Digital Design: A History

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Digital design has emerged as perhaps the most dynamic force in society, occupying a fluid, experimental space where product design intersects with art, film, business, engineering, theater, music, and artificial intelligence. Stephen Eskilson traces the history of digital design from its precursors in the nineteenth century to its technological and cultural ascendency today, providing a multifaceted account of a digital revolution that touches all aspects of our lives.

We live in a time when silicon processors, miniaturization, and CAD-enhanced 3D design have transformed the tangible world of cars and coffee makers as well as the screen world on our phones, computers, and game systems. Eskilson provides invaluable historical perspective to help readers better understand how digital design has become such a vibrant feature of the contemporary landscape. He covers topics ranging from graphic and product design to type, web design, architecture, data visualization, and virtual reality. Along the way, he paints compelling portraits of key innovators behind this transformation, from foundational figures such as Marshall McLuhan, Nam June Paik, and April Greiman to those mapping new frontiers, such as Jeanne Gang, Jony Ive, Yugo Nakamura, Neri Oxman, and Jewel Burks Solomon.

Bringing together an unprecedented array of sources on digital design, this comprehensive and richly illustrated book reveals how many of the digital practices we think of as cutting-edge actually originated in the analog age and how the history of digital design is as much about our changing relationship to forms as the forms themselves.

This book’s distinctive cover design features an overlay of raised dots printed in clear ink. The dots are tactile representations of the pixels that make up so much of digital design and refer to the origins of the term “digital”—digitus is the Latin word for finger, the most basic means of counting. As with the printing of braille, the pattern of raised dots is made to be felt with the fingers, or digits.

Written by Stephen Eskilson. Published by Princeton University Press in 2023. Hardcover, measures 11 x 7.5 inches, 296 pages. ISBN 9780691181394

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