The Art of Looking Sideways (Anglais) Relié – 20 août 2001
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The book challenges, enlightens, entertains, and ultimately inspires. It's absolutely not a book of gee-whiz optical illusions, a la psychedelic "Mind's Eye" pointillism or perception bending Escher, but rather a playful, witty scrapbook of collected thoughts, newsprint clippings, poetry, photographs, illustrations, and assorted junk found on globe trotting vacations by the book's compiler.
The design of the book itself is a work of art. No two pages are the same. Each idea, or question, is presented with it's own lyrical typeface and placement to further convey the essence of the topic at hand. At my count, there are well over 1,000 different original works of typography and layout -- a stunning feat in and of itself.
"Sideways" is quite simply a fringe experience that is impossible to label, describe, or place in a particular section of a bookstore. As a designer, I felt more inspired, more aware, more energized after just a handful of pages than I can remember feeling in years of buying design and art related books.
It's big, heavy, and worth its weight in gold. A classic.
One day my friend Martine said that I must see this book and dropped it into my lap, I have not yet give it back. I sat there in my comfy chair and leafed through the many, many pages reading a little here, looking a little there. After a while I realised that this book was an amazing source of information and inspiration and so I started reading from the beginning, taking notes along the way.
Todd Dominey, a new media designer, wrote, "As a designer, I felt more inspired, more aware, more energized after just a handful of pages than I can remember feeling in years of buying design and art related books." As indicated by its title, this book is meant to open your mind, to get you seeing the things you never noticed before, to give you a fresh perspective and a new way of understanding.
On the first real page of the book a quote by Montaigne reads "I quote others only the better to express myself." This book has over a thousand quotes from writers, philosophers, artists and anyone who has ever said anything thoughtful. A quote starts each of the books 72 chapters, each having a loose theme such as 'Imagination', 'Noise', 'Wit' or 'Colour'.
But this is so much more than a book of smart remarks, it is a scrapbook of a lifetime of visual awareness. Decades must have whittled by as Fletcher was collecting all these fantastic stories, jotting down memories, cutting up newspapers, photocopying books, sketching fleeting visions and remembering good jokes.
Every double spread of the book is counted as one page, and each of these 532 'pages' are thoughtfully designed by Fletcher. Every anecdote, poem and thought is uniquely arranged with the typography, colour and layout carefully balancing the illustrations, doodles and photographs of which there are around 700. It is truly mindbending how much care and effort must have gone into this book, and it is this effort which makes it such a joy to read.
Through reading "Sideways" you also get to know a little about Alan Fletcher, to understand what kind of man it takes to complete such a generous and insightful offering of information. His brain must have been mightily relieved once it had poured out all this knowledge, and not a drop has been spilt. It is now up to us to absorb as much as we can, to learn from it and enjoy it. Those with even the smallest interest in the visual or the verbal will find it impossible to not appreciate and wonder at this book. Be careful carrying it home though.
But whatever the author is saying, I agree with it. It's about expressing interesting thoughts in a visually interesting way in a conceptually interesting arrangement. I am a smarter, richer, wiser, person for having read it, but I can't say how.
(This isn't going to earn me many helpful votes, is it?)
I like this book because it covers such a diverse range of topics in an interesting manner. You can open up virtually any page in the book and find something amusing, thought provoking or plain bizarre. As an example did you realise that in actuality the world is a very dull place? There is no such thing as colour or sound. These are simply waves with different wavelengths and frequencies. The sensation of light and sound is simply the brain parsing information in a specific way, probably because this model was conducive to survival in primitive times.
I must admit a lot of the pages in the book were quite beyond me. I didn't understand why they were there at all and in fact I feel that some of the material should be omitted from the book because it has little value. It also became annoying at times because you have to flip the book sideways and upside down due to its unusual layout (no easy feat with such a hefty tome!).
However all in all this book is an excellent read. One of the best books I've read in awhile. Highly recommended if you are interested in exploring the unusual and thinking outside the square.