In September 2015, the world lost Phil Patton—prolific design writer, teacher, and tantalizing wordsmith. Patton’s insatiable curiosity, sense of humor, and keen eye made for the most compelling reads. Whether it was chronicling design minutia, quirky anecdotes, or bizarre tales, Phil’s hundreds of books, columns, articles, and posts always delivered a new account. As his editor at i-D magazine, Chee Pearlman said, “His insight takes the reader beyond the object to an understanding of its broadest sociological context.” No topic eluded him, and for a large part of his 40-year career he championed automobiles, technology, and product design. Roger Black, designer, writer, and longtime colleague and friend of Patton’s wrote, “He taught The New York Times—by example—to cover design. The domino effect, the rest of the media followed.”
With an introduction by Edward Tufte and foreword by Caroline Baumann, this volume compiles 40 selections representing the wild range of interests and fascinations that occupied his thoughts. Punctuated by images of ideas and lists from notebooks he carried everywhere, Top This and Other Parables of Design is an intimate and portable companion for those who choose to always have a witty, informed friend around.
Phil Patton (1952–2015) was a design journalist, curator, and author. He wrote regularly about automobile design for The New York Times. His books include Open Road: A Celebration of The American Highway; Made in USA: The Secret Histories of the Things that Made America; Bug, a cultural history of the Volkswagen Beetle; and Dreamland, about the culture of experimental aircraft. He served as a curator for museum exhibitions, including Cars, Culture and the City at the Museum of the City of New York (2010); Curves of Steel: Streamlined Automobile Design at the Phoenix Art Museum (2007); and Different Roads: Automobiles for the Next Century at The Museum of Modern Art in New York (1999). Patton taught in the Design Criticism Program at the School of Visual Arts and was a contributing editor to Esquire, i-D, and Departures magazines. He was also a regular contributor to CBS News, Today, CBS Sunday Morning, The Charlie Rose Show, Fresh Air, All Things Considered, and Talk of the Nation.