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Posts Tagged ‘Farrar Straus & Giroux’

Sitting Up

August 23, 2016 | by

A brief history of chairs.

Still from Lawrence of Arabia.

Still from Lawrence of Arabia.

There is a pivotal early scene in David Lean’s film Lawrence of Arabia in which T. E. Lawrence and his superior, Colonel Brighton, visit the desert encampment of Prince Faisal, a leader of the Arab Revolt. The royal tent is spartan yet luxurious, patterned woven cloths hang from the low ceiling, a large brass samovar gleams in the candlelight, the ground is covered with a rich carpet. There is no furniture; the men sit on the carpet. Brighton, in his tailored uniform, polished Sam Browne belt, and riding boots, looks distinctly ill at ease with his legs awkwardly stretched out in front of him. Lawrence, a lieutenant and less formally dressed, appears slightly more comfortable, with his legs folded to one side. The prince, attired in a dark robe and a white ghutrah, reclines on a pile of sheepskins, while his colleague Sherif Ali leans casually against a tent pole. The various postures cinematically underline a central point: the relaxed Bedouins are at home in this place—the desert—while the stiff English colonel is an interloper. Lawrence is somewhere in between.

The world is divided into people who sit on the floor and those who sit on chairs. In a classic study of human posture around the world, the anthropologist Gordon W. Hewes identified no fewer than a hundred common sitting positions. “At least a fourth of mankind habitually takes the load off its feet by crouching in a deep squat, both at rest and at work,” he observed. Deep squatting is favored by people in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America, but sitting cross-legged on the floor is almost as common. Many South Asians cook, dine, work, and relax in that position. Certain Native American tribes in the Southwest, as well as Melanesians, customarily sit on the floor with legs stretched straight out or crossed at the ankles. Sitting with the legs folded to one side—Lawrence’s position above—is described by Hewes as a predominantly female posture in many tribal societies. Read More »

A Week in Culture: Jonathan Lippincott, Designer

January 12, 2011 | by


I have decided to resurrect my “walking to work” photo project. I was a reluctant New Yorker when I first moved to the city in the early 1990s, but immediately loved being able to walk everywhere. I would take long walks on the weekends, in part to learn my way around the city, and in part to get out of my squalid apartment. There was so much to see! One of the things that always struck me was the sheer quantity of stone carving on so many of the buildings. The combination of great craftsmanship and brute strength required to carve all these ornaments is remarkable, and all around Manhattan there are gargoyles and goddesses to rival any in Paris or Rome. And while all these cities have remarkable troves of artwork in their museums, walking down the street provides endless sights of beauties as well—these architectural details are another facet of the city’s public art. The photos this week are all taken between 34th and 14th, on Madison or Fifth Avenue. You have to look up (and watch your step when you do). Most street-level spaces on these avenues are stores or restaurants with little detail. For the most part, the detailing becomes more elaborate further up. I should probably remember why this is the case from my art history classes; maybe it was simply to celebrate the colossal height of these buildings. (Click the images to enlarge.)

9:30 A.M. Arrive at the office to find a sample of the box set of Elizabeth Bishop’s Poems and Prose, which I designed (it's coming out in February). To my delight and great relief, it looks marvelous. The color is an excellent match to the jacket of Bishop’s The Complete Poems, from 1969, which was the inspiration for the design of the new box and books. Nice way to start the new year. Spend the morning going through endless e-mail and other post-vacation office tidying. Finish work on the interior design for the Vargas Llosa Nobel lecture, due out ASAP.

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Charlotte Strick, Paris Review’s Art Editor

July 15, 2010 | by

In the middle of redesigning The Paris Review (stay tuned!) our new art editor, Charlotte Strick, takes time out to discuss how she got into the design business. (She's also responsible for the gallery of book jackets you see above.) Read more on FSG's new blog, Work in Progress.

I've wanted to be a fashion designer since the age of three, because my mom had been a fashion designer in England. I grew up with her talking about what London was like after the war, how it was this burst of color after so much gray. Carnaby Street, and Mary Quant . . . I just thought, wow. That’s what I want to do. Of course, that scene had long since passed when I became an adult. But that was my dream, and I grew up drawing, making little fashion magazines. I made a logo for myself. And I grew up with my father pointing out typography to me, because he had been very involved in the Calligrapher’s Workshop that’s now part of the AIGA. I remember at the age of five, him pointing out, “Look at that sign! That’s a terrible letter j!” I got quite snobby about stuff like that. I wanted to go to art school, I wanted to go to RISD. But my family said, “Go to liberal arts school, be a fine arts major, but study all these other subjects. Then you can go to art school if you really want to.” I went sort of frustrated. I did a lot of painting, I took art history classes. All the time I was drawing and trying to teach myself to sew.

I came out and I was working for Elie Tahari. At the time they were just branding Theory, which is huge now. There was a girl a few years older than me, who had gone to design school, and she was given the task of designing the Theory logo. I looked over her shoulder and thought, “What is she doing?” I hadn’t been on a computer much at that point . . .

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