Looking at the Art of Looking Sideways

‘What use is a book…without pictures or conversations?’ asked Alice.

The very first page of the book questions its own existence with this question. Every time you open it you experience a different part of it, and the experience is never the same. You can dip into this mighty book at any time for inspiration, recreation, learning or relaxation.

It’s a design book without being a design book, because it’s about everything except design. There are innumerable tidbits of information, covering history, science, the human body and the animal kingdom. There are also sayings from ancient philosophers and modernists, jokes, anecdotes and visual puns.

The book has successfully broken out of the structure of a typical ‘book’ both in its content and its visual presentation, without causing total anarchy. All these varied bits of knowledge are not compartmentalized into rigid sections, but rub shoulders with each other which make browsing through this volume an enriching experience.

It’s a book that doesn’t tell you what to do, but simply is. Though loosely divided into chapters such as ‘ideas’, ‘thoughts’, ‘dreaming’ and ‘senses’, one doesn’t really need the chapters to navigate the book, through its five hundred pages. You don’t have to start at page one. However, if you are ‘looking for’ something very specific, this is not the book. It’s not going to spit out the answer you are looking for, but will probably raise some very valid questions in your head.

The book is a great road-sign. The layouts and representations of information on each page are different and refreshing. Stark minimalism juxtaposed with rich chaos. There are several visual puns, the cover itself being the first, bringing the title to life. There are catchy headlines inside like ‘How to geld eyeballs’. There are interesting thoughts such as ‘I am my brain’s publisher’. ‘Fish are the last to recognize water.’ ‘The bark is the song of the dog.’ And the best of all ‘Most think of design in terms of putting lipstick on a gorilla.’

If books were people, this would be the Himalayan sage of graphic design. It’s indirect, unpredictable and open to any open mind. It is random, seemingly unorganized, at times simple, at other times complex, and you can never absorb the whole thing at one go.

If there’s a book that gets really close to imitating the human mind, this is it.

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