The weekend’s Spoonbill and Sugartown haul, or: Late gift suggestions galore

Oh my, yes:

Transit Maps of the World. Hours upon hours of diversion for the map or transit geek in your life. Depicts in great, gleeful detail the historical development of maps for e.g. the Berlin, New York, Seoul, Tokyo and Barcelona transit networks. Most system logos; a somewhat less comprehensive, but still generous, selection of station and rolling stock photography. All properly set in glorious Akzidenz Grotesk. This book is made of win. As a gift, highly likely to flatten its recipients with delight. My advice would be to hand it over and stand back.

Information Design Source Book. This Japanese overview takes a generously broad view of how “information design” ought to be constituted, which may strike some Western readers as curious; the spread of projects under consideration reaches well into what we might think of as branding, interface or experience design. The projects illustrated range from Kenya Hara‘s innovative signage program for Umeda Hospital and realities:united’s BIX media skin for Kunsthaus Graz to Hannes Wettstein‘s vTec Alpha watch for Ventura.

If the book has a weakness, it’s that its synoptic descriptions lack anything resembling a critical element, and all too often read like straight press-release copy. (For example, assertions that such-and-such an intervention “improves” user experience or “adapts to change” or “encourages exploration” go completely unchallenged.) Nevertheless, what a treat.

Signage Design Manual: The motherlode. The Big Book. One single doorstoppin’, all-poppin’ resource for a very wide range of challenges in signage and wayfinding; I’d imagine you could hand this volume, without comment, to just about any bright, motivated entry-level designer, and get acceptable results after a few weeks. It’s that comprehensive. Example: for a book of this type, the Manual is surprisingly au courant regarding the unique challenges of information design for (personal- to building-scale) ubiquitous systems – though here, again, is that odd definitional creep. (Is a mobile touch interface really “signage” in any conventional sense?)

My favorite passage is the series of gridded elevations on pages 378-385 establishing appropriate heights for different types of emplacements, from freeway directional markings to airport gate identification to in-lobby branding, but you’ll doubtless have your own.

Any of these books would make a formidable present for the demanding design-, architectural- or urbanist-minded person on your list. Or, hell, yourself. Why not? I’m sure you’ve earned it. : . )

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