Graphic Style Lab

Dear Mr Steven Heller,

I recently read one of your books.

It is a design book. Graphic design in particular. And rather wordy. So I know you’ll love it. In case you’ve forgotten (since I understand that you’ve written well over 150 books), this book is called “Graphic Style Lab”. Do you still remember it? I truly hope you do. Yes? Good… Good…

I shall thus begin.

This book, by you, a type-nerd and former AIGA chair, is like chicken soup for the soul. It unfolds first by introducing the main graphic design styles: Most notably, Art Deco (ooh la la!), Art Nouveau (it’s “no-vo” by the way), Bauhaus, Fascist, Dada (plain old nonsense), Heroic (Mao Zedong era), and the Swiss style (pretty ambiguous, the only thing that comes to mind is Swiss cheese.) And there are a half a dozen more. But seriously, I won’t go on to retell everything to you Mr Heller, or else you might sue me for copyright evasion.

The next few sections explore different exercises and concepts to communicate visual style. (Do you still remember that part with some largely inappropriate “John-Lennon-and-Yoko-Ono-in-Rolling-Stones” propaganda. Could you please take it away? Much appreciated.)
In my opinion, the exercises featured in this book are not effective. I’ve tried one by designing a typeface on BirdFont, based on my sister’s handwriting, but without much success.

Perhaps I just don’t get the instructions given. Vague and brief… With few examples provided, both on the book and net… I’m frustrated.
Moreover, I question the meaning of the so-called hands-on exercises. I’d much prefer to just slash them out.

I would also like to scold you personally for emphasising the genius of Louise Fili, another fellow graphic designer. And here’s the twist: Louise Fili, is your *gasp!* wife!

Oh yes! Louise Fili is your wife! A quick Google check proved just that. So, haha, are you gonna admit to praising your wife? You’ve been caught red handed.

Rants aside, I quite like the case studies highlighted throughout the book though, especially those Russian-ish posters. At the end of the day, notwithstanding the simplistic introduction to foundational concepts, I would still say it’s a nicely designed litt’l book.

Because after all, I just wanted to admire the graphic design in the first place.

Yours sincerely,

P.S. I recently signed up for one of your Zoom webinars but then found out that it is held at 1 a.m. Singapore time, so I cancelled my registration. I’m abashedly sorry for this piece of news.


Published by Thomas Rettig


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