Sumptuous sights

Is a picture really worth 1000 words? In a society that seems to have stopped reading, preferring to download podcasts on to mobiles or find information in bite-sized chunks on-line, it seems as though it might be. It’s as though we’ve all given up on the humble word; as if a fast-moving world is no longer willing to give words the time they demand. Take travel guides. Once upon a time we pored over them as we rode the trains, buses and planes of Europe and further afield. Now we just want picture books that offer lavish images of the must-see sights, hotels and restaurants, and we’re getting them in droves, with a handful proving worth their cover price. The recent Design Week Award-commended Wallpaper travel guides are a good case in point – gorgeous, beautifully designed books. Now two new Paris guides from Taschen do much of the same, offering sumptuous full-bleed pictures of the city’s most stunning eateries and shops, with just bare bones of information. As serious travellers, we should spurn these WAGs of the travel market, these image-obsessed, self-conscious slivers of frivolity, but as designers we should celebrate them when they’re done as confidently as this: beautifully illustrated covers, hand-drawn maps, soft uncoated stock, lavish use of silver and gold, and the kind of photography (by Vincent Knapp) that makes you want to march straight out of the bookshop and on to the next Eurostar. Sometimes, it seems, pictures do work better than words. As the guides’ editor, Angelika Taschen, puts it, ‘picture-led travel books let us see how a place looks and feels better than any description could. And pictures are a global language.’

Paris: Restaurants & More and Paris: Shops & More, published by Taschen, edited by Angelika Taschen, photography by Vincent Knapp, priced £7.99 each

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