Welcome to my SD&T Book Store! Go right there!
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past thirty-odd years in set design (and architecture) is that the more I get out of my comfort zone and see what others are doing in similar fields, the more creative I become. Visiting museums, galleries, antique shops, looking at architecture, watching period movies, exploring on the internet, and so forth, are all part of exposing myself to what’s out there besides my current design project.
Another way to do this is to read on a wide variety of subjects. Back in the days before the internet, the local library and book stores were our primary sources of research on periods and design details. And, even after all these years, I still very often find myself reaching for a book instead of driving a mouse.
Here at the SD&T Book Store (which is part of the Amazon Affiliates Program), you will find a lot of the books which are on my own shelves, and which I refer to time after time. Others are on my reading list, and still others have received great reviews in industry journals. Right now, since the store is new, I’m focusing on set design, tech theatre, art history, and closely-related subjects, but in the future I’ll add some of my favorite books on woodworking, tool techniques, shop safety, and similar subjects.
In addition to finding great theatre reads here, you can also help support Set Design and Tech by purchasing from my store. While the information in the blog is free to you (with my compliments), it does take time and work to create these posts, and, as I learn more and more about what my readers find useful, I’ll be spending more time writing those posts. So, in the end, we both win.
My current Top Five in all categories
One book I recommend to anyone in theatre (and often in similar fields) is Robert Edmond Jones’ The Dramatic Imagination. Jones was a top New York set designer from the 1920s to the 1950s, and his book is a breath of fresh air even today. His thoughts on what theatre is, and what set designers really do (and why) have done wonders for me as a designer.
Unmasking Theatre Design: A Designer’s Guide to Finding Inspiration and Cultivating Creativity, by Lynne Porter. A wonderful read on the creative process itself, focusing on how set designers find inspiration and keep it alive during the various phases of the design process.
Ming Cho Lee: A Life in Design, by Arnold Aronson. Ming Cho Lee is an American theatre legend and a mentor or inspiration to many of today’s top designers. His body of work in plays, musicals, and operas is amazingly varied and creative and speaks to the soul of what theatre really is. An invaluable work.
The Styles of Ornament, by Alexander Speltz, is often found on designers’ bookshelves everywhere. It is an old book, but still considered the source for architectural and decorative research from ancient times to the mid-19th Century. It includes over 3,700 hand-drawn illustrations in over 400 pages, and gives you the source for each illustration. My copy, and those of many other designers, is one of the most used books in my library.
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, by Simon Sinek. We often spend serious time and resources on what we do, and especially on how we do it, but the why—the underlying reason for it all—is often overlooked. Simon Sinek explores this from the standpoint of many successful businesses and world leaders who first invest their time in understanding who they are and what’s important to them, and then use that knowledge to motivate people. An invaluable book for anyone in business or any facet of public life.