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Regulars / Bookshelf

Made Thought co-founder Ben Parker shares the books he always comes back to

London-based design studio Made Thought has been creating identities, packaging, print and interactive design for an impressive list of clients since 2000. There’s craft and consideration in every project the studio undertakes, whether it’s a beautiful celebration of G . F Smith’s paper collection or a dynamic campaign for Adidas’ StellaSport.

Made Thought was founded by Ben Parker and Paul Austin, the duo meeting while studying at Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication. Here Ben takes us on a literary journey of discovery as he shares books encountered during his college years, at his first job and at his own studio. A rich mix of design and typography books, there’s also the occasional philosophical slant to Ben’s choices.

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Douglas Coupland: Generation X: Tales for An Accelerated Culture

Douglas Coupland: Generation X: Tales for An Accelerated Culture

When I was studying graphic design at Ravensbourne I became obsessed with reading – so much so that it distracted me from my actual studies. I first read Life After God, which is a series of short stories by Douglas Coupland and it struck an immediate chord. In my second year, I attended a lecture at the ICA by Coupland who was doing a reading from Generation X. I subsequently realised that this book was a bit of a cult publication but I was totally naïve to this at the time. I just loved the way he portrayed this brave young world with an undercurrent of a ‘lost’ generation and loneliness.

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Lars Müller: Josef Müller-Brockmann: Pioneer of Swiss Graphic Design

Lars Müller: Josef Müller-Brockmann: Pioneer of Swiss Graphic Design

I was in my final year of college when this iconic book was published. All I remember is a wave of excitement across our year group when it came out as its purity and brilliance was simultaneously unleashed onto our impressionable minds. Some of us (sadly including myself) referred to it as “The Bible” as we quietly but fastidiously obsessed over it.

In the same year (along with my future business partner Paul) we designed our final degree show publicity and if we were unsure of some type detailing we would simply enquire in the book and ask ourselves, “How would Josef do it?” What strikes me is that although some of this work looks dated to a new generation it totally changed the design landscape when it was first conceived. I would even argue that the sort of ubiquitous, irreverent, over-sized style of care-free type that presides today can find its roots back in his work.

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Leonard Koren: Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers

Leonard Koren: Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers

It was at my first job after leaving college that the creative director of North Design, Sean Perkins, lent me a copy of this book. Up until this point I had never heard of “wabi-sabi” as there’s no equivalent way of expressing this feeling in our culture or language. The idea of seeing the world through glimpsed moments – to see beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete – really connected with me. I instantly realised that not everyone sees the same. What I love about this way of looking at the world is that beauty is intensely personal.

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Jared Diamond: Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond: Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

This is a book that really helps you make sense of our place in history, in time and our literal position in the world. It’s the story of why man came to dominate Europe (because horses are native to Eurasia which allowed ideas via four-legged transport to happen quickly) and how layer upon layer of seemingly small developments can have a seismic effect. Every single page drips with facts that you want to tell everyone (if you can remember them). While photographing it, I found a forgotten bookmark (a rail ticket from 2003) which stopped on the Gutenberg Press chapter. I never did get beyond this chapter.

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John Melin till Exempel

John Melin till Exempel

I was first introduced to the work of Swedish graphic designer John Melin by Li Bjorholm, who was a designer at Made Thought at the time. Eight years later I still flick through the work of this legendary designer and unearth new things on every page. His work is a true masterclass in balancing concept, style and craft with an effortless touch. Unlike Brockmann’s more disciplined and disconnected approach, this work emotively connects and remains as fresh today as when it was first created because it has the “evidence of the hand and the mind” in every idea.