McLuhan’s Most Innovative Book: The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects(1967)


The cover of The Medium is the Massage was re-designed in 2001 byDavid Carson, creator of End of Print about the end of books. Carson was an innovator of computer aided design and began with Transworld Skateboarding and surf magazines in California.

An experimental 1967 collaboration between the originator of media analysis and a major designer has new meaning today

By Tiffany Lambert, Designers & Books December 24, 2013

“When this circuit learns your job, what are you going to do?”

“The wheel is an extension of the foot, the book is an extension of the eye, clothing an extension of the skin, electric circuitry an extension of the central nervous system.”

“The extension of any one sense alters the way we think and act—the way we perceive the world.”

“The ear favors no particular point of view. We simply are not equipped with earlids.”

Quotes can be found on pages 20, 40, 41, and 111, respectively.

“This ‘experimental’ paperback became a best seller and helped popularize McLuhan’s ideas,” says Designers & Books contributor Warren Lehrer (pp. 34–37)

Media philosopher Marshall McLuhan (1939–80) sought to explain the effects of different electronic media, which he saw as having a larger influence on shaping culture than the information being communicated by that media. In The Medium is the Massage (Gingko Press, 2001, Penguin Books, 2008)—originally published in 1967 by Bantam—McLuhan collaborated with the groundbreaking graphic designer Quentin Fiore to distill the theorist’s provocative, complex ideas into a powerful image-driven experience for the general reader.

“This small paperback is the result of a typo at the printing house that McLuhan embraced and used to create a ‘reader’s digest’ version of hisThe Medium is the Message,” says Designers & Books contributor Carola Zwick, of the Berlin-based Studio 7.5. “It uses visual means to support his idea that human artifacts serve as extensions of the human body and brain.” Pentagram’s Abbott Miller, who also includes the book on his list for Designers & Books, calls The Medium is the Massage “an exceptional case study of a partnership between a public intellectual and a great designer.” Contributor and “visual literature” specialist Warren Lehrer comments: “The book visualized how technologies from the wheel to the telephone are extensions of our bodies and create a sense of comfort as well as anxiety. Some pages were printed backward and were meant to be read in a mirror; others were left completely blank.” Source: Designers & Books,

Photos and illustrations are used alongside excerpts from McLuhan’s original text (pp. 120–121)

The Medium is the Massage An Inventory of Effects

Quentin Fiore is one of America’s most distinguished graphic designers and perhaps the most successful of all McLuhan collaborators.

Jerome Agel has written and produced more than fifty books, including original visual interpretations of Marshall McLuhan’s and Buckminster Fuller’s work.

One Response to “McLuhan’s Most Innovative Book: The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects(1967)”

  1. 1 Seminar B – Yuxin Chai

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