Bill Burnett and Dave Evans have taught the “Designing Your Life” course at Stanford for years now, guiding students in the art of figuring out what they’re going to do with your life. Their book provides a step by step guide, complete with printouts and activities, to help you do the same, even if you’re not paying Stanford tuition.
My mom got me the workbook after I graduated and before I had found a job, when I was trying to figure out, well, what I was going to do with my life. [I am still figuring this out.]
I have to caveat this with the fact that my engineering education has given me a vague distrust of “designers”. Designers are the ones who make engineers’ work harder, with their dreams of “””aesthetic meets functionality””” “””taking user experience into account””” “””not just throwing it into a spreadsheet and calling it a day”””. So I scoffed a little at the way this book was written, but that’s more on me than the book.
I think it’s useful as a way to reframe the way you think about work, and I appreciate the very concrete steps towards creating the best life you can. Probably not a bad gift for the college student in your life.
Every time I try to explain what this book is I reveal how much of a niche dork I am.
In 1978, at the Cooper Union (my alma mater!), a panel of cartographers, graphic designers, and transit experts gathered to discuss the proposed representation of the New York subway system. What followed was two hours of raucous debate, complete with cheers and boos from the audience.
This book is the transcript of the recently discovered tape of the event, augmented with photos and recent interviews with some of the people involved.
Exactly my shit. The debate essentially asks: if you only have space for one map, should it be abstract but legible? or realistic but cluttered? I love arguments about things that seem so trivial but are actually vital to people’s daily lives. I love when audiences boo. I especially love audiences booing in the same Great Hall that I was an audience member booing in. I love the fact that one of the panelists goes off about how sans serif fonts are the downfall of civilization. Again, exactly my shit.
I will note though that, ironically for a book about design published by a press focused on design, there are some layout issues that vary between “noticeable but unimportant” and “you can’t read some of the scanned documents.” It’s a very pretty book though.
I recommended this over on an Ask A Manager weekend thread and a couple people said this would be the perfect gift for someone they previously had no idea what to get, so maybe if you’re stuck, try this?
Huh. Now that I think about it, my mom got me both of these books. Maybe she should be on here.