Edited by Helen Armstrong
152 pages, softcover, $24.95
Published by Princeton Architectural Press
Shortly after graphic designers began using computers to work faster and better, the new technology kept them too busy to consider what had happened along the way of digital design’s evolution. Editor Helen Armstrong connects a diverse mix of design theories and practices in this collection of essays written by the pioneers of digital innovation. The historical perspective starts in 1960, a time immersed in modernist design principles of order and unity. The same decade also spawned Stewart Brand’s counterculture Whole Earth Catalog and inspired a future generation of desktop publishers.
More than 20 years of invention occurred between the introduction of Sketchpad in 1963, the first program to use a graphical user interface, and the Macintosh computer in 1984, which Massachusetts Institute of Technology designer Muriel Cooper described as the “first viable graphic design tool.” Digital Design Theory highlights these technological and ideological advances while noting how designers adapted their processes to tinker, hack and share ideas. Designers David Carson and April Greiman pushed boundaries and defied grid-based structures in the 1980s, and Sharon Poggenpohl advocated for complete computer literacy in design education. The final chapter includes futurists like Haakon Faste, who ponders a time when artificial intelligence will surpass human intelligence and designers will create in a posthuman world. And thanks to Armstrong’s elegant book design, even the most technical essay is uplifted by the balance of space and color on the page. Whether you were present at the birth of computer design or have never been without electronics in your creative life, this chronicle is an excellent resource for you to delve into the ideas and achievements of digital design. —Ruth Hagopian