New This Month

On Sharkey's Shelf: "The Best of Flair"

Kevin shares a foolproof gift for lovers of art or nostalgia.

Let’s be honest: The concept of a "coffee table book" is bizarre. A book that’s meant to be closed more often than open, and rarely read for more than a few minutes at once? Talk about a luxury! Perhaps that’s why they make such great gifts -- like scarves or candles, they’re things that people can use but don’t often seek out on their own (especially since the findings rarely justify the costs).


"The Best of Flair" is a mighty exception, and a knockout gift for any lover of art or nostalgia. If you’re not familiar with "Flair," imagine "Vanity Fair" as seen through the eyes of an extraordinarily bright child -- a wide-ranging commentary on 1950s culture with a wry tone and bold, picture-book-like layouts. It ran for just a year, but its unique style was way ahead of its time, and accordingly has aged well.


For all the tools that modern graphic designers have at their disposal, it’s rare to see dimension used so effectively. Pop-ups, cutouts, insets, and illustrations make for a rich experience that does more for storytelling than novelty. I love seeing so much attention paid to the architecture of each page. That kind of thoughtfulness sometimes feels lost in the trend toward quick, disposable media.


When I look through this book, I’m reminded that nothing is original -- in a good way. After all, we have much to learn from our own best tricks! "The Best of Flair" shows how excellence in design, literature, and photography creates a (literal) margin for innovation.


Add a sleek red case and a few pop-ups, and I can think of nothing I’d rather show off in short bursts at my coffee table.