Book List of the Week

Product Design, the Practical and the Academic: Michael Maharam’s Book List

By Steve Kroeter May 14, 2013

Michael Maharam

Textile design firm executive Michael Maharam: Maharam (New York)

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As CEO of his family’s over 110-year-old textile firm, Michael Maharam has introduced the work of modern and contemporary graphic, fashion, and industrial designers to the company’s commercial fabric lines. Hella Jongerius, Maira Kalman, Abbott Miller, and Paul Smith, among many others, have all designed for Maharam, which has become known for the progressive design and engineering of its textiles for architects and interior designers.

Progressive design is also a theme of the list of 22 titles Michael Maharam sent to Designers & Books. “These books,” he says in the introduction to his list, “embody the best of composition, form, material, technique, utility, fashion, and, most of all, style.”

Covering art and architecture, furniture, tableware, and clothing, the list includes Design: Dieter Rams, edited by François Burkhardt and Inez Franksen—Rams is “the Dürer of modern industrial design” says Maharam—as well as Erwin Panofsky’s Life and Art of Albrecht Dürer, on “the master” painter himself. There are books on furniture designs by artist Donald Judd (“Art or design or design or art—is there really a difference?” asks Maharam in his comment), Gerrit Rietveld (“a revolutionary"), and Hans Wegner (“a man with a beautiful imagination"). And there is a book illustrating wooden houses in Europe (“perfect beauty in joinery”) and also a title that showcases one of the formal wonders of religious architecture (“the rudiments of form,” as Maharam says), the 12th-century Le Thoronet Abbey in southern France.

Michael Maharam, Maharam Agenda2011 (Lars Müller Publishers)

Among other highlights from the list are A Book of Spoons by British product designer Jasper Morrison, which shows, Maharam comments, “the variation of utility,” and a work on Italian designer Enzo Mari by François Burkhardt, demonstrating that “humor infused with intellect will never go out of style.” An avid book collector, Maharam also cites a book on the design of bookmarks, edited by Marco Ferreri, admiring “the splendor of variation.”

Michael Maharam is the author of Maharam Agenda (2011, Lars Müller Publishers), an acclaimed illustrated history of his company and its designs (see our Author Q&A with Michael Maharam). He is also editor of a book released this February by Skira Rizzoli on the paper sculptures of mid-20th-century industrial designer Irving Harper, who, working with George Nelson, created the Ball Clock and Marshmallow Sofa.


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Related post: Author Q&A with Michael Maharam: Maharam Agenda

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