Sunday, March 7, 2021

Weekend Review: Patternalia


Patternalia / Jude Stewart
NY: Bloomsbury USA, 2015.
160 p.

Kicking off this month of reviews with a plethora of patterns, a gallimaufry of design, a hodgepodge of historical facts -- in Jude Stewart's Patternalia.

Stewart is a journalist, who has written about design and culture for magazines like Slate, The Believer and Fast Company, to name just a few. She's also the author of an earlier design book, ROYGBIV, obviously about colour! Her journalistic style is clear throughout this book, as it's a series of short chapters/essays on different patterns and elements of pattern. It feels like it's a gathering of some of her magazine pieces, actually, which have been massaged so that they work together. And it does work, to an extent. 

I found a lot of interesting elements in this book. It covers different areas like stripes, dots, plaid, paisley, and many of the patterns we come across daily. But because there is such a wide scope for this small book, it does only skim the surface in most areas, sometimes skimming too shallowly indeed, as with the section of keffiyah, which I felt could have used more historical context. She pulls a lot from other books, and the bibliography and references are full of things to look into further (some of them I've read, and more on those ones later this month!) 

I found her writing style breezy and flippant, which sometimes works, but also gets old fast. The most irritating thing about this book, at least for me, is the inclusion of "footnotes" at the bottom of every page to direct people back and forth in the book to other mentions of the topics. These are often repetitive, and feel as if the publishers were trying to be hip and figure out a way to incorporate the sense of hyperlinks into the text -- which didn't work at all. It's too bad there's not a traditional, organized way to direct people to subject matter and thematic links in a book that works perfectly in the paper format...{cough} like an index {cough}. 

Anyhow, as a quick and wide-ranging introduction to the concept of patterns in the world, this is worth skimming through. As mentioned, I thought there were some neat facts included, and the references to other books on some of the topics were the most valuable part of my reading experience. You might find the writing style more to your taste than I did, especially if you've already read her first book. So kind of a middle-range book for me -- it's not terrible but not my favourite on this topic, either. The kind of book to test out at your local library first. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share your comments, ideas or suggestions here -- I am always interested in hearing from readers. It's nice to have a conversation!