Themed Book Lists

25 Books on Women in Design

From Lina Bo Bardi to Eva Zeisel

October 8, 2013

Updated, March 8, 2017: Twenty-five books that touch on different aspects of women in the design fields, from our contributing designers, commentators, publishers, and booksellers.

1
The Art Deco Murals of Hildreth Meière Catherine Coleman Brawer
Kathleen Murphy Skolnik
Foreword by Richard Guy Wilson
Photographs by Hildreth Meière Dunn

From the Publisher. An unsung heroine of Art Deco art and architecture, Hildreth Meière is the artist behind many of the most spectacular murals of the first half of the twentieth century. The dynamic roundels of Dance, Drama, and Song at Radio City Music Hall, the shimmering glass mosaics in the narthex of St. Bartholomew’s Church, and the rich iconographic designs at the Nebraska State Capitol, the National Academy of Sciences, and elsewhere—all are the work of Meière, a central figure in American decorative art. The first monograph on the artist, The Art Deco Murals of Hildreth Meière examines her distinctive designs within the context of American art and architecture.

2
As Long as It’s Pink Penny Sparke

From the Publisher. In this book Penny Sparke argues that “taste” has been a quality assigned to women while “design” is a man-made construction that has taken aesthetic authority away from women. She uses familiar objects of our everyday environments—furniture, cars and domestic appliances and interiors—to look at how taste has become a gendered issue in our culture. Ever since the industrial revolution, the cluttered interior has been associated with femininity while the minimal forms of modernist architecture have acted as markers of a masculine aesthetic. This in turn has succeeded in trivializing and marginalizing women’s material culture. Ranging across histories of domesticity, feminine consumption and home-making, as well as modern design and broader cultural theories, Penny Sparke offers a rethinking of the history of our modern material culture.

3
Charles and Ray Eames Pat Kirkham

From the Publisher. Charles and Ray Eames, perhaps the most famous partnership of 20th-century America, did pioneering work in furniture, film, architecture and exhibition design. Out of respect for Charles's wishes, no book on them was published during their lifetime. In Charles and Ray Eames Pat Kirkham interprets their work in depth, probing the lives behind the designs and the nature of the collaboration. In researching this work, Kirkham had full access to the Eames archive and co-operation from the Eame's clients and associates. The result is a study of the designers and of their work from 1941 to 1978, including a re-evaluation of Ray's role. After discussing the early careers of both Charles and Ray, Kirkham considers their joint work against the background of contemporary socio-economic and design developments. There is a recounting of their early careers and an examination of their multimedia presentations, exhibitions and films. Kirkham looks at the films in the context of an avant-garde tradition and in an industrial film-making tradition and takes up their role in popularizing the computer.

4
Charlotte Perriand: An Art of Living Mary McLeod

From the Publisher. One of the most innovative furniture and interior designers of the 20th century, Charlotte Perriand (1903-1999) has long been renowned for the tubular-steel chairs she created with Le Corbusier. But she had a rich, diverse career that spanned nearly 75 years and included work in Africa, South America and Asia, as well as Europe. Her independent designs are eagerly sought by collectors. Perriand's long career embraced Art Deco, machine-age modernism, the organic rusticity of the 1930s, serially produced metal and wood furniture in the '50s and '60s, and plastic and prefabricated units in the '70s. This volume contains texts by leading scholars covering many facets of her work and life, and scores of photographs and drawings.

5
Eileen Gray Caroline Constant

An in-depth study of the Irish-born designer Eileen Gray (1878-1976), a contemporary of Pierre Chareau and Charlotte Perriand. Examines her highly original furniture and interior design, including sumptuous lacquer furniture influenced by traditional French decorative arts, and wool carpets and draperies Explores nine realized buildings and more than 45 architectural projects from Gray’s archive, including villa E. 1027 on the coast of southern France. Places Gray in the context of contemporary movements in design and architecture and 20th-century social and cultural history. Includes a wealth of archival material, plans, drawings and photographs, including many of Gray’s own.

6
Eileen Gray: Objects and Furniture Design Introduction by Carmen Espegel
Sandra Dachs Editor

From the Publisher. Neglected in her lifetime, Eileen Gray (1878-1976) is now regarded as one of the most important furniture designers and architects of the early twentieth century. She first worked as a lacquer artist, then as a furniture designer and finally as an architect. At a time when other leading designers were almost exclusively male and adherents to one movement or another, Gray remained stalwartly independent. Her design style was as distinctive as her way of working; Gray developed an opulent, luxuriant take on the geometric forms and industrially produced materials used by International Style designers such as Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand, and Mies van der Rohe. Her voluptuous leather and steel Bibendum Chair and chic E-1027 glass and tubular steel table are now familiar icons of modernity. Part of the By Architects series, Eileen Gray highlights the work of this singular designer-architect.

7
Eva Zeisel: Life, Design, and Beauty Pat Kirkham Editor
Pat Moore
Pirco Wolframm
Photographs by Brent C. Brolin

From the Publisher. Eva Zeisel was one of the 20th century’s most influential ceramicists and designers of modern housewares. Her distinctive take on modern industrial design was inspired by organic form and brought beauty and playfulness to housewares, earning her designs a beloved place in midcentury homes. This richly illustrated volume—the first-ever complete biographical account of Zeisel’s life and work—presents an extensive survey of every line she ever created, all captured in gorgeous new photography, plus 28 short essays from scholars, collectors, curators, and designers. The definitive book on the grande dame of twentieth-century ceramics, this is an essential resource for anyone who appreciates modern design.

Other authors include Pat Moore, and Pirco Wolfframm. Introduction by Eva Zeisel. Photographs by Brent C. Brolin.

8
The Great Lady Decorators Adam Lewis

From the Publisher. Mixing gorgeous interiors with sparkling social history, this is the first book on the visionary women whose work gave us the timeless, essential principles of modern interior decorating. 

In 1904, Elsie de Wolfe was given a contract to design the interiors of the Colony Club. Their success launched de Wolfe’s career and the entire field of professional interior decoration. Soon other women followed, known collectively (for their privileged backgrounds) as the Lady Decorators. This book focuses on the extraordinary, glamorous interiors of these influential designers, as well as their decorating theory and maxims, from Rose Cumming’s electric color combinations ("Parrots are blue and green. Why shouldn’t fabric be?") to Nancy Lancaster’s refined English-country-house look ("She liked for the sun to get to . . . materials. She wanted them to go shabby and live a life of their own."). A witty and readable treatise on the principles of decorating, as well as a luxurious visual resource, this book will be an essential addition to every decorating library. Also including: Dorothy Draper, Elsie Cobb Wilson, Ruby Ross Wood, Frances Elkins, Eleanor Brown, Sister Parish, Syrie Maugham, Madeleine Castaing.

 

9
Hall of Femmes: Barbara Stauffacher Solomon Linda Johansson editor
Malin Zimm editor

From the Publisher: Barbara Stauffacher Solomon was a pioneer of what came to be known as Supergraphics: monumental graphics designed in harmony with architecture. Her iconic style – mixing Swiss Modernism and West Coast Pop – influenced many designers at the time.

10
Hall of Femmes: Carin Goldberg Samira Bouabana
Angela Tillman Sperandio

From the Publisher. Carin Goldberg started out her professional career at the end of the 1970s as a designer at CBS Television and CBS Records; a period when, according to Carin herself, you had to be “a cool, irreverent, experimental, hungry, talented smart-ass.” In the 1980s she established her own firm, Carin Goldberg Design, where she works today. Over the following two decades she designed over 1000 book covers for all the largest American publishing houses. In 2009 she was awarded the prestigious AIGA Gold Medal, recognizing an exemplary career in graphic design. Carin has taught Third Year Typography and Senior Portfolio Thesis at the School of Visual Arts in New York City for 28 years and is one of the first recipients of the Art Directors Club Grandmasters Award for Excellence in Education (2008).

11
Hall of Femmes: Janet Froelich Samira Bouabana
Angela Tillman Sperandio

From the Publisher. Janet Froelich is creative director at Real Simple, a magazine with two million subscribers. Before this she was the art director and creative director at the New York Times Magazine for over two decades.

12
Hall of Femmes: Lella Vignelli Samira Bouabana
Angela Tillman Sperandio

From the Publisher. The Italian architect and designer Lella Vignelli has turned her hand to every kind of project, from furniture, interiors, showrooms, and exhibitions to product design, silverware, and clothing. In the beginning of the 1960s she established the Vignelli Office of Design and Architecture in Milan together with her husband, Massimo Vignelli. In the end of the decade the pair settled in New York and launched one of the world’s biggest design firms at the time, Unimark International. Lella Vignelli received the AIGA Gold Medal in 1983. Hall of Femmes: Lella Vignelli includes an introductory essay by Martha Scotford, Professor of Graphic Design and author of Cipe Pineles: a Life of Design. It is richly illustrated, much of it never before published.

13
Hall of Femmes: Lillian Bassman Samira Bouabana
Angela Tillman Sperandio

From the Publisher. Lillian Bassman (1917–2012) began as an assistant to Alexey Brodovitch at Harper’s Bazaar in the early 1940s, at the epicenter of the American magazine culture’s Golden Age. In 1945 she became art director for the newly launched Junior Bazaar, a fashion magazine for teenagers that functioned as an experimental workshop for all kinds of young creative talents. At Junior Bazaar, Bassman took Brodovitch’s constant goals: “Think different. Change. Astonish me.” and built an upbeat, unpredictable magazine around them. From the 1940s until the 1960s Bassman worked as a fashion photographer for both Junior Bazaar and Harper’s Bazaar. Her life story reads like a movie and stretches across the entire 20th century.

14
Hall of Femmes: Paula Scher Samira Bouabana
Angela Tillman Sperandio

From the Publisher. Paula Scher began her design career at Atlantic and CBS Records in the 1970s. In 1984 she co-founded Koppel & Scher, and in 1991 she joined the design firm Pentagram NY as a partner. Paula Scher has worked with identity and branding systems, environmental graphics, packaging and publication designs for a broad range of clients. In 2001 she was awarded the profession’s highest honor, the AIGA medal, in recognition of her contributions to the design field. In 2006 she was awarded the Type Directors Club Medal.

15
Hall of Femmes: Ruth Ansel Samira Bouabana
Angela Tillman Sperandio

From the Publisher. For over 50 years Ruth Ansel has worked as an art director for a number of influential magazines and she is, on the whole, an unbelievably cool person. In the 1960s she did Harper’s Bazaar, in the 1970s she did the New York Times Magazine, and in the 1980s she left her own special mark of elegance and contemporary sense on Vanity Fair, in connection with the magazine being reawakened after lying dormant for 50 years. Since the 1990s, Ruth Ansel has run her own design studio, and though she today is over 70 years old she is still active. She has worked with just about everybody; Diana Vreeland, Richard Avedon, Annie Leibowitz, Bruce Weber and Tina Brown, just to mention a few.

16
Hall of Femmes: Tomoko Miho Samira Bouabana
Angela Tillman Sperandio

From the Publisher. The Japanese-American designer Tomoko Miho was a dedicated modernist. Influenced by her Japanese background she applied spatial solutions to printed matter. Nothing followed a standard format. Tomoko Miho (1931–2012) began her award-winning career in the early 1960s. She worked for design firms as George Nelson and the Center for Advanced Research in Design until she established her own design firm in New York in 1982. Her broad range of work covers corporate identities, architectural signage, environmental graphics, book and brochure design. In 1993 she received AIGA’s Gold Medal in recognition of her entire career. Hall of Femmes: Tomoko Miho includes an introductionary essay by Véronique Vienne, art director, design critic, and writer. It is richly illustrated, much of it never before published.

17
Having Words Denise Scott Brown

Includes essays that extend from Denise Scott Brown’s 1969 text, "On Pop Art, Permissiveness and Planning" (written three years before the publication of Learning from Las Vegas) to "Towards an Active Socioplastics" from 2007, offering an overview of Scott Brown's education and the gestation of her key architectural and urban ideas.

18
Lina Bo Bardi Zeuler Rocha Mello de Almeida Lima
Foreword by Barry Bergdoll

From Yale University Press. Lina Bo Bardi (1914–1992), one of the most important architects working in Latin America in the 20th century, was remarkably prolific and intriguingly idiosyncratic. A participant in the efforts to reshape Italian culture in her youth, Bo Bardi immigrated to Brazil with her husband in 1946. In Brazil, her practice evolved within the social and cultural realities of her adopted country. While she continued to work with industrial materials like concrete and glass, she added popular building materials and naturalistic forms to her design palette, striving to create large, multiuse spaces that welcomed public life.

Lina Bo Bardi is the first comprehensive study of Bo Bardi’s career and showcases author Zeuler Lima’s extensive archival work in Italy and Brazil. The leading authority on Bo Bardi, Lima frames the architect’s activities on two continents and in five cities. The book examines how considerations of ethics, politics, and social inclusiveness influenced Bo Bardi’s intellectual engagement with modern architecture and provides an authoritative guide to her experimental, ephemeral, and iconic works of design.

Read the Notable Book of 2013 review.

Lina Bo and P.M. Bardi house in Morumbi, Sao Paulo, 1949–52. Interior view with dining room and internal patio in the foreground. From Lina Bo Bardi by Zeuler Rocha Mello de Almeida Lima (2013, Yale University Press). Photo: Nelson Kon
19
Lina Bo Bardi Lina Bo Bardi

From the Handbook of Latin American Studies, vol.  58. A chronological catalogue of the work of modernist architect Lina Bo Bardi (1914–92). The text, written by Bo Bardi in her unique style, describes her projects and reveals her personal philosophy and thoughts on various subjects, including Brazil. Born and raised in Italy, she adopted Brazil as her home, restoring many buildings of historical interest and influencing a generation of architects, playwrights, moviemakers, and designers. Her life, projects, watercolors, photographs, and designs are richly documented here. Most of the catalogue’s illustrations were drawn from her archives.

20
Make It Bigger Paula Scher

From the Publisher. In Make in Bigger, Scher candidly reveals her thoughts on design practice, drawing on her own experiences as one of the leading designers in the United States, and possibly the most famous female graphic designer in the world. Pointed and funny, it is an instructive guide for all those who navigate the difficult path between clients, employees, corporate structures, artists, and design professionals. Make it Bigger provides a survey of Scher's groundbreaking work, from her designs as art director at Columbia Records, to her identity for New York's Public Theater, to her recent work for the New York Times, Herman Miller, and the American Museum of Natural History's Rose Center planetarium.

21
Piecing Together Los Angeles: An Esther McCoy Reader Susan Morgan Editor

From the Publisher. Esther McCoy (1904–1989) is one of the 20th century's foremost architecture historians, and one of the greatest chroniclers of the architecture of midcentury southern California. Her 1960 book Five California Architects has long been acknowledged as an indispensable classic, and as Reyner Banham famously observed of her, "no one can write about architecture in California without acknowledging her as the mother of us all." Piecing Together Los Angeles: An Esther McCoy Reader is the first anthology of McCoy's writing. It features a selection of some 70 pieces--ranging from her 1945 article "Schindler, Space Architect" to "Arts & Architecture: Case Study Houses," a 1989 essay commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. From fiction for The New Yorker to seminal essays on new architectural forms, McCoy charts the progressive edge of American idealism, from the collective utopian spirit of Jazz Age Greenwich Village, through the Depression and the war years, to the optimism of the 1950s and 1960s. In preparing this volume, writer and editor Susan Morgan extensively researched the McCoy papers at the Archives of American Art. Her editorial decisions were based, in part, on McCoy's original selections for an unrealized anthology solicited by W. W. Norton in 1968. Expanding on that project, Morgan has included essays, articles, lectures, correspondence, memoirs and short stories that illuminate the breadth and complexity of McCoy's writing and the southern California region that inspired her groundbreaking work.

22
Women in Design: A Contemporary View Liz McQuiston

“This book highlights the work of 43 designers from Great Britain, the USA, Italy, Holland, Inidia and Japan, and spans a broad range of disciplines ... The design areas covered include graphic design, product design, furniture design, television and film, animation, interior design and architecture ... Each designer is represented by a visual display of work and a biographical statement”—Back cover.

23
Women of Design Bryony Gomez-Palacio
Armin Vit
Includes contribution by Alice Rawsthorn

More than half of the graphic designers in the U. S. are women, yet they are less likely to be invited to speak at conferences or to offer expert opinions to the media. Their award-winning work is seen everywhere, but with few exceptions, they are not celebrated in the same way as their male counterparts. Women of Design explores this contradiction while at the same time shining a light on the work of women designers, both industry veterans and influential newcomers. By asking the handful of female design stars to identify other talented women, then asking those women to suggest more still, Women of Design creates a web of influence and excellence that proves these women are worthy of attention.

24
Women Designers in the USA, 1900–2000 Pat Kirkham Editor

From the Publisher. Winner of the 2000 Susan Koppelman Award sponsored by Popular Culture/American Culture Association Women’s Caucus in Feminist Studies of Popular Culture and American Culture (out of print).

This book celebrates the many contributions women designers have made to American culture over the past century in such fields as textiles, ceramics, graphics, furniture, interiors, metalwork, fashion, and jewelry. It includes designers from the arts and crafts and modernist movements, Native American and African American cultures, the post-World War II era, craft and “ethnic” revivals in the 1970s and 1980s, and the world of today. Many famous designers are discussed, including Eva Zeisel, Maria Martinez, Ray Eames, Florence Knoll, Edith Head, Clare McCardell, Bonnie Cashin, Elsa Peretti, and April Greiman, as well as less well-known designers.

The book features 17 essays by such eminent scholars as Valerie Steele, Ellen Lupton, Cheryl Buckley, and Edward S. Cooke, Jr. A timeline offers readers a broader context within which to understand the developments discussed in the text, as does Eileen Boris’s chapter “Women in the United States, 1900–2000: Social Change and Changing Experience.” In addition, an essay by Pat Kirkham and Lynne Walker explores such fascinating issues as the differing gendered nature of the various areas of design, training, and education, support networks, “race,” class, cultural traditions, and the diverse ways in which women came to be, practiced as, and experienced being designers.

25
Women of Fashion: Twentieth-Century Designers Valerie Steele

Explores the increasing prominence of women in the fashion design and examines their contributions to 20th-century fashion.

26
Women in Graphic Design 1890–2012 Gerda Breuer Editor
Julia Meer Editor
Contribution by Ellen Lupton
Contribution by Paula Scher
Contribution by Véronique Vienne
Contribution by Alissa Walker et al.

From the Publisher. Why do so few women feature in the history of design? Why is it still the case that so few women speak at conferences? How have previously celebrated female designers come to be “forgotten”? Are women judged today solely on the basis of their quality of work? In recent decades, female graphic designers have been working actively and successfully, but the longstanding identification of creative genius with masculinity has—with a few exceptions—prevented women from receiving recognition in the official annals of design history; even today, only a tiny percentage of active female designers enjoy public acclaim. This opulently illustrated volume sets out to repair this omission. Women in Graphic Design 1890–2012 presents the most significant female designers and traces their paths to professionalization and acclaim, through short biographies, essays and conversations with well-known contemporary female designers such as Irma Boom, Paula Scher, Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, Julia Hoffmann, “Swiss Miss” Tina Roth Eisenberg, Katja M. Becker, Anna Berkenbusch, Heike Grebin, Gisela Grosse, Miriam and Nina Lambert, Iris Utikal, and Judith Grieshaber. Also included are key writings by contemporary and historical designers such as Paula Scher, Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, Natalia Goncharova, Ellen Lupton, Martha Scotford, Véronique Vienne, Astrid Stavro, and Alissa Walker.

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