Alberto Alessi

Writer; Executive / Product Design / Italy / Alessi S.p.A.

Books Every Product Designer Should Read

My position is that a designer is—or should be—first a poet. For that reason the books I have listed refer to a wide spectrum of human activity. They can be especially helpful and interesting to read for almost all activities having to do with creating products (industrial products) in our society of consumption.

14 books
Alessandro Mendini

My main maestro. A personal memories book. “Goodbye Architecture” shows Mendini’s primary interest in anthropology, but related to design and architecture.

Aldo Rossi

Aldo was one of my maestros when I was much younger. A good thinker. He brought a strong poetic approach to the discipline of architecture, opening that angle of view to product designers. His Nietzschean thinking made his life too short. I particularly like the picture with his daughter Vera on the bridge at Lake Mergozzo in northern Italy.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche’s remarks on the difference between humans and animals are useful for understanding why designers continue to design objects that people actually do not need.

A text that influenced a generation of architects and designers, opening the door to a deeper consciousness of our profession.

Charles Jencks

This book expanded my view of contemporary architecture and prompted my experiments with translating some of the issues raised into industrial design.

Jean Baudrillard

A basic text for understanding the present stage of consumer society. Aids designers in becoming more conscious of their role and responsibility.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

A poetic overview of our world—which a designer should always have!

Hans Magnus Enzensberger

“My Favorite Flops, Followed by a Magazine of Ideas.” Praise for fiasco as an essential element in the learning process coincides with one of my fundamental beliefs.

Georges Bataille
Denis Hollier Editor

Contains “La notion de dépense” (“The Notion of Expenditure“)—sharp and disenchanted, difficult but amazing to read. May be very useful for designers in positioning their activity in a proper way.

D. W. Winnicott

Winnicott's theory of transitional phenomena and transitional objects enlightened my understanding of design as play and as a new form of contemporary art.

Martin Heidegger

Contains “The Thing.” “The thingness of things”—jug-ness of a jug, or pot-ness of a pot. The reason for an object or a design to be. Some very useful thoughts by the German philosopher for every designer in search of new archetypes.

Ettore Sottsass

Not only one of the best designers, but also one of the best storytellers. This recent autobiography (which translates as “Written at Night”) reminds us that a designer is also a man with a poetic sensibility.

Italo Calvino

Tells of the six fundamental qualities in human activity: good not only for novelists, but for life in general and very much for design in particular today (see “Lightness” and “Consistency”).


One of the best Tintin books. I reread the cartoons frequently. Inspirational for the extraordinary attention to details: a must for every good designer!

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