The Art of Looking Sideways is this amazing, and amazingly heavy book. I put it on my scales and it appears to weigh 2.5 kilograms! (or, 5 & a half lb).

It’s this 533 page monstrosity filled with one man’s lifetime collection of images, ideas, bizarre facts, anecdotes, scraps & useless information. The author is Alan Fletcher who is a renowned designer and art director, and he describes himself as a 'visual jackdaw'. Alice said "What is the use of a book… without pictures or conversations?" and that is exactly the premise Fletcher has followed with this book. He has described it as a journey without destination. It is the perfect coffee table book; it can be read in any sort of order at all, as it is arranged into 72 “chapters” very loosely. The tidbits and paraphernalia are entertaining and inspiring, delving into whimsy and allowing you to engage in a little light mental masturbation; this book happens to have more quotations than a good quote dictionary. There are famous and not-so-famous words from over 1000 authors in there.

The pages are seemingly random, and upon flipping through irreverently one comes across chaos patterns, then a war cartoon, then a puzzle which tickles your mind with its strength of illusion, then a page with merely the scrawled word “ D A Y D R E A M”. The book captures the sensory overload of a world which quite frankly holds too much information. It explores the workings of the eye, the hand and the brain in an impressive sequence of pages that are in themselves incredible demonstrations of the art of design.

In his forward, Fletcher mentions how most books make you "analyse rather than experience", how they are concerned "with the match rather than the fire".

The chapters are as follows:

  1. prologue – “we are no more than god’s curiosity about himself” (Thomas Mann)
  2. culture – “by means of the sign man frees himself from the here and now for abstraction” (Umberto Eco)
  3. creativity – “creativity is the defeat of habit by originality” (Arthur Koestler)
  4. wit – “humour is the enemy of authority”
  5. improvisation - “I work with things left over from other things” (Julian Schnabel)
  6. colour – “colour is the place where our brain and the universe meet” (Paul Klee)
  7. dreaming – “it may be those who do most dream most” ( Stephen Leacock)
  8. ideas – “an idea isn’t responsible for the people who believe in it” (Don Marquis)
  9. synchronicity – “snap
  10. mutation – “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (George Santayana)
  11. learning – “if I don't know I know, I think I don't know” (R.D. Laing)
  12. noise – “the bark is the song of the dog”
  13. paradigms – “fish are the last to recognise water
  14. automation – “the hen is only the egg’s way of making another hen” (Patrick Hughes)
  15. intelligence – “curiosity is the mother of intelligence
  16. brain – “I am my brain's publisher” (Phillip Starck)
  17. mind – “the mind can also be an erogenous zone” (Racquel Welch)
  18. senses – “the soul has no secrets that conduct does not reveal” (Chinese proverb)
  19. thinking – “thinking is drawing in your head”
  20. problems – “if you don’t know where you are going, all roads lead there” (Roman proverb)
  21. chance – “if you want to get lucky, it pays to be ready” (Michael Bierut)
  22. imagination – “a person without imagination is like a teabag without hot water”
  23. visualizing – “the man who can’t visualize a horse galloping on a tomato is an idiot” (André Breton)
  24. alphabet – “music has seven letters, writing has twenty-six notes” (Joseph Joubert)
  25. seeing – “the hardest thing to see is what is in front of your eyes” (Goethe)
  26. places – “its always better to be looked over than overlooked” (Mae West)
  27. perception – “realism is a corruption of reality” (Wallace Stevens)
  28. stereotypes – “I had always assumed that cliché was a suburb in Paris, until I discovered it was a street in Oxford” (Philip Guedalla)
  29. value – “good design is good business” (Thomas Watson Jr.)
  30. illusion – “who are you going to believe, me or your eyes?” (Groucho Marx)
  31. paradox – “I’d give my right arm to be ambidextrous” (graffiti)
  32. future ground – “the answer is yes or no depending on the interpretation” (Albert Einstein)
  33. symmetry – “symmetry is static – that is to say, inconspicuous” (William Addison Dwiggens)
  34. reflections – “a mirror has no heart but plenty of ideas” (Malcom de Chazal)
  35. pattern – “pattern, the fruit of design, cam be seen as the measure of culture” (William Feaver)
  36. camouflage – “interpretations of interpretations interpreted” (James Joyce)
  37. economy – “I like a view but I like to sit with my back turned to it” – (Gertrude Stein)
  38. measure – “man is the measure of all things” (Protagoras)
  39. composition – “music is noise submitted to order by wisdom” (Puccini)
  40. leys & lines - “to you, to me, Stonehenge and Chartres cathedral are works by the same Old Man under different names: we know what He did, what even He thought He thought, but we don’t see why” (W.H. Auden)
  41. aesthetics – “I do not feel I have wisdom enough yet to love what is ugly” (Stendhal)
  42. taste – “as flash as a rat with a gold tooth” (Aussie observation)
  43. style – “god invented the giraffe, the elephant, the cat… he has no real style. He just goes on trying things” (Pablo Picasso)
  44. perfection – “there is no such thing as a pretty good omelette” (French proverb)
  45. meanings – “the person you love is 72.8% water"
  46. symbols – “every status has its symbol” (advertising slogan)
  47. numbers – “take from all things their number, and all shall perish” (Isodore of Seville)
  48. typography – “typography is a beautiful group of letters, not a group of beautiful letters” (Steve Byers)
  49. skill – “the end of all method is to seem to have no method” (Lu Ch’Ai)
  50. perspective – “perspective is a ghastly mistake which it has taken four centuries to redress” (George Braque)
  51. space-time – “whatever exists is in a place – therefore place exists – therefore place is in a place – and so on – ad infinitum” (Zeno od Elea)
  52. figuring – “…my name means the shape I am – and a good handsome shape it is too. With a name like yours, you might be any shape, almost” (Humpty Dumpty)
  53. language – “if a lion could speak, we would not understand him” (Ludwig Wittgenstein)
  54. rhetoric – “all art is propaganda; on the other hand not all propaganda is art” (George Orwell)
  55. design – “whoever said pleasure wasn’t functional” (Charles Eames)
  56. process – “gold mining consists of shifting three tons of rubbish for each ounce of gold extracted”
  57. copying – “many a scarecrow serves as a roost for the enlightened crows”
  58. words – “words are pegs to hang ideas on” (Henry Ward Beecher)
  59. imaging – “seeing is forgetting the name if the thing one sees” (Paul Valéry)
  60. pictureplay – “pink is the navy blue of India” (Diana Vreeland)
  61. wordplay – “a pun is two strings of though tied with an acoustic knot” (Arthur Koestler)
  62. handedness – “crime is only a left-handed form of human endeavour” (Louis Calhern)
  63. pictograms – “many tongues - one eye” (Navaho proverb)
  64. scripts – “writing is the knife and fork of the mind” (Gnomic observation)
  65. letters – “letters are signs for sound” (Eric Gill)
  66. identity – “did Beethoven look like a musician? No, of course she didn’t” (Tony Hancock)
  67. names – “a child is made known to itself by its name” (Karen Blixen)
  68. signaturesHancocks
  69. insignia – “insignia: marks or tokens indicative of anything” (Oxford English Dictionary)
  70. trademarks – “I never forget a face, but I’ll make an exception in your case” (Groucho Marx)
  71. writing – “writing is the geometry of the soul” (Plato)
  72. protagonists - Bios & credits, etc.

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