Product/industrial design

Universal Design: Fritz Frenkler’s Book List

By Steve Kroeter May 7, 2013

Fritz Frenkler

Product/industrial designer Fritz Frenkler: f/p design  (Munich, Germany)

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Fritz Frenkler believes in “universal design”—design for everyone. In fact, he is a founding member of universal design e.V, a Hannover (Germany)-based design think tank and laboratory whose aim is to create straightforward, safe, and sustainable products for a wide range of users. Among its other guiding principles, set down in the organization’s declaration at its first conference in 2006, is that design is an “interdisciplinary task” that “undertakes to enlighten the worlds of politics and industry.”

In the titles on his list for Designers & Books, Frenkler, a respected educator, former design director of frogdesign, and a principal, with Anette Ponholzer of f/p design (based in Munich with an office in Japan), has chosen books that highlight his approach to product design. He cites two books by Otl Aicher published in the 1990s, Analogous and Digital and The World as Design (also on the book lists of Sam Hecht and Jeffrey Bernett), calling both “standard works of industrial design that should be consulted from time to time.” Aicher, the founder of the Ulm School of Design, Germany’s leading educational center for design in the 1950s and 1960s, is known for his broad thinking on “humane” design for everyday existence.

Award-winning “Soaric” dental chair unit by f/p design for Morita, Japan, 2012. Photo: courtesy f/p design

Another book on the list is Franco Clivio’s Hidden Forms: Seeing and Understanding Things, from 2009, an analysis in text and photographs that illuminates the obscure yet special characteristics of the author’s collection of unassuming, everyday objects. It demonstrates “how a designer is inspired by other products,” notes Frenkler.

His list also includes two additional recent books. A 2009 book on the work of the Japanese architectural firm SANAA, The Play of Opposites, he says, “has something to say about product design. The exchange of knowledge and experiences between the professions of architecture and industrial design is important.” And, from 2012, there is NCSI—on the visual symbols and graphic identity used by the Nazis from 1920 to 1945. A cautionary tale (available in German only), Frenkler comments that it provides “a glance at history—showing what corporate design can bring out. This book should be a standard work for every communication designer: a critical examination of corporate design is crucial.”


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