CreativeMornings Book Lists

10 Books on Making

December 2, 2013

Our second book list developed in collaboration with CreativeMornings, a breakfast lecture series for the creative community, each with a monthly theme, is based on December’s theme: “Make.”

CreativeMornings video illustration by Mac Premo and Bas Berkhout

Here are 10 titles that appear on the book lists of Designers & Books contributors focusing on different aspects of making—from telling the story of how things are made to what it’s like to produce and create things—both physical and digital.

If you have books on this theme that are important to you, and that you would like to note and recommend to the CreativeMornings community, you can do so by going to our Community Book List on making, click “Add to list,” and add your recommendation there.

American Design Ethic Arthur J. Pulos

—Car designer Chris Bangle comments on American Design Ethic:

“A great read about the history of industrial design in the U. S. Very quotable; fantastic revelations. I finally understand that the American Revolution was really an Intellectual property war set off by the China of the time—the American Colonies!”

The Craftsman Richard Sennett

—Graphic designer Milton Glaser comments on The Craftsman:


—Product designer Carola Zwick comments on The Craftsman:

“This book describes the intrinsic reward gained from working ‘hands on’ as well as the specific relationship between craftsmen and their tools, which in my view is a great inspiration for designers to create hardware and software that empower people.”

Design for the Real World Victor Papanek

Critic and author Alice Rawsthorn comments on Design for the Real World:

“Irascible though he was, Papanek was also thoughtful, sensitive, gutsy, and perceptive. He wrote Design for the Real World a little over 40 years ago, and most of its principles are as relevant now as they were then, if not more so. Dividing his book into two parts, the first entitled “How it is” and the second “How it could be,” Papanek explains clearly and persuasively that design should be more honest, humane, responsible, empowering, and inclusive, less about showy styling, and more about improving the quality of all of our lives, not least those who are disadvantaged, disabled, or excluded. Countless books have since been published on sustainable and inclusive design, but every designer should still read this one.”

The Design of Everyday Things Donald Norman

—Product designer Tim Brown (IDEO) comments on The Design of Everyday Things, written by Donald Norman:

“Originally called The Psychology of Everyday Things, still the best argument for why designers can’t be left to design things on their own.”

Emotionally Durable Design Jonathan Chapman

—Curator Zöe Ryan comments on Emotionally Durable Design:

“Jonathan Chapman makes an articulate case for the need for objects and buildings with strong narratives that can help forge bonds with users through their inherent storytelling qualities.”

Makers: The New Industrial Revolution Chris Anderson

—Architect Hugh Hardy comments on Makers:

“New forms of manufacturing in the digital age.”

Sign Painters Faythe Levine
Sam Macon

—Writer and critic Alissa Walker comments on Sign Painters:

“It’s perhaps the most drastic change to the built environment over the last few decades, as cookie-cutter vinyl letters invaded our storefronts, wrestling out the age-old tradition of hand-painted signs. But recently, a sharp reaction to our over-digitized lifestyle has birthed a renaissance in the art of sign painting. In profiling two dozen masters, Faythe Levine and Sam Macon trace the time-honored techniques that define the industry, and demonstrate how veterans are passing down their skills to an eager younger generation.”

Self-Portrait as Your Traitor Debbie Millman
Introduction by Paula Scher

Written by designer and Design Matters host Debbie Millman.

Designer Paula Scher comments in the introduction to Self-Portrait as Your Traitor:

“. . . each piece of lettering seems to have been created to express the exact emotional subject matter at hand.”

Thoughts on Design Paul Rand

—Graphic designer George Lois comments on Thoughts on Design:

“The book that propelled me through the High School of Music and Art.”

—Graphic design Michael Bierut comments on Thoughts on Design:

“His first book and still the most concise and accessible.”

—Graphic designer Ivan Chermayeff comments on Thoughts on Design:

“Any designer to be (or in practice) should read Rand’s articulate and provocative thoughts on one of the few trades where the learning curve is continuous, ever-changing, and tuition free.”

The Toaster Project: Or a Heroic Attempt to Build a Simple Electric Appliance from Scratch Thomas Thwaites

—Critic and editor Julie Lasky comments on The Toaster Project:

“While a graduate student at the Royal College of Art, Thwaites undertook to build an electric toaster from raw materials. His account of extracting iron from rock, hand-carving a wooden mold for forming molten plastic, precipitating copper out of pools of acidic mine waste, and melting Canadian coins for their nickel manages to be both hilarious and sober. In the end, Thwaites’s toaster was a spectacular failure—a gloppy aesthetic and functional mess that cost £1187.54, or 300 times more than the £3.94 commercial model that inspired him—but it taught stinging lessons about environmental responsibility.”

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