Having been embedded within graphic design and cartography for 30 years now, one recurring disappointment for me is the amount of ‘new’ conceptual and theoretical thinking, and object creation, that really is not new. In recent times, I have read numerous articles and attended talks that expound new ideas and approaches that simply are not; allegedly new cartographic techniques that were, in reality, evident in works of 100 years ago; a new design approach, again recognised to have originated in the 60s, etc, etc, etc. This seems to be down to one thing—reading, or lack of!
I can only assume current education and practice pays little attention to the past any more. The historical basis to most disciplines provides a rich and significant theoretical context for the present, yet clearly practitioners do not seem to research and read up on their subject—and this is the real issue—thereby wasting time re-inventing the wheel. For example, studying design history (synchronic and diachronic) provides a deeper understanding of the subject and ultimately, a better informed outcome today.
With that in mind, I am currently reading a classic design book from 1972, Experiences in visual thinking, by Robert H McKim. It has been republished a couple of times, but I was pleased to track down an original version in excellent condition. It is still so relevant today and also revealing of the thought processes and knowledge at that time.
Pick up an old book and read it—there’s still a lot to learn from the past.