Summer Reading – Design School Style

Surprisingly, one of the most popular questions that I am getting asked in The New School Welcome Center these days is “What type of books do Parsons kids read?” My first instinct is to joke and remind them that Parsons is art school – so obviously no book learning here. But then upon further reflection, I have come to realize I have grown attached to these movie alternatives and have actually reread a few while at Parsons. So I figured I’d make a quick summer reading list for all of those smarty pants who are interested in getting a jump start. So here it goes!

1. Maus by Art Spiegelman- Most of you have probably read this terrific graphic novel series, but for those of you haven’t – it will be referenced frequently for much your  Parsons career. If you’ve never read graphic novels, comics, or picture books, you absolutely need to start with Maus. It mixes such a tender story of father and son juxtaposed with the horrific details of World War II while still conveying everything through image. The imagery is intense and you really see the thought and care that went into every panel. You can’t get much better than Art Spiegelman, so once again, if you’ve never read it – you need to read it. You’ll understand why, once you do. Trust me.

2. Just Kids by Patti Smith- Now this may get referenced sometimes in conversation but truly Patti Smith’s Just Kids is just the book to get you excited to be an artist in New York. The book focuses on her life with Robert Mapplethorpe and how they struggled to make it into the New York City art scene. It just makes you realize what kind of passion someone needs to succeed in such a tough business. On the other side, it also just makes you want to become an artist and live in a cardboard box while selling your magnificent paintings on the street. So I suggest this for those who are dying to move to New York, this will just fuel the fire.

3. Ways of Seeing by John Berger- Though you will read articles from this book throughout your Parsons career, you’ll never actually read the whole book (so naturally this led me to investing in it). It will be referenced in every art history class, design lecture, and even painting class you will ever take at Parsons. It may be forced upon you constantly, but it’s actually quite good and insightful. Pay attention! Berger slowly makes you rethink everything you’ve ever seen in your life, from billboard advertisements to  Titian paintings. He discusses how we view art and why the artist or designer is the master of our minds. If you have time and want a head start on joining the Parsons clan, this is a must. It’s a short read but well worth it!

4. The Foutainhead by Ayn Rand- This may not be mandatory reading in any class, but it will get referenced a lot – especially in Critical Reading and Writing. The Fountainhead really made me understand Parsons as a design school (not an “art school”) and the true value of design. Though Ayn Rand may be a bit preachy, really her depiction of Howard Roark (the main character) in some way epitomizes what every designer should be – strong willed in his convictions, an individual, and functional. It’s a big, old heavy book, I know, but give it a shot if you have some free time this summer. All architecture majors must read it. I mean really must read it.

5. Just My Type by Simon Garfield- For all those type nerds out there, you need to read this. Only recently published, Just My Type goes through the history of fonts and type designers in a fun pun way. It’s quite light reading but very enlightening about type and legibility. I mean, the man defends Comic Sans in such a convincing way that makes you believe it was a ground breaking font. That reason alone should make you want you read this book. In all seriousness, it’s a terrific book, really quite interesting. I highly suggest it.

Hope this helps Book Worms! Summer reading all about design – how fun!

About Katie

Hi there y'all! My name is Katie and I am an Admissions Counselor here at Parsons. I am a recent graduate of Parsons, I majored in illustration and I am currently getting my Associates degree in Graphic Design. When I'm not at Parsons, I am a avid baseball watcher, park sitter, book lover and an aspiring hoarder.


  1. lauranotor

    Reblogged this on .

  2. DivalovesFashion

    I have two questions that I’m very curious about.
    1. What do you need to bring to your dorm. Clothes, things to make it homier, etc…
    2. How and what do you learn at Parsons. Since you metioned you didn’t learn with books.

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