Book List of the Week

Book List of the Week: Emanuela Frattini Magnusson

Masterful writing as visual experience

By Steve Kroeter January 27, 2014
Global Head of Design: Bloomberg LP (New York); Founder, EFM Design (New York)
View Emanuela Frattini Magnusson’s Book List

Recently named Global Head of Design for Bloomberg LP, the Milan-born architect and industrial designer Emanuela Frattini Magnusson has been creating award-winning products for over 25 years: as founder of her own firm, EFM Design; for Tibor Kalman; and for many leading international manufacturers. Her Propeller Table System for Knoll has been a best seller since its introduction in 1994.

Her book list, Frattini Magnusson says, “is extremely eclectic, but also very ‘loyal.’ Favorites have remained as such throughout the years, and have never been replaced—they just have become part of an ever-growing list.” Among the selections on design (“A few titles relate to my profession, but most of them don’t,” she notes) is last year’s Hidden in Plain Sight: How to Create Extraordinary Products for Tomorrow’s Customers, by Jan Chipchase with Simon Steinhardt. Frattini Magnusson calls the book the “ultimate guide to observing human behavior with an open mind. It sets the foundation through which to identify emerging issues and to build upon in order to problem-solve. An enlightened approach to understanding real human needs, and being better equipped to respond as a designer.”

Another book chosen is Le Corbusier’s Towards a New Architecture (on the book lists of 10 other Designers & Books contributors) which, at almost 100 years old, “retains the power of its clarity of vision and purity of ideals and intent,” according to Frattini Magnusson. She quotes Le Corbusier on beauty as “the overplus necessary to the human spirit,” and on poetry—which “not only lies in the written word. Objects which signify something and which are arranged with talent and with tact create a poetic fact.”

Propeller desks, part of the Propeller Table System designed by Emanuela Frattini Magnusson for Knoll, introduced in 1994. Photo: Courtesy of EFM Design

Commenting on her fiction choices, Frattini Magnusson highlights the connection between the poetic and the visual. About Thomas Mann’s Tonio Kröger, the story of “the struggle of the artist trying to be an accepted member of society,” she comments that Mann, referring to the book, said that poetry is “evoking emotion by talking about everyday things”—which, Frattini Magnusson notes, “applies equally to architecture.” Reading Giorgio Bassani’s 1962 novel The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, which follows an aristocratic Jewish family living in Ferrara during the time of Fascism, says Frattini Magnusson, “is full-immersion—masterful writing becomes a visual experience.”

Selecting books “both for content and for the love of paper and typography,” she also includes two titles from her childhood by Italian graphic designer Bruno Munari that are “a sampling of my cultural roots.” Munari’s Nella Nebbia di Milano (In the Fog of Milan) and Nella Notta Buia (In the Darkness of the Night) “sparked my love of paper with their printed vellum pages and perforated and cut-out cardboard inserts that progressively revealed the next layer of the story,” she says. “I still own them.”

View Emanuela Frattini Magnusson’s Book List

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