Previously the managing editor of Time, and president and CEO of CNN, Isaacson is the president and CEO of the Aspen Institute and a biographer of Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and Henry Kissinger. His authorized biography of Steve Jobs appeared shortly after the subject’s death last October. In “Keep it Simple,” Isaacson reflects on Jobs’ aesthetics. “One of the most fascinating things about working with Jobs was seeing how passionately he cared about design,” Isaacson says. “Every now and then, he would literally tear up when seeing something of great beauty.”
A radiologist by day, Majmudar is also the author of two collections of poetry, 0°, 0° and Heaven and Earth, as well as a novel, Partitions, published last year. His poem “Pattern and Snarl,” was “inspired by a delight in design and pattern, and the desire to bring them into language,” he says. “It’s a fitting poem for the Style and Design Issue.”
The former chief architecture critic for the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times is at work on a book about architecture, culture and politics in the 20th century. He sees Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas (“Koolhaas Country”) as a pivotal figure: “His work shakes up our understanding of the world.”
The pogo stick might not seem a promising subject for our special design issue, but Sabar’s “Extreme Pogo” is a hopping good tale of inventors out to re-imagine an old gadget—with shocking results. He says he was inspired by his 9-year-old son, who “made more than 2,000 consecutive pogo jumps in our backyard.” Sabar’s 2008 book, My Father’s Paradise, about his dad’s upbringing in Iraq, won the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Is “China’s Most Dangerous Man” even better at publicity than art? Examining the dissident artist Ai Weiwei, Stevens, a noted art critic, was struck by Ai’s savvy in the limelight. “I wouldn’t say Ai Weiwei courts mistreatment, but when it occurs he knows how to play it, use it and amplify it,” Stevens says. “He uses celebrity the way other artists use paint.” With co-author Annalyn Swan, Stevens won the Pulitzer Prize for his 2005 biography de Kooning: An American Master.
A historian at Harvard University and a staff writer for the New Yorker, Lepore is the author of The Story of America: Essays on Origins, to be published in October. In “The Unseen” she revisits a landmark essay about America’s “invisible” poor. “The poor aren’t invisible anymore; they’re displayed and despised,” she says. “It’s gone from grim to much, much grimmer.”
The author of three books, including Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do, Vanderbilt says using biology as an inspiration for design (“Better Living Through Imitation”) is elegant: “After all, nature has a billion-year head start when it comes to developing products.”