The importance of sharing stuff you find interesting

In 2008, four years into Applied Works, we took stock and asked ourselves where the business was heading, and laid down some objectives. As part of this exercise we wrote down a mantra to build our studio culture around:

To nurture an environment that encourages the sharing of inspirations, passions, interests and ideas.

Ten years on, this holds true today. We regularly develop R&D projects that allow us to explore things we find interesting, and we’ve been fortunate enough to have built relationships with clients whose work provides genuine fascination for us.

I’m not sure exactly when we started Book of the Week, but it’s been running on and off for the best part of a decade. Each member of the team in turn, picks a book that’s of interest to them which we buy and add to the studio library. Importantly, these can be on any topic, and often tend not to be about design. This post looks back at eleven of our favourites.

Lingo: A Language Spotter’s Guide to Europe

Lingo, by Gaston Dorren, is linguistic tour of Europe, which looks at the cultural and historical peculiarities of around fifty languages and dialects. The book was recommended by Sue Horth, a TV producer we were working with in 2013 on a project about Shakespeare. The full project never came to fruition, but we did build a How Shakespeare Art Though? Twitter analyser, which looked at which celebrities used most Shakespearean words and phrases in their Tweets.

Lingo, by Gaston Dorren

Apollo 11 Flight Plan

We saw this project on Kickstarter in 2016, which set out to faithfully re-create Nasa’s original flight plan for the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. As they describe, “We are starting from the beginning and reproducing every single page, using accurate fonts, colors, spacing and paper, as well as reproducing all vector graphics based on very high resolution scans of the original Apollo 11 Final Flight Plan.” We backed the project and a few months later received the beautifully bound book, it is very cool.


Saisons, by Blexbolex

I found this book in a shop in Saumur, while on holiday in France in 2010. By the brilliant Blexbolex, Saisons is a collection of beautiful illustrations accompanied by simple words and phrases that capture each of the four seasons. The French language edition is particularly nice.

Variations on Normal, by Dominic Wilcox

Paul’s book of the week from about 2016, is by the fantastically eccentric artist Dominic Wilcox – “this book is my go-to for impractical and brilliant inventions that solve problems I don’t have, like how to weigh a cloud, or a spirit level for perfectly horizontal haircuts. Check out his world’s first fully functional pair of GPS shoes that will guide the wearer to any destination.”

Magic Party Place, by CJ Clarke

Magic Party Place sparked Callum’s interest as it documents the new-town of Basildon in Essex, an area close to where he grew up – “it’s interesting to see mundane, everyday places I know and recognise elevated by documentary photography. Seeing the familiar in a new light. It uncovers the political history and character of Basildon, a town which has always voted for the most successful party in general elections – so an interesting viewpoint to judge the state of the nation.” The book is a ten-year, black-and-white, photographic study of Basildon, also home to the book’s author, photographer CJ Clarke. Dazed’s article about the book is worth a read.

Atlas of Untamed Places

This was Josh’s book of the week earlier this year. On why he picked Atlas of Untamed Places by Chris Fitch – “this book is a fantastic display of how, in the 21st century with all our technological advances, there are still some areas of the globe that humans can’t physically tolerate due to the conditions there, such as Eisriesenwelt in Austria – the largest ice cave in the world, and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone – a once populated area, now deserted by humans, which has recently become a centre for biodiversity as the wildlife has taken over.”

Merrie Albion, by Simon Roberts

Tom cited Simon Robert’s Merrie Albion as his favourite book of the week – “I always like documentary photography and the ones in this book were very evocative of the weeks surrounding that referendum. It manages to capture the feelings of disbelief on both sides, using a slightly dated style that reflects the, ultimately powerful, sense of looking backwards.” Roberts was one of four photographers featured in the National Maritime Museum’s Great British Seaside exhibition in 2018, along with Tony Ray-Jones, David Hurn and Martin Parr. I was personally excited to see the beach I grew up visiting featured in the book, Appley Beach on the Isle of Wight.

Mathematical Solutions for a Global Crisis

Tash stumbled across this book on Tumblr, while doing some research for our work with the Hoffmann Centre, whose mission is to ensure human well-being while safeguarding the Earth’s natural resources – so a pretty big problem to find answers to. Sweeping aside such complex notions as smart policies, technologies or business models, Mathematical Solutions for a Global Crisis by Jesse Jacobs, simply proposes that “from this point forward, each human offspring will grow to approximately half its parent’s height and weight.” Job done. (Though it does add the caveat that we should “expect significant cultural shifts to occur”).

The Atlas of the Conflict, Israel-Palestine

There are a lot of map-based books on the Applied Works bookshelves – The Atlas of the Conflict, Israel-Palestine, written by Israeli architect Malkit Shoshan and chosen by Vasco, contains over 500 maps that track the Israeli-Palestinian territorial conflict through themes such as borders, walls, settlements, water and archeology. The book’s design, by Dutch studio Joost Grootens, is exquisite – from the format, which tightly follows the proportions of Israel-Palestine, to the maps, which all follow a consistent, limited palette of inks (blue for Israel, brown for Palestine, grey for neutral).

Conditional Design Workbook

Gui’s book of the week from 2014, cited as a favourite by Bryony, was the Conditional Design Workbook, published by Valiz – a manual of collaborative drawing exercises developed by Studio Moniker founders Luna Maurer, Jonathan Puckey, Roel Wouters, and artist Edo Paulus. Each exercise follows a series of rules, in which four players use different coloured pens (red, green, blue and black) to create pages of drawings. Read more about the process on the Conditional Design website.

Cultural Connectives

This brilliant book, chosen by Anthony, was written and designed by Lebanese typographer Rana Abou Rjeily, started as part of her masters degree at Central Saint Martins – “Cultural Connectives presents Arabic from a fresh perspective by bridging Arabic and Latin scripts through Mirsaal, a family of typefaces I designed that brings the two scripts into typographic harmony, even in light of their differences”. It is a comprehensive and informative reference book, documenting the connections between the two alphabets, covering numerals, handwritten and printed letterforms, punctuation, pronunciation and linguistic connections.

If you have any suggestions for our Book of the Week, please let us know!