I love the idea behind the new guidebook series Eyes Open by design company Ideo. Rather than busy themselves with the rote regurgitation of sights of interest, restaurants and hotels, Eyes Open seeks to help travelers shift their attention towards really looking and immersing themselves in their surroundings. The series recently launched with its first two entries, New York and London, with additional cities to follow in the near future.
I had a chance to peruse the New York edition recently and came away with some interesting first impressions. The book is organized by four themes – ‘observer,’ ‘diner,’ ‘shopper’ and ‘mingler.’ Each theme is meant to represent a different “lens” by which we can view our destination. Within each category is a series of short travel narratives on a variety of topics, focusing on everything from secret eating clubs to unique small businesses to hidden earthwork art installations. As I resident of New York who is fairly well-versed in the city’s hidden amusements, I found the entries both surprising and informative. At the same time, this approach is sure to leave gaps for some travelers. Ideo makes no apology for the fact their Eyes Open guides are not comprehensive. Visitors looking for the basic practicalities of where to stay and a basic overview of neighborhoods will probably come away disappointed.
Then again, there is something to be said for curated guides like Eyes Open. As each of us travels, too often we get caught up in “checking off a list” of the must-see sights and locations. Eyes Open is the type of travel aid that can help us take a step back and experience a place through an entirely new perspective. Sometimes that’s worth the extra 20 bucks. Think of it as nice supplement to a more traditional guidebook.