As anyone who’s started a WordPress blog knows, the first dummy post is generated for you headed ‘Hello World’. Given that this is a blog about books and that I’ve just finished reading design critic Alice Rawsthorn’s fascinating book, Hello World, it seemed appropriate to let the heading stand. Rawsthorn knocks designers off the pedestal they climbed on to, or perhaps were raised up on to, at some point in the ’80s when everything considered to be of superior quality was proclaimed ‘designer’ this or ’designer’ that.
Design pervades every aspect of our lives. Everything is designed by someone and, as Rawsthorn insists, if you find yourself struggling to get to grips with your new DVD player, unable to get your flat pack bookshelves to stand up or access all the many and varied functions of your smartphone, it may well be the designer’s fault rather than yours. I usually have my head in a novel but Rawthorn’s style is so readable and her arguments so refreshing that I found myself thoroughly engrossed by her book. It’s stuffed full with interesting anecdotes, from the story of the Tube map design to how Ann Summers’ shops got their name. She has an eye for vivid example, choosing the skull and crossbones to exemplify good design conveying as it does exactly what you need to know. Towards the end of her book Rawsthorn looks at the effect of design on the developing world illustrating how designers from the developed world can sometimes make things worse, no matter how well meaning they are. Good design comes from fully understanding how something needs to function in the environment in which it is to be used. By the end of this excellent book I wanted to thrust a copy of it into the hands of all designers, aspiring or otherwise.