Book Review: Graphic Design Thinking by Ellen Lupton (ed)

by Jodi Wiley Everyone's heard of brainstorming but it's not the only way to come up with new ideas. Graphic Design Thinking: Beyond Brainstorming provides enough thinking techniques to break out of even the worst creative rut.

The book is an overview of the design process in three parts: defining problems, getting ideas and creating form. Each section goes through the sequence of explaining a concept (such as 'visual research'), providing case studies and finally, giving the reader step-by-step instructions for how to carry out the technique. Many of the thinking tools (brainstorming, of course, and mind mapping) will be familiar to people in a wide variety of fields including design, business and education, to name only a few. But the section 'How to Get Ideas' proved particularly illuminating for me, and is packed full of activities for collaboration and individual processes.

The techniques covered might be elementary stuff for the professional graphic designer but some of the ideas could also be a revelation for those seeking fresh inspiration. For example, the section titled 'Regurgitation' advises to go for a walk with a plastic bag, a camera and sketchbook to collect printed ephemera for later study, documentation and transformation; 'Unconventional Tools' describes tracing with toilet paper; and 'Take the Matter Outside' suggests using the natural environment as inspiration for designing new patterns, textures and sequences.

One thing I realised as I was reading this book is that almost all of the techniques for generating design ideas can be applied in other contexts. I'm not a graphic designer but this book had me brimming with ideas about the ways I could use some of these prompts as a teacher, writer and artist.

Graphic Design Thinking was authored, edited and designed by students and faculty in a Graphic Design MFA program and as such, it does have a textbook feel to it - both in form and content. But this also makes it a great book to dip into rather than read from cover-to-cover (although you could definitely do that too, as I did). It's a perfect resource for the early-career graphic designer but could also provide inspiration for those more established in the field. People engaged in other creative pursuits may also benefit from the thinking techniques and activities provided.

Graphic Design Thinking: Beyond Brainstorming is published by Princeton Architectural Press.

Jodi Wiley is an artist, writer, teacher and blogger. She has written freelance articles and book reviews for magazines and newspapers, as well as education curriculum. She has won awards for her artwork and been a finalist for several art and illustration prizes. Jodi is currently on maternity leave from high school teaching and is on a (quite frankly deranged) quest to update her blog daily: