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By Jessica Helfand
228 pages, hardbound, $26
Published by Yale University Press
yalebooks.com

She has garnered nearly every design award. Her work as a partner in Winterhouse—with late husband William Drenttel—has been recognized by peers. Her varied international experiences include tenure with Drenttel as the first Henry Wolf Resident in design at the American Academy in Rome. Now Jessica Helfand is probing deeper into the design world, looking at how design affects our emotions and our lives. Through a series that captures our humanity at the cellular level—histological samples of human tissue, nerves and muscles become startling abstract paintings—Helfand defends her thesis that design matters because people matter. This handsome, philosophical book considers “…the conscience-driven rules of human engagement within which design must operate.” 

Clearly Helfand’s many years as an esteemed designer, artist and theorist imbue with gravitas and insightfulness her thoughts on authority, fantasy, identity, consequence, compassion, patience, solitude, melancholy, humility, memory, desire and change and on how these emotions influence and inform humanist design. At the book’s heart beats the question: “Is it design that invests something with meaning and value or the designer?” Arguably, this nuanced question has as many answers as there are design practitioners. A complex, beautifully designed book, Design: The Invention of Desire engages and challenges readers to more fully consider what it means to be human and the impact of design on our everyday lives. —Anne Telford

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