Bryant for just £16.99.

If you liked this, you may also like Paris Between the Wars by Vincent Bouvet and Gérard Durozoi.

Hyperactivitypography from A to Z by Gestalten

13 Mar

Have you ever wondered about the craftsmanship of typography? Do you pay attention to fonts of the many pieces of writing you may encounter in a day, from a newspaper to a magazine or a graphically delightful website? If not, it is time to go back to school and the best way to learn is to mix hyperactivity with typography in Hyperactivitypography.

In this retro-style playful workbook, Gestalten take us back to childhood with simple and easy to learn facts and exercises so that we can improve our knowledge of typography. Hyperactivity comes into play in a mesmerising array of colours, tasks and graphics along the way. The workbook is divided into chapters from A to Z, with each letter representing something – e.g. ‘G is for Grotesque’. Every time you enter a new chapter, you are encouraged to suggest both a typographical term and a typeface beginning with that letter.

Although presented in a tongue-in-cheek youthful manner, Hyperactivitypography is actually a brilliant tool for anyone wishing to brush up on their knowledge of PostScripts and jumplines. It is presented so whimsically that you can’t help but want to participate in the presented activities – from a mini maze to a true or faux exercise – and results in a knowledge of an intricate writing world that you can’t help but relate to every written word you look upon thereafter. An absolute must for any graphic designers and a lovely treat for those wishing to revel in the nostalgia of their youth.

A la Mode Appraisal: 9/10 (1 mark deducted for the slightly higher price).

Hyperactivitypography is published by Gestalten and can inspire you to type tantalisingly for £17.99.

If you liked this, you may like 1001 Ideas for Graffiti and Street Art by Christian Campos.

Express Makeup by Rae Morris

13 Mar

Imagine the scenario…

You are a hairdresser at a beauty pageant and one of the guest judges is Naomi Campbell. The model throws one of her infamous tantrums and her makeup artist storms out, prompting her to bid you “fix my lips”. At the very moment that you reach to apply a little gloss for her, the paparazzi burst into the room and capture you pampering her to perfection. From that day forward, you are an in demand makeup artist extraordinaire. This is the story of author, Rae Morris, a now world renowned makeup artist.

In a sequel to her first book, Makeup: the Ultimate Guide, Rae is attempting to share all of her artistry secrets with an attention to speed; “this book is for the women who are put off by the thought of how long it takes them to do their makeup”. Covering all bases, from helping you to compile an essential makeup kit to making suggestions that tailor it to your eyes, skin and hair, Rae is here to provide a starter guide to maintaining a fast and flawless beauty regime.

My favourite parts of the book were, in fact, two small statements that surprised me the most. Firstly was the recommendation that one invests in good eyebrow pencils because “besides the perfect foundation, your eyebrows are the most important feature on your face”. It seemed so trivial at the time, but since adapting the mantra of using an eyebrow pencil regularly I have really noticed how much varying your brows can completely alter your look. Secondly was the very logical suggestion that women own at least two shades of foundation. Your complexion changes with the seasons, so shouldn’t your foundation? Such a small thing to note but it had genuinely never occurred to me. It is also useful to vary your shade depending on whether you’ll be applying fake tan or not.

A thoroughly enjoyable book with lots of images and step-by-step guides to creating specific makeup looks, I would like to emphasise that this book is not a girlie indulgence… it is a necessity.

A la Mode Appraisal: 10/10

Express Makeup is published by Apple Press and will teach you all of the tricks of the trade for a mere £14.99.

If you liked this you may also like The Modern Girl’s Guide to Fabulousness by Bethanie Lunn.

Ethno Pop Textures Volume 1 by Vincenzo Sguera

20 Feb

You can practically hear the drums, smell the incense and see the red glow of the sunset. With an array of beautiful graphics to offer, Vincenzo Sguera’s Ethno Pop Textures Volume 1 is the perfect source for anyone looking to add a splash of bohemia to any given project.

A book of incredible patterns, Ethno Pop Textures gives examples of a huge variety of ethnically inspired prints and then comes complete with a disc of 100 designs that are free and ready to use. Pop Textures really is the best phrase to use for this book; bright colours bring the effervescence of classic pop culture but the wide range of pattern configurations provided communicate endless opportunity in terms of texture.

A particular theme I picked up on throughout the book was that it was quite tribal; all patterns had a very earthy feel to them, with lots including pictures of animals or plants in their make-up. Patterns were featured in the book quite accordingly by colour. Since each colour scheme had lots of different textures to accompany it, it was great to know that once you had narrowed down your selection of shades you still had lots of variety in patterns.

If you are about to create something that requires a little hippy-chic, perhaps a new fair-trade website or an ethically sourced clothing line, then the images in this Vincenzo Sguera book are for you. A pricey addition to your bookshelf, maybe, but a crisp and vibrant selection for your creative ventures.

A la Mode Appraisal: 10/10

Ethno Pop Textures Volume 1 by Vincenzo Sguera is published by Arkivia Books and will bring some ethnic magic to your work for £67.50.

Like I Give a Frock by Michi Girl

9 Feb

Following the fun I had reading Michi Girl’s Michipedia of Fashion, I decided to take a step backwards and indulge in her first book, Like I Give a Frock. With the tagline detailing ‘fashion forecasts and meaningless misguidance’, I began to read in the hope of finding more quirky anecdotes from my new favourite fictional character. The creation of Chloe Quigley and Daniel Pollock, Michi Girl is a fashionista weather girl who loves to give sarcastic opinions on the world of fashion with sprinkled references to the elements poking through along the way.

This light read is divided into four sections in accordance with the seasons and offers whimsical fashion advice to suit each time of year. In her usual arty manner, Michi Girl expresses her views on all sorts of fashion topics with illustrations and collages that please the eye endlessly. Using paints, pencils, textures and whatever else she can lay her hands on, Michi Girl likes to show the reader exactly what she means. Having painted a beautiful paisley print on a pair of skousers (skirt and trousers) in the Autumn chapter, she suggests the following: “sarcasm is the lowest form of wit and the most effective. Skousers are the lowest form of garment and the least attractive”. Later she goes on to illustrate the locks of a beautiful lady and inscribes in the colour of her hair, “no one looks good in mustard. Unless of course you’re a hot dog”. A little bit erratic, these snippets of information are highly amusing but seem to lack the structure of her later Michipedia of Fashion. I would recommend it as a gift as opposed to an investment, and can say whole heartedly that it will bring joy to the eyes of art lovers.

A la Mode Appraisal: 7/10

Like I Give a Frock is published by Apple Press and is available for £12.99.

If you like this, you might also like What on Earth Are You Wearing? A Michipedia of Fashion by Michi Girl.

1000 Ideas for Graffiti and Street Art by Christian Campos

8 Feb

“Art or vandalism? If I had a dollar for every time…”

This very question is one posed at the beginning of the book, one that chooses to celebrate the rise in beautiful urban and street art and to abolish the small mindedness of those who see graffiti as nothing more than a nuisance. Featuring ‘murals, tags and more from artists around the world’, this book contains little words and chooses instead to focus on the powerful imagery that it embraces.

Varying in presentation from full page feature images to collages of complimentary street art pieces, 1000 Ideas mixes images of art from all over the world and by different artists. In addition to featuring lots of well known larger cities, smaller places were also featured to enable lots of readers to relate to an area or place – I was delighted to spot my hometown of Birmingham in the mix. A number is featured in the corner of each image and further referenced in detail at the bottom of the page, allowing the reader to identify the artists of their favourite pieces but not interrupting the visuals.

To conclude, a directory detailing relevant websites of each artist is included. In not providing any opinions or text, Christian Campos allows the reader to form their own opinions and focuses on enlightening them about lots of varied street art pieces in order for them to do this.

I unearthed a new favourite street artist named Pariz One along the way. Whenever I was taken by a piece in a collage, it just so happened that it would usually be his! Visit his blog by following the link below and you will find lots of examples of the kind of beautiful art that is featured in 1000 Ideas for Graffiti and Street Art.

http://pariz-one.blogspot.com/

Perfect for those looking to begin their knowledge of street art or indeed pioneers merely wishing to indulge within it, this book would be an inspiring and fascinating conversation starter for any urban coffee table.

A la Mode Appraisal: 8/10

1000 Ideas for Graffiti and Street Art is published by Rockport Publishers and is available for £25.00.

If you liked this you may also like Street Art Contemporary Prints by Riikka Kuittinen.

Superfreakonomics – Illustrated Edition by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

19 Jan

Take the facts and figures from the desk of an esteemed mathematician and mix them with the zany ponderings of a philosopher and you will have created a concoction of Superfreakonomics.

Superfreakonomics, as debated by Levitt – winner of the John Bates Clark medal, a prize for the most influential economist under the age of forty – and Dubner – a former writer and editor at The New York Times Magazine – are fascinating true stories that are told to remind the reader that the world is a peculiar and extraordinary place. Their original Freakonomics sold over four million copies worldwide in 2005, and has now been revived with images and diagrams to give an extra dimension to the tales at hand. The original book features topics such as ‘assassinating mosquitoes’ and ‘a variety of ways to postpone death’ and is now presented with added pictures, photographs and panels of data because “sometimes numbers and words aren’t enough”.

My favourite chapter was one entitled ‘How is a street prostitute like a department-store Santa?’ Exploring, initially, some outrageous statistics that surround the profession of prostitution, the chapter goes on to explore the ever prevalent sexism that exists in the world – for example through the inclusion of a graph that clearly shows male earnings to exceed female earnings in a number of professions – and looks to history to try and explain these inconsistencies. It featured the 10 “rules to live by” of a 1920s Anti-Flirt Group, created by women who were disturbed by the “growing forthrightness of males” and included regulations such as:

Don’t wink: a flutter of one eye may cause a tear in the other.

Don’t accept rides from flirting motorists: they don’t invite you in to save you a walk.

All in all Superfreakonomics uses hard hitting statistics and data to solidify some of the most bizarre elements of human life, thus baffling the reader and reminding them of what a crazy place the world really is. This eccentrically written masterpiece will be sure to give you something unusual to talk about at your next dinner party and is filled with fascinating trivia.

A la Mode Appraisal: 10/10

Superfreakonomics is published by Allen Lane, an imprint of Penguin Books, and will encourage you to ponder all of life’s little issues for £20.00.