Jonathan Olivares

Product/Industrial Designer / United States / Jonathan Olivares Design Research

Jonathan Olivares’s Book List

Each of these five books have altered my position on design and design research—they are staples in my library. In an interview, the filmmaker Harmony Korine once stated that two people can see the same movie, and one will walk out thinking about popcorn while the other walks out thinking about fascism. I have no idea what these books might prompt from another reader, but I’ve given my popcorn here.

5 books
Richard Knight
Foreword by Cesar Pelli

This is a book of photographs taken by Richard Knight during his time working in Eero Saarinen’s office in the 1950s up until Saarinen’s death in 1961. The photographs show Saarinen and his associates in deeply focused work, taping models, scrutinizing their designs, and discussing ideas. The models are at once ambitious, some in a scale so large that they occupied entire rooms, and loose, erected quickly to test and further ideas. An incredible sense of play, but serious play, comes across from seeing these grown men in suits crouching around scale buildings and mounting their drawings to the walls. The craft of it all is enviable.

Charles Eames
Ray Eames
Glen Fleck Editor

I could speak for days about the significance and beauty of this book, which tells the history of the computer from 1890 to 1950. The book is based on the exhibition of the same title that the Eames Office designed for IBM, which was on display from 1971 until 1975 in IBM’s Corporate Exhibit Center in New York City. Its format is made up of sequences of images that occupy the central portion of each spread, with captions above and below. This creates a dynamic reading experience, and prefigures the basic format of the scrolling blog, or twitter feed, where a stream of text and images are in constant referral to each other. Mixing scientific, mathematical, mechanical, and cultural information, the book portrays its subject through a broader lens than is typically used in books about history. The juxtapositions of images, which include photographs of inventors, scaled reproductions of important documents, news clippings, cut-out photographs of tools and machines, and stills from popular films, are as beautiful as they are enlightening. While the content is interesting to me, the real fascination for me lies in the format, which offers a finely conceived lens for viewing history, and could be applied to any number of subjects.

Alessio Ascari
Barbara Casavecchia

I bought this catalogue in 2010 at the exhibition of Enzo Mari’s paperweight collection at Kaleidoscope in Milan. I spent an hour walking around the exhibition photographing each one of the paperweights on display before realizing that this book—which catalogues Mari’s fascinating collection—was for sale. It is a simple book on a simple theme, and like the exhibition offers a world of objects whose forms bear a clear, but always surprising relationship to their materials.

Donald Judd

Though the ideas developed by Judd throughout this compilation of his gallery reviews, book reviews, articles, letters and statements are entirely interesting, what really intrigues me about this book is the fact that Judd actually went through with all of this writing, firmly developing his position on so many of the works of his contemporaries. The other thing that excites me about the book is that he states that he did all the writing therein as a mercenary, only for the money, to help support himself as an artist, and that he always put the writing off until the deadline. Viewing the book this way I can't help but imagine all the months' rent paid by these words. This book inspired me to support my design studio through similar mercenary-writing activities. I still do write to support the studio and I still put off writing until the very last possible moment, which creates a very productive tension around the writing process.

Andres Janser
Arthur Rüegg

I found this book in the gift shop of the Neue Galerie in New York ten years ago, while I was a student, and it has consistently remained one of my favorites. The book explores the film Die neue Wohnung, which Richter did on commission from the Swiss Werkbund, and which functioned to promote modern furniture. The book features stills from the film comparing people living with antiquated furniture to people living with modern furniture. Seeing users in action, their movements guided by architecture and furniture, led me to see design as a kind of choreography.

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