Friday, October 28, 2011

Design History - Interesting Nonfiction for Kids

Think I have told the story several times. Freshmen year of college. Art History class. Nine a.m., dark auditorium, most comfortable chairs in the world. Let's just say, I have no idea how I got an A in that class. Somehow I managed to memorize the names and dates from Janson's History of Art for a few hours. Fifteen or so years later, I'm researching an Art Appreciation lesson for my daughter's first grade class.  I remember thinking, "Wow, I know what a Matisse is. Finally, I understand the artwork and the artist. It all makes sense."  Light bulb moment.

The same light bulb moment occurred for me with Design History. Sophomore year of college, we all took History of Industrial Design. I don't remember one thing about that class. Well, I remember one thing - I did a fantastic presentation and slide show on the history of the umbrella. The book "The History of the Umbrella" was a great find. My light bulb Design History moment happened my senior year at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in Pat Allred's six-credit hour History of Design class. Three hours, three times a week, Professor Allred had our attention for the entire class time weaving together all the design principles while relating the design style with the timeline. Complementing the information was three hours worth of slides showing the manufacturing/ technology, social and economic history and the parallel designs. It all made sense. Light bulb moment.

The reason for this trip down memory lane is that today I finally have in my hands the New Second Edition of A History of Design from the Victorian Era to the Present by Ann Ferebee, this second edition co-authored by Jeff Byles. The first edition paperback version was just published when we read it in class, 30 years ago. The subtitle is A Survey of the Modern Style in Architecture, Interior Design, Industrial Design, Graphic Design, and Photography.

A History of Design from the Victorian Era to the Present 
by Ann Ferebee with Jeff Byles
W. W. Norton  2011   Second Edition

The book not only is a must have for students with an interest in any design field, but can also be used in history classes. The history of our culture, our technologies, our materials can be illustrated by the history of our places and things. The material becomes relatable, and, well, makes sense. 

While having just received the book, I've only had a chance to flip through the pages and check out the great examples of design used to illustrate the book. My poor son and husband were with me in the room when I read the section of the book about the Brooklyn Bridge.  The information is correct that John Roebling did die just as the bridge started construction, but I think we need more information than "Washington Roebling, his son and disciple, completed it". In fact, Washington Roebling became bedridden with caissons disease/ the bends and overlooked the construction while his wife, Emily Warren Roebling, supervised the building of the bridge for the remaining 14 years. Had to sent that one straight.

Hope that the second edition of A History of Design from the Victorian Era to the Present becomes a staple in Design History classes like the first edition.

1 comment:

Linda Salzman said...

Janson's History of Art with the shell on the cover? Me too, me too! Wonder if they still use that one as a basic text? If so, it probably costs about$700 given the size and the amount of art work.