From within Pages to the Real World: 9 New Design Books Worth a Read
Design is everywhere. Design is in the cities and spaces we live in and occupy, how we move, what we see, and even impacts how we feel.
Design does not necessarily have to be aesthetic or even obvious, making up the background, even at times invisible. At other times, the design of an object, or a building, has been made for the way it looks and its ability to attract.
In a world where social networks have become our primary source of information and entertainment, certain design structures are adapting to make themselves Instagram-friendly, moving towards the short- rather than the long-term.
Design can also make us question how society works, design can influence change or bring to the forefront of the discussion what is perhaps lacking, and the need to make modifications.
DESIGN AND US
From urban planning to the multitudes in chair design, and from key figures in design history to understanding the relationship between pandemic-ready society and innovation – the following selection includes books that have been published in the past year.
They deal with changes in society, re-evaluating the space we find indoors and outdoors, and highlighting the necessity that the role of design plays in our world.
Prominent themes within the following selection of books include the complex design of motherhood, the influence of Instagram and other social networks on the urban landscape, and finally answering an important question: why does design matter?
Take note of these recently published design books to add to your bookshelf
Four main themes are explored through Design Emergency, by Paola Antonelli and Alice Rawsthorn (Phaidon, 2022).
Each focal point draws on the work of contemporary creative minds in the development of innovative design solutions to the problems present in today’s world, exploring the benefits of scientific and technological advancements.
Antonelli, the design curator at MoMA, along with Rawsthorn, the design critic, have come together to explore design’s role in building a better future.
A mixture of important questions followed by investigative research, each theme proposes solutions and possible answers as to how design can play an active part in improving and strengthening society.
‘JENS RISOM, A SEAT AT THE TABLE’
Having joined the Knoll company in the 1940s, Danish native Jens Risom (1916-2016) was known as a pioneer for his introduction of Scandinavian design into the American market, and consequently its positive acceptance within the home.
Knoll believed in “the Bauhaus design philosophy that modern furniture should complement architectural space, not compete with it”.
Jens Risoms, A Seat At The Table, by Vicky Lowry (Phaidon, 2022), is the first monograph dedicated to the life and work of the mid-century designer.
It follows Risom’s career path from his education in Copenhagen, to working alongside names such as Dan Cooper, and Georg Jensen, all towards eventually an established position at Knoll, and the legacy he left behind.
‘1000 DESIGN CLASSICS’
Phaidon’s revisited and updated volume presents the most important 1,000 objects in design history.
Based on the original three-volume Phaidon Design Classics (2006), the new version combines the volumes to present all 1000 pieces in one large format.
Classics include designs by Le Corbusier, Alvar and Aino Aalto, Lani Adeoye, Faye Toogood and Lindsey Adelman, among many others.
The volume covers pieces from as far back as the 1600s and has been updated to also reflect developments in design in the past 15 years since the original publication. 1000 Design Classics demonstrates itself as a more inclusive inventory, exploring works created by female designers, and designers who come from marginalised communities.
‘BACK TO THE OFFICE’
In a period of time when the office couldn’t feel more old-fashioned, this publication looks at the changes in the office space throughout the years.
With the most radical adaptations due to technology in recent years, and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic caused the workplace to move to the home, finally what does it mean to make an office space productive?
Through a collection of archival materials, interviews, and critical essays, Back To The Office, by Stephan Petermann and Ruth Baumeister (Nai010, 2022), looks at past architectural office projects, by the likes of Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, Arne Jacobsen, Herman Hertzberger, and Oscar Niemeyer.
The book studies the past to evaluate the future of office space.
Presented in a manner of story-telling, Designing Motherhood, by Michelle Millar Fisher and Amber Winick (MIT Press, 2021), delves into the objects that play a part in the process of becoming a mother.
From the baby carrier to the Kuddle Up flannel blanket to the instruments used to facilitate labour, the book challenges the stigmas surrounding reproductive health, from menstruation to pregnancy to postpartum.
‘WHY DESIGN MATTERS’
Debbie Millman knows what questions to ask as she delves into the lives of a selection of creatives, understanding their – at times, non-linear paths to where they are today.
An anthology of 55 interviews with a variety of contemporary figures from the creative world, Why Design Matters, by Debbie Millman (Harper Collins, 2022), is a continuation and physical creation of Millman’s award-winning podcast “Design Matters”.
The book includes a foreword by Roxanne Gay and interviews with prominent names from diverse fields, such as Marina Abramovic, Michael Bierut, Shepard Fairey and Thelma Golden, among many others.
This is an academic publication that investigates the changes in architectural education in the period after the Second World War as a means of upending the status quo.
“Experiments in architectural education in the post–World War II era that challenged and transformed architectural discourse and practice,” reads the description.
Radical Pedagogies – edited by Beatriz Colomina, Ignacio G. Galan, Evangelos Kotsioris and Anna-Maria Meister (MIT Press, 2022), includes examples such as a movement founded at the University of California that includes design for everybody, every ability, and disability.
The book describes these projects, ranging mainly from the 1930s to the 1980s, their impact, and consequently the after-life.
Brutal Britain by Zupagrafika. ©Zupagrafika
Build your own brutalist buildings! No, really – Brutal Britain (Zupagrafika, 2022) invites readers to actively interact with the book with nine examples of Brutalist models, such as Sheffield’s Park Hill, Birmingham Central Library and Trellick Tower in London, which has been a new addition to the second edition.
It is an examination of brutalism’s insertion in Britain’s post-war urban landscape, with examples of buildings from around the country.
With an introduction by architectural historian Barnabas Calder, Brutal Britain explores the functional aspects of these structures, yet at the same time tries to understand their attraction and their continued existence even if Britain has moved on.
The intricate, entertaining, seductive world of video games is an ever-growing industry that takes design, especially interactive design, to the next level.
Understanding the importance of the relationship between the user and interface, video games are celebrated for their complex designs, aesthetically pleasing graphics, and entertaining qualities.
Never Alone, by Paola Antonelli, Anna Burckhardt and Paul Galloway (MoMA, 2022), was published in conjunction with an exhibition held at MoMA of the same name and delves into the makers and designs behind 35 classic examples of video games, such as Space Invaders, Minecraft and Monument Valley.
Cover Credit: Markus Spiske/Unsplash
Writer | Glesni Trefor Williams
Glesni Trefor Williams is a Bologna-based art journalist/translator from North Wales, who focuses her writing on contemporary art and interlinked exhibition spaces. She writes for Lampoon, Spinosa Magazine, and is an arts contributor on BBC Radio Cymru. @glesniw