Book List of the Week

Book List of the Week: Dan Formosa

Details and usability

By Steve Kroeter April 21, 2014
Dan Formosa, co-founder of Smart Design (New York)
View Dan Formosa’s Book List

A founder of Smart Design, Dan Formosa has developed products ranging from kitchen aids to healthcare products that have become essential parts of people’s daily lives. His innovations for OXO Good Grips kitchen tools have become a symbol of products designed to work for every kind of user. Formosa created the interface for XM/Sirius that established the standard for satellite radio in the U.S., and for Ford worked on SmartGauge, an instrument cluster designed to influence driving behavior and save fuel.

Formosa’s 13 selections for Designers & Books have influenced his work and its focus on applicability to everyday life, athough, as he writes in the introduction to his list, “for some books, direct connections may not be obvious.” Included are Arthur Pulos’s American Design Ethic. Formosa comments on this 1983 book, “I’m especially fascinated by the opening chapters covering the early history of design in America. Innovations evolved not just from a need to survive in the new frontier—American design and technology was part a deliberate effort to separate America from its European ties. Political from the start.” Edward Tufte’s The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (on Designers & Books’ list of the 10 most frequently chosen titles) “should be required reading for everyone, everywhere,” says Formosa. “The ability to both think and communicate visually is critical to understanding in all fields.” 

A selection of kitchen tools by Smart Design for OXO. Photo: courtesy of Smart Design

There is also Jessica Helfand’s Reinventing the Wheel—“I’m a big fan of wheel charts,” Formosa comments. Another title on his list, The Nashville Number System, Chas Williams’s book about a notation system developed for Nashville musicians in the 1950s, Formosa says, is an examination of “the way working musicians get around the complexity and limitations of traditional music notation—which is a god-awful example of information design.”

Smart Design Creative Director Dan Saffer’s latest book, Microinteractions, is also on Formosa’s list. (We’ll be featuring an interview with Saffer later this month.) The book, Formosa comments, is “a look into the importance of details in creating exceptional design experiences—details that, in many cases, companies (or designers) typically overlook (which is surprising since various takes on the quote ‘Design is in the details’ seem to be ubiquitous within the profession). In this case, the focus is on interaction design. Its principles, however, apply to every touch point we have with interfaces, products, services, and virtually everything in our lives.”

Dan Formosa is a co-author of the best-selling Baseball Field Guide: An In-Depth Illustrated Guide to the Complete Rules of Baseball (Da Capo Press, 2006).

View Dan Formosa’s Book List.

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