This is a fascinating book: enjoyable, educational. But if you are a designer, the lessons it teaches are often just the opposite of what you need to know. It isn't relevant to design because it's about art. Art is not supposed to be about order and rationality and things that can be taught, hence the title of this book. Design must be rational. Design has to work, to be understood, to be functional. It is subject to many constraints about time, cost, and the vagaries of the marketplace. All of these are irrelevant to art — moreover, all of these should be irrelevant to art. Art makes statements. Designs work.
I care about design, and I think it can be —and must be —taught. Now, many designers come from art schools, which is why they fail to understand the need for workable, functional, affordable products and design. In act, reading this book made me realize why I fail to understand the attitudes of many classically trained designers.
Elkins teaches at the Chicago School of the Art Institute (which tries hard to have a design department). But it is telling that when Elkins talks about "design," he labels the section "Decoration" (Pages 82-85). ity the poor industrial designer trying to work in an intitution where the parts with all the prestige — architecture and art — think of design as "decoration" (and intesnely dislike "mere decoration."
Artists think design is decoration. Which is why the world of art and the world of design collide. Decoration indeed.
Anyway, I love the book. It is very intelligent and informative. And a lot of fun to read. It expands my appreciation of art. But don't look for any understanding of design. This book is about art, and if there is one thing good design should not be, it is art.