Guest posts

3 Notable Design Books of 2012: Alissa Walker

By Alissa Walker November 6, 2012

Guest blogger Alissa Walker—design and urbanism journalist, critic, and author—sent three notable design titles published this fall. These titles will be included later this month among the Notable Design Books of 2012 recommended by the newly launched Designers & Books Book Board. — SK

Alissa Walker

Guest blogger: Alissa Walker (Los Angeles)

Profile     Notable Books of 2012

This year, I've been preoccupied with the role of the designer in transforming space, bringing safety, whimsy, and a human touch to the built environment. These three books highlight the power of design in the places in which we live and work every day: in our cities, our sidewalks, our homes.


Walkable City

Jeff Speck

As the former design director for the National Endowment for the Arts, and co-author of the bible-like Suburban Nation, Jeff Speck has spent a lifetime helping American cities work better. Yet for all the innovation he witnessed, the greatest change always came from a return to one of our simplest actions: walking. Using real-world case studies (and an accessible, blissfully non-academic voice), Speck argues that a “walkable city”—a dense, urban environment designed with pedestrians in mind—is not only a nicer, healthier place to live and work but also can serve as an economic driver for the U.S. As new pedestrian plazas and car-free festivals proliferate across the country, the timing could not be better for Speck’s highly entertaining and inspiring vision for getting our country back on its feet.

Sign Painters

Faythe Levine and Sam Macon

It’s perhaps the most drastic change to the built environment over the last few decades, as cookie-cutter vinyl letters invaded our storefronts, wrestling out the age-old tradition of hand-painted signs. But recently, a sharp reaction to our over-digitized lifestyle has birthed a renaissance in the art of sign painting. In profiling two dozen masters, Faythe Levine and Sam Macon trace the time-honored techniques that define the industry, and demonstrate how veterans are passing down their skills to an eager younger generation. From members of the legendary San Francisco sign shop New Bohemia to artists like Stephen Powers to tradesmen like Doc Guthrie who teaches a vocational class in downtown L.A., Levine and Macon capture the spirit and resurgence of a craft which nearly disappeared forever. A documentary also produced by Levine and Macon will be released next year.


Diane Keaton; Text by D.J. Waldie

It's no secret that Diane Keaton is an architecture junkie: The Academy Award-winning actress has become a fixture at Los Angeles preservation events and has restored several notable homes across the city. Her previous book, California Romantica, was a luscious love letter to the Spanish Colonial and Mission residences that dot the Southern California landscape, and with Houses, Keaton broadens her aesthetic focus, moving beyond one region and style to examine how contemporary design defines the way we live now. Through whimsical residences by architects like Annabelle Selldorf and Tom Kundig, one theme emerges: Designers have the power to see the potential in our most forgotten spaces and materials, and transform them into a home.


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