R. Craig Miller

Curator; Writer; Lecturer / Architecture; Product Design / United States / Indianapolis Museum of Art

Books Every Product Designer Should Read

. . . A thoughtful curator—and designer, for that matter—must intrinsically know the history of design: the artists, manufacturers, institutions, and museums that have created and shaped the field in which we work. Books are among the most important entrees into that larger world. . . . View the complete text
9 books
Le Corbusier

In the 1920s, Corbu broke with the Beaux-Arts tradition and helped to shape a new modernist style. He also reinvigorated the architectural treatise, once again, as a powerful manifesto that could change every aspect of the design arts.

Perhaps the last epochal design show and catalogue to be produced by MoMA. The exhibition not only anointed Italy as the leader in design in the second half of the 20th century, but it also christened a pantheon of Italian designers and manufacturers who would ultimately lead contemporary design in a multitude of new directions.

Fifty years after Le Corbusier wrote Towards a New Architecture, Venturi likewise turned the design field on its head, arguing that modernism and modern were not synonymous. He offered a new, more encompassing vision of modern design that would bestir the field for almost a half century.

Reyner Banham

Banham was a provocative writer who constantly questioned the “myths” of modern design, offering challenging new interpretations. This ability to question and rethink is an intellectual task that each generation must address, to be able to move forward, linking the present to the past from fresh perspectives.

Nikolaus Pevsner

This iconic book chronicles the formative development of modern design from the mid-19th century into the early 20th century. While it is now easy to criticize or dismiss Pevsner as a historian, he was one of the “gods” who helped create and define modern design. One of his most important achievements was that he was not only able to discern what was important in contemporary design, but he also had the exceptional and rare ability to simultaneously put it into a larger historical context, a feat to which many aspire but at which few succeed.

Edgar Kaufmann Jr.

In many respects, Kaufmann personified the role of a modern design curator in American museums in the 20th century, one who was highly visible and influential in shaping public taste. His advocacy of the concept of “good design” profoundly shaped MoMA and the ideals of modern design at mid-century.

With his two colleagues, Venturi reasserted the importance of the vernacular and showed that the ordinary can be transformed into the extraordinary, again pushing the boundaries of modern design.

Henry-Russell Hitchcock

Like Nikolaus Pevsner, Hitchcock was one of the most influential historians of his generation. It was not only what he wrote but how he thought that was so important to students. Certainly one of Hitchcock’s finest attributes was his catholic taste: he had the discerning ability to see what was equally significant in “conservative” as well as “avant-garde” work, an important lesson aptly illustrated for a young designer or historian in this early publication.

Henry-Russell Hitchcock
Philip Johnson

One of the most influential exhibitions and catalogues of the 20th century, The International Style not only introduced modernism to an American audience, but it also established modernism as the “holy grail” for The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, a conceptual approach that the institution has embraced for almost three-quarters of a century.

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