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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Why do we instinctively admire the 1997 update of the Volkswagon Beetle? Why are Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona chairs of 1929 still relevant in twenty-first century interior design? Why have everyday Braun kitchen products achieved iconic status in museum settings?
In her pithy (101 page) essay, GEOMETRY OF DESIGN: STUDIES IN PROPORTION AND COMPOSITION, Kimberly Elam admirably succeeds in illuminating fundamental concepts underlying successful modern design. Through the elegance of Elam's arguments, readers are painlessly introduced to a set of mathematically-based compositional elements developed in classical antiquity and reflected in acknowledged masterpieces of later design. From the Parthenon and Notre Dame de Paris to Mies van der Rohe's Chapel at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and from Leonardo's "Man Inscribed in a Circle" and a chambered nautilus to Le Courbusier's "Chaise Lounge", selected works succumb to Elam's acute analysis of successful proportioning and composition. Her exploration of these fundamentals, including the dynamic rectangles exemplified by the Golden Section and the European DIN Root 2 system (so different from the sectioning system used in American design), is aided by the excellent vellum overlay diagrams.
So much of our response to art and design is intuitive, and we categorize as outstanding those works from which we derive intense aesthetic pleasure. The efficiency, the very orderliness which form their basis is a revelation. Elam's book is a classic and very readable summation of the foundation of successful design.
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on October 2, 2001
I've been looking for this book for years now. I would wander the aisles of book stores looking for a concise treatise on the geometric elements of design. I open book after book in the design, architecture and art sections looking for a description of this "Sacred Geometry" passed down from master to student, used by Leonardo DaVinci, Michaelangelo, Greek sculptors, the Parthenon, and countless other masters and imitators, but which is sadly missing from many of the fine art and design curricula throughout the country.
Judging from the title, I thought this book would be wordy and academic. Or on the opposite end, written by ... a protractor, a compass and little else. I couldn't be more wrong. What I found is, after a section describing how certain geometric relationships exist in nature, and what their mathematical properties are, page after page of designs analyzed.
First the design is reproduced for you to see, unadorned. Then the author shows you the same picture, but with red grids, circles, diagonals, stars, etc. covering it to show you the precise geometric relationship, of say, the Clestory Window in the Cathedral at Notre Dame to the building as a whole. Or how the Eames Chair conforms to the geometry of the Golden Section. Breif text accompanies each picture.
The text "The typography of the poster forms a triangle which serves to anchor it to the format and enhance visual interest" is found next to a small reproduction of the poster with a red triangle drawn on it. Some pages even have translucent overlays so you can see the picture with a grid, or circles, or both - "an overlay comparison... reveals that the... proportions in both drawings... are almost identical."
This book gives you the tools to evaluate design. It strikes the perfect balance between showing and telling. I read the whole thing (and I mean read, not just skimmed) during two one-hour subway commutes (2 hours) and plan on referencing it time and again in the future.
99.99% of the books on design I see ignore the fundamental geometry in favor of the flashy graphics that are available to our computer inundated culture. If you feel classical design principals can help you become a better designer, artist, person, etc. buy this book. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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on August 19, 2002
I have been looking for a book Like this for so long. It is easy to follow and well written.
I would urge anyone with a desire to grasp the concepts of proportion in design to start here. It has certainly fueled my interest and I am on the hunt to extend my knowledge further
Thanks for a great book at a great price. A refreshing change
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on October 14, 2014
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