Daily Features

99 Notable Design Books of 2013

By The Editors, Designers & Books December 31, 2013

To ring out 2013, we recap our 99 Notable Design Books of the year, reviewed by our Book Board members.

The year’s reviews included 47 architecture/urban design books and 23 graphic design books as well as titles in fashion, interior, and product/industrial design. We also reviewed several books of general design inspiration and even a novel featuring a car designer.

Architecture Highlights:

“I find myself returning to these essays to get grounded and be reminded of what is really important in architecture.” — Reviewer John Hill on Encounters 2: Architectural Essays by Juhani Pallasmaa

“I like to imagine that this is the sort of book that will help produce a more tolerant and understanding City Councilman or a board of directors member decades hence.” — Reviewer Phil Patton on How Architecture Works: A Humanist’s Toolkit by Witold Rybczynski

“I had a conversation with the CEO of a major architectural software company recently. When I shared with him how much contemporary renderings made me miss old-fashioned architectural drawings, he agreed—but told me we were both getting old and were just being nostalgic. Hogwash. I’ll have to show him the new book 100 Years of Architectural Drawing: 1900–2000 and see if he continues to defend the often lifeless computer versions that are now the norm.” — Reviewer Allison Arieff on 100 Years of Architectural Drawing by Neil Bingham

Notable architecture titles we reviewed included major studies that shed new light on prominent figures (Lina Bo BardiLe Corbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes, The Houses of Louis KahnHenri Labrouste, Álvaro SizaJames Stirling: Revisionary Modernist), structures (Building SeagramThe Most Beautiful Opera Houses in the World, Staircases: The Architecture of Ascent), and movements (Paradise Planned: The Garden Suburb and the Modern City)

Architecture photographed (The Images of Architects), drawn (All the Buildings in New York *That I’ve I Have Drawn So Far), and presented as comic strips (Hand-Drying in America) were the subjects of some of the other titles selected.

Graphic Design Highlights:

“What Boom has created here is a micro-manifesto for the printed book at its most alive.” — Reviewer Maria Popova on Irma Boom: The Architecture of the Book by Irma Boom

“A remarkable new book about design in India. . . .  This is not a picture book of slick brands or vernacular truck signs. Instead, it is a thoughtful exploration of the processes and motivations behind a range of practices, from typeface development for diverse linguistic communities to co-design projects with rural craftspeople.” — Reviewer Ellen Lupton on Dekho by CoDesign

Graphic design books named as notable ranged from books on type in various forms (Type Only, Shadow Type30 Years of Swiss Typographic Discourse in the Typografische Monatsblätter) to a collection of writings by graphic designer Michael Rock (Multiple Signatures) and a book created to explain (and illustrate) graphic design for children (Go) by the field’s “rock star,” Chip Kidd.

Two books chosen (Everything Sings, Mapping Manhattan) showcase unusual maps as an expression of graphic design. Another (Can Jokes Bring Down Governments?) focuses on the the controversial branding tactics explored by the Dutch graphic design firm Metahaven. There is also a book about books (Various Small Books), which documents the books inspired by the photo books of Los Angeles artist Ed Ruscha.

Fashion Design Highlights:

“Readers are encouraged through the book’s mandala-like organization to imaginatively follow rich trails of cross-disciplinary association in a non-linear fashion. That said, it is just as pleasurable to read the book conventionally from opening page to last, enjoying a sprawling multi-dimensional text on fashion design. . . .” — Reviewer Norman Weinstein on Fashion Design, Referenced

A book featuring the carnivalesque colors of Emilio Pucci (now in a new lower-priced volume) and a title on the latest in sustainable fashion (The Sustainable Fashion Handbook) were just two of the fashion books reviewed.

Interior Design Highlights:

“Like a garden at its peak, Mario Buatta’s rooms are always in full bloom, bursting with color and life. They are never static or made just to be admired.” — Reviewer Wendy Goodman on Mario Buatta: Fifty Years of American Interior Decoration by Mario Buatta

Along with a memoir from the “Prince of Chintz,” Mario Buatta, another highlight of our interior design book reviews was Out There by the Venezuelan-born interior designer Maria Gabriela Brito, who writes: “Who says that an entire room can’t be inspired by Frida Kahlo’s life, Marc Jacobs’ runway collection, or Sophia Loren’s movies?”

Product/Industrial Design Highlights:

“Glamour! Durability! Beauty! Sequins! Submarines!” — Reviewer Allison Arieff on Formica Forever, edited and designed by Abbott Miller

Among the titles we reviewed in product/industrial design were books on textiles (Threads of Silk and Gold), works on designers ranging from Eileen Gray to Shiro Kuramata to Tom Dixon, and critical overviews (Handbook of California Design, 1930–1965Hello World).

View all 99 Notable Design Books of 2013.

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