The typical nontechnical user of electronic gadgets and devices is more interested in how they look on the outside than how they are assembled on the inside. While function matters to these users, form can seem to be more important. A cellphone might be termed smart not because of what it can do, but how the user looks doing it.
The more technically inclined may not be immune to being influenced by outward appearances, but they are also interested in what is inside. They welcome reports of a teardown to get a look at the constituent parts of something new -- to see how it has been designed and assembled. But it is not only mechanical and electronic gadgets whose insides are designed.
I recently read, in the traditional format of ink on paper, a book whose interior layout brought to my attention like no other in recent memory the art of book design. The book, Geography of Home: Writings on Where We Live, by Akiko Busch, is published by Princeton Architectural Press, which rightfully boasts of an "unrivaled design sensibility." Geography of Home demonstrates that this is no idle boast.
I cannot recall now, how, or when I acquired this book, but it has been on one of my piles of books-to-be-read for years. I chose to take it on a recent business trip because it is a paperback, small in size, and light in weight, measuring five by seven by one-half inches and, according to Amazon, having a shipping weight of only 6.4 ounces. Not only was the book easy to carry in my briefcase, but it was also easy and comfortable to hold in my hands for reading on the airplane.
The design of the book's cover is subtle and understated, with the background of the front and back consisting of soft-focus black-and-white photographs of interior details of a house. The front photo is of one room's corner, showing its floral-papered walls and oriental-carpeted floor separated by a painted wooden baseboard interrupted only by a single unused electrical outlet. The room appears to be unfurnished and unlit except by sunlight coming in from an unseen window or door. The book's title and author are in a label-like rectangle, with words and border printed in a muted shade of red. The overall effect of the cover is to invite the reader to come inside and explore.
I was reading along in the book when I became totally absorbed in its interior design. In the poorly lit airplane cabin, it appeared to me that the book's pages bore no page numbers, nor did they carry any running heads telling me what chapter in what book I was reading. How curious, I thought. I could not remember the last time I read a book that was not paginated.
Finding no page numbers, I looked in the back of the book to check if it had an index. It had none, which is not odd for a book of essays, which is essentially what Geography of Home is. I took the absence of an index as confirming my impression that the book's pages bore no numbers. Why, I rationalized, would a small book like this really need page numbers, especially if it had no index referring to them?