Book List of the Week

Design, Marketing, Business, Life: Jeffrey Bernett’s Book List

By Steve Kroeter January 8, 2013

Jeffrey Bernett

Product/industrial designer Jeffrey Bernett: CDS/Consultants for Design Strategy (New York)

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“School only teaches you so much,” says Jeffrey Bernett in his book list introduction for Designers & Books. The designer of acclaimed residential and office furniture, household products, lighting, packaging, and interior architecture for companies such as B&B Italia, Design Within Reach, and Herman Miller recommends reading broadly as not only “a quest to gain knowledge” but also “a thought-provoking journey in its own right.”

The books Bernett chooses capture this outlook and fall into categories he designates as “design,” “marketing,” “business,” and “life.”

Titles categorized as “design” stress design’s role in virtually every aspect of human activity. Among them are Ralph Caplan’s timeless By Design: Why There Are No Locks on the Bathroom Doors in the Hotel Louis XIV and Other Object Lessons, originally published in 1982 (and also on the book lists of two graphic designers, Nancye Green and Jennifer Morla); and John Heskett’s Toothpicks and Logos, which shows how integral design is to our daily lives—“from the spoon we use to eat our breakfast cereal, and the car we drive to work in, to the medical equipment used to save lives.” Bernett also cites Gordon Bruce’s book on the renowned creative director of IBM during the 1950s, Eliot Noyes, who influenced the way companies think about design and its impact on business. “Noyes was one of the first true corporate design consultants and ‘strategists’—a leader, pioneer, and visionary,” Bernett comments.

Jeffrey Bernett, Tulip armchair for B&B Italia, 2000

“Marketing” and “Business” include the motivational It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be, by advertising master (Saatchi & Saatchi) Paul Arden, and Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don’t by James Collins. And the broadest category, “Life,” is represented by Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, which Bernett calls “an insightful and provocative look at the Rubik's Cube of life—chance, luck, dedication, and determination.”

In reading these books—and many others—observes Bernett, “it’s surprising, when provoked provocatively, where the mind goes off to along the way.”

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