Book Review: Digital Design Theory, ed. Helen Armstrong

This book aims to provide a means for digital designers to reflect upon the processes that have shaped their profession. It takes the form of an anthology of key texts, spanning a period from 1961 to the present, with informative introductions by Helen Armstrong.

Throughout, design informs as well as illustrates. Keetra Dean Dixon’s visual foreword Building Towards a Point of Always Building sets the tone of what follows: an innovative and design-led production. The whole book shows meticulous attention to detail, such as colour-coded footnotes, and a useful and attractive timeline showing the lifetime of each featured author alongside the year each text was produced. Essays themselves are interspersed with images showcasing elements of the design discussed. Wim Crowel’s experimental alphabet (1967), used on early display screens, is shown, for example, in section one: Structuring the Digital.

The book is accessible, but raises an ambitious range of questions — from the computer as creative ally to the nature of authorship in a work of art. This will make it a valuable companion to students, designers, and more general readers alike.

Originally published in Aesthetica Magazine.

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