Notable Design Books: Reviews

Notable Design Books of 2012

By Steve Kroeter December 6, 2012

50 Books / 50 Covers

To help celebrate the year in design book publishing, Designers & Books is posting its second annual list of Notable Design Books. We invited a group of esteemed design community members—our Book Board—to select titles published in 2012 that they think are particularly worth noting.

Among those who have participated so far in selecting titles are Zara Arshad, John Hill, Daijiro Mizuno, Phil Patton, Maria Popova, Rick Poynor, and Alissa Walker, plus designers and commentators including Stanley Abercrombie, Diana Balmori, Witold Rybczynski, and Richard Saul Wurman. Below you will find the results of their deliberations: our list of over 65 (to date and still growing) Notable Design Books of 2012.

The titles also appear on our site in our signature grid format. This allows you to filter, sort, and view the books by recommender, title, author, design discipline, and price. And you can view the books either by cover image or in a list. In addition, both on the grid and in the listing of books below, you can click through each of the titles to get to a detailed bibliographic profile.

Over the coming days new titles recommended by new contributors will be added to the list. We hope you will find our listing to be an effective and enjoyable way to expand your awareness and appreciation of the many notable design books published this year —and also a helpful guide for the book lovers on your holiday gift list.


15 Years of Media Arts
Kurando Furuya, ed.

This book celebrates the last 15 years of media arts in Japan. In 1997 the first Japan Media Arts Festival was first held, sponsored by the Council of Cultural Affairs in Japan. Since that time the festival has been held on an annual basis to encourage the further developments of media arts. Over the past 15 years situations surrounding media have changed significantly; this book should be read as a testimony, or a continuing negotiation of those who work in the fields of anime, manga, games, moving images, the Internet, and mixed media arts. Daijiro Mizuno

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20th Century World Architecture: The Phaidon Atlas
Editors of Phaidon Press

A compilation that deserves the adjective magisterial. Included are almost 800 20th-century buildings by almost 700 architects in 97 countries, almost all given exterior and interior photographs, floor plans, and explanatory texts. Who has the most entries? Le Corbusier with 12 buildings, followed by Marcel Breuer and Oscar Niemeyer with 11 each. An amazing reference. Stanley Abercrombie

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100 Ideas that Changed Graphic Design
Steven Heller and Véronique Vienne

Steven Heller and Véronique Vienne bring us this thoughtfully curated inventory of abstract concepts that shaped the course of graphic design, each illustrated with exemplary images and historical context. Unlike in other design books, the ideas in this succinct tome aren't organized by chronology. From concepts like manifestos (#25), pictograms (#45), propaganda (#22), found typography (#38), and the Dieter-Rams-coined philosophy that “less is more” (#73) to iconic creators like Saul Bass, Alex Steinweiss, Paula Scher, and Stefan Sagmeister, the sum of these carefully constructed parts amounts to an astute lens not only on what design is and does, but also on what it should be and do. Maria Popova

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Abstract City
Christoph Niemann

Niemann is simply one of the best designer/illustrators practicing today. He never misses. —Ken Carbone

Christoph Niemann is one of today's most masterful visual communicators, his illustrations at once endlessly refreshing and profoundly familiar in their ability to capture the universality of the human condition. Abstract City gathers 16 of his New York Times visual essays, infused with his signature blend of humor and thoughtfulness, exploring everything from his love-hate relationship with coffee to his obsession with maps to the fall of the Berlin Wall. An additional chapter on his creative process presents the ultimate cherry on top. Maria Popova

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Adversarial Design
Carl DiSalvo

Assistant Professor of Digital Media at School of Literature, Communication, and Culture, Georgia Institute of Technology, Carl DiSalvo explores how design practice can be extended beyond usability and tangible objects, viewing the combination of interactive technology and design thinking as a means of political discourse. Both inspiring and provocative, the ideas brought forth in this new publication reveal the true potential of design and how critical practice can be used to address challenging issues in politics, society and beyond. Zara Arshad

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Architecture Concepts: Red is Not a Color
Bernard Tschumi

This hefty tome (776 pages, just shy of 7 pounds) spans five decades of Bernard Tschumi’s architecture and writing and reveals that plus-sized monographs—à la Rem Koolhaas’s S,M,L,XL—still have their place (Thomas Heatherwick: Making is another biggie worth commending). Across five sections in roughly chronological order, Tschumi recounts the creation of his varied output (from the Manhattan Transcripts to a zoo under construction in Paris). Curiously he writes in the second person, a tactic that is intended, among other things, to “draw the reader in,” and which ultimately is successful due to the text’s conversational tone and its thoughtful integration with numerous illustrations. John Hill

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The Art of Punk
Russell Bestley and Alex Ogg

You probably had to be there to gain maximum reward from this intensive immersion in British, American, and international punk graphics from the mid-1970s to the present—the most complete visual survey of its kind. Russ Bestley and Alex Ogg were fans and Bestley is now a design educator with a Ph.D. devoted to punk graphics. Their almost dispassionately scholarly text is spliced with eye-witness accounts by other punk participants, and the pages of the book vibrate with enough record sleeves, posters, flyers, and fanzines to make your eyes hurt. Rick Poynor

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Asia-Pacific Design No. 8
Sandu Publishing Co.

Asia-Pacific Design (better known as APD) is an annual publication by Guangzhou-based Sandu Cultural Media Co. Ltd and Design 360°: Concept and Design Magazine. Conceived in 2005, it has become well known for representing and promoting outstanding works by graphic designers throughout the entire Asia-Pacific region. Any publication that relies heavily on submissions is always susceptible to misrepresenting; however, APD filters and curates honestly, offering a charming and sincere visual account of Asia’s rising graphic design industry. Zara Arshad

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The Avant-Garde Applied (1890–1950)
Manuel Fontán del Junco, Richard Hollis, et al.

This 470-page catalogue, available in a fluent English translation, accompanied an exhibition at the Fundación Juan March in Madrid, and it remains to be seen whether it will receive wide distribution. Packed with images of 700 works, mainly from the collections of Merrill C. Berman and José María Lafuente, it is one of the most exhaustive and lusciously illustrated surveys of avant-garde graphic design yet published. At its center is a masterly “transverse reading” of experimental typography by Maurizio Scudiero, and British designer and historian Richard Hollis also provides a good overview. The catalogue closes with two insightful interviews with the collectors, whose curatorial vision has helped to focus attention on the achievements of avant-garde graphic design. Rick Poynor

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Bio Design
William Myers; Foreword by Paola Antonelli

Bees are chic right now: they design and build their own homes and make their food artisanally and naturally. Urban beekeeping is a way of enlisting nature that couldn’t be more in tune with the ideals of many designers today. We want our buildings and cities to be as natural as the honeycomb. For centuries, architects and designers have aspired to echo nature’s forms. Today, increasingly, their ambitions go further: to incorporate nature’s methods and materials into the work. This is the terrain surveyed in Bio Design: Nature + Science + Creativity. The book provides a thorough survey of natural design efforts from the visionary to the do it yourself. Most of the design projects surveyed offer environmental or social lessons; some of them border on artwork. A “blood lamp” devised by Mike Thompson of the Design Academy Eindhoven forces the user of the lamp to confront pain as a prelude to consuming energy. Its switch is based on luminol, the crime-scene chemical familiar from CSI-style television shows, and triggered by blood.Phil Patton

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Blown Covers: New Yorker Covers You Were Never Meant to See
Françoise Mouly

A fun book about what works and what doesn't work on a New Yorker cover. Ken Carbone

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The Book of Books: 500 Years of Graphic Innovation
Matthieu Lomen, ed.

The Book of Books is an über-book—a gallery of dozens of the most stunning book designs saved for posterity in the Special Collections of the University of Amsterdam. From Aldus Manutius to Herbert Bayer, from Andreas Vesalius to Quentin Fiore, these generously sized reproductions have enormous impact on the page. Only in its more recent selections does the survey seem to waver, though no one could argue with the inclusion of Joost Grootens or Irma Boom. It must also be said that The Book of Books’ design lacks the elegance its subject matter demands, particularly in the bold, excessively line-spaced chapter intros. Once sampled, though, the panoramic scope and cavalcade of masterpieces make this a volume that book design lovers and bibliophiles will find hard to resist. Rick Poynor

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Building Stories
Chris Ware

Chris Ware has had a thing for buildings for a while now, witnessed by Jimmy Corrigan, set against the backdrop of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and his collaboration with Ira Glass and Tim Samuelson on Lost Buildings, about Louis Sullivan and preservation in the same city. His latest, like George Perec’s Life: A User’s Manual, reveals the fictitious lives of a single building’s inhabitants by hybridizing a graphic novel with architectural drawings, a board game, pamphlets, and other formats. It is less a book than a world within a box, 14 “easily misplaced elements” without a beginning, an end, or a predetermined order. It is a melancholy treasure whose handmade panels beg to be handled. John Hill

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China’s Design Revolution
Lorraine Justice; Foreword by Xin Xinyang

Informed by extensive firsthand experience, former Director of the School of Design at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Lorraine Justice, dissects the state of Chinese design, from the influence of history and politics to cultural paradoxes. One of the very few (English) releases that handles the topic in a sensitive yet timely manner, this is a must-read for those wishing to grasp a basic understanding of the Chinese design industry. Zara Arshad

The rise of powerful manufacturing economies is commonly accompanied by stereotypes: those who make well are mere imitators—clever copiers, not real designers. It was true of Japan and Korea during their rise to industrial power. It was just as true of the United States, as the image played out in Great Britain in the 19th century with the American system of interchangeable parts supplanting craft-based British makers. And it has been true of images of China over the last few years. “Designed in California, Made in China” read the words on the back of the iPhone. But must design and manufacture be separate? That is one of the questions in the background of China’s Design Revolution by Lorraine Justice. Justice, formerly Director of the School of Design at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and now Dean of the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences at Rochester Institute of Technology, believes China is on the verge of a design revolution. The emergence of design in China is tied to the country’s rapid growth, and cultural shifts that Justice associates with the succession of generations in the country. China moved from a focus in the days of Mao on the “four basic goods” that Chinese households felt they could aspire to—the wristwatch, radio, sewing machine, and bicycle—to a new generation aspiring to living space and auto ownership and commensurate achievements. Justice outlines a generation of workers in their thirties and forties, with “more freedom to create—and to consume—than their parents or grandparents.” They came of age during the economic opening of the 1980s and 1990s and are now dedicated to self-expression in ways that promise to contradict clichés of China as a collectivist society and an imitative economy. But fostering creativity needed by designers as a needed value might seem in doubt as long as artists such as Ai Weiwei face politicial oppression. Phil Patton 

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City: A User’s Guide to the Past, Present, and Future of Urban Life
P.D. Smith

An exhaustively researched but thoroughly entertaining history of the city told in the form of a guidebook by one of Britain’s leading cultural historians. There is no aspect of the city that Smith does not cover, from cemeteries to skyscrapers to street food. Reading it is like being seated next to the most-informed, and most charming guest at your dream dinner party, someone with an endless font of facts enlivened by quirky and often hilarious anecdotes. Mark Lamster

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The Color Revolution
Regina Lee Blaszczyk

Today, the business of color choice is obscured by pop press reports of “the hue of the year” that tend to be dismissed as superficial. But the addition of color to the toolbox of the industrial designer (it had long been a tool of the fashion designer) was a major event. Thanks to the chemical industry, which flourished under the pressure of World War I, the chemistry and technology of color changed radically in the 1920. The causes and effects of that change are a key story in design history, told by Regina Lee Blaszczyk, Visiting Scholar in the Department of the History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania and an associate editor at the Journal of Design History.

The key shift came in the mid-1920s, when General Motors was able to use fast-drying, colorful DuPont enamels on its cars. Henry Ford had chosen his famous black because it dried quickly, in keeping with the rapid pace of his factories. From “any color you want as long as it’s black,” Chevrolet, Pontiac, and Buick could offer simply “any color you want.” (The first of the new offerings, incidentally, was a Pontiac blue.) GM began sending emissaries to the Paris fashion shows to scout palettes for future upholstery. One of them—and one of the many colorful color chosers to whom Blaszczyk introduces us—was H. Ledyard Towle, a former military camouflage expert who after World War I became an adviser to DuPont, then moved to Detroit in 1928 as General Motors’ first “color engineer.”

As in so many areas of marketing and design, Detroit led the way. After red Chevrolets and blue Pontiacs, the road was opened to avocado refrigerators and harvest gold stoves. Kodak was soon advertising its once black Brownies in multiple soft hues, and portable typewriters in mint green and salmon pink were found in showroom windows.

The change happened just in time for the arrival of the professional industrial designer. And it created the profession of color consultant, which Blaszczyk records. “Blaszczyk examines the evolution of the color profession from 1850 to 1970,” as the publisher summarizes it, “telling the stories of innovators who managed the color cornucopia that modern artificial dyes and pigments made possible. These “color stylists,” “color forecasters,” and “color engineers” helped corporations understand the art of illusion and the psychology of color.” The effects were wide-ranging: from the arrival of mauve in the fashion world to color in film or television, color again and again wreaks major changes. These effects are more than aesthetic: they are profound and existential, as caricatured in the film Pleasantville. Phil Patton

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Essay by Leonard Koren; Edited by William Hall

I am generally loath to recommend thematic door-stop picture books, but Concrete is the rare exception that warrants some praise. Making an argument for the sheer beauty and physical force of the "brutalist" architecture of poured concrete at a moment when so much of it is under attack and in peril, is a valuable service. This book carries off that task handsomely, pairing large-format images of exceptional international projects divided into categories that illustrate concrete's ability to shape mass, texture, light, and form. Koren's provides a thoughtful personal essay on concrete's underappreciated value. Mark Lamster

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Design Is a Job
Mike Monteiro

In my Notable Books of 2011 list, I mentioned A Book Apart, a new publishing company focused on creating short, useful books on designing websites. The latest volume is by Mike Monteiro, the San Francisco-based designer-slash-Twitter personality, which actually goes far beyond the web-design realm, and serves as an excellent primer for running a design business, or, I'd argue, any type of creative business. Easily devoured in an afternoon, the book is made even more enjoyable by Monteiro's refreshingly honest tough-love approach (not surprising from a man who gives lectures with his lawyer and is known for creating a painting that reads “Fuck You, Pay Me”). So many books like this are written by accounting types who want to “help” creatives, so Monteiro's work is long overdue: he's translated business basics back into the language of designers. And he does it with such a skillful sense of humor that it proves his other point: Running a business, like reading this book, can and should be fun. Alissa Walker

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Designing Information
Joel Katz

I began working with Joel Katz 40 years ago. We learned from observing each other, which allowed us to discover maps that lead to understanding. This volume is just that. The journey from not knowing to knowing is from ignorance to understanding, from complexity to clarification. This book was done by one of the few who have mastered what I used to call “information architecture,” and what I perhaps should have called “understanding architecture.” The book itself is a diagram of clarification, containing hundreds of examples of work by those who favor the communication of information over style and academic postulation—and those who don’t. Many blurbs such as this are written without a thorough reading of the book. Not so in this case. I read it and loved it. Richard Saul Wurman

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The Dutch Photobook: A Thematic Selection from 1945 Onwards
Frits Gierstberg and Rik Suermondt, eds.; designed by Joost Grootens

Despite some stiff competition, this survey of the Dutch photobook is my most notable visual book of the year to date. It is one of those groundbreaking publications (certainly for non-Dutch readers) that takes a field one knows only in fragments, puts it all together, and gives it new coherence—the obvious precursor is Martin Parr and Gerry Badger’s two-volume history of the photobook. The editors organize the photobooks by theme, each topic succinctly introduced—landscape, youth culture, industry, travel, the city—and give each example a page or two of pictures and a short text. Joost Grootens builds the layouts with real sympathy for the material, and rounds off the story with an elaborate visual index that shows the books on a timeline, and classifies them by photographer, designer, physical size, and size of print run. A marvelous book. Rick Poynor

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Louise Fili

For more than three decades, graphic designer Louise Fili has been producing some of the most consistently exquisite typography, frequently hand-drawn and building upon thoughtfully curated vintage sources. In her decade as art director for Pantheon Books, she created nearly 2,000 book jackets, each with remarkable attention to detail. Since 1989, she has expanded and extended her singular lens to restaurant menus and food packaging through her namesake design studio. The new monograph Elegantissima: The Design and Typography of Louise Fili offers, for the first time, a sweeping look at Fili’s work and the philosophy behind it. But Fili’s greatest gift is perhaps the extraordinary ability to seek out vintage gems—and to do so with great taste — which she then reimagines and combines into entirely new designs that aren’t mere homage to the past but, rather, an entirely original visual language with an entirely original point of view. Maria Popova

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The Fractalist: Memoir of a Scientific Maverick
Benoit Mandelbrot

From 1960s tie-dye to contemporary NASA photos, fractals have emerged as the characteristic pattern of the last 50 years. Like God’s own paisley or chintz, they live at the micro as happily as the macro level and they’ve become the symbolic imagery of complexity and emergence theory in economics and culture. Behind fractals, of course, is Benoit Mandelbrot, whose memoir—The Fractalist: Memoir of a Scientific Maverick—has been published by Pantheon. A show of Mandelbrot’s work currently appearing at the Bard Graduate Center Gallery in New York suggests the huge influence fractals have had on design and thinking about design. “The Islands of Benoît Mandelbrot: Fractals, Chaos, and the Materiality of Thinking,” curated by Nina Samuel, remains in the BGC Focus Gallery through January 27, 2013. Phil Patton

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FUSE 1-20: From Invention to Antimatter—Twenty Years of FUSE
Neville Brody, Jon Wozencroft, and Adrian Shaughnessy

FUSE, instigated by Neville Brody and Jon Wozencroft, was one of the most inventive and challenging typography projects of the 1990s, though curiously sidelined in its day and not much remembered since. There was a clear need for a book to collect the quarterly publication’s work and reassess its contribution, and the entire project is here, dressed up in a brown box like the original floppy disk and poster sets. New FUSE fonts, such as Jonathan Barnbook’s mysterious Rattera pictograms, can be accessed by password on the TASCHEN website. In this chunky, detailed retrospective, FUSE is presented very much from its founders’ point of view. The one thing missing is a critical and historical overview to cement the venture authoritatively within the lineage of the “applied avant-garde.” Rick Poynor

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The Future Will Be…China
Hans Ulrich Obrist, curator; Karen Marta and Philip Tinari eds.

Serpentine Gallery, London figurehead Hans Ulrich Obrist interviews over 100 China-based creatives on their thoughts about the future; valuable “not for what it predicts about the future, but for what it tells us about the moment during which it was assembled.” Contributions from both established and rising stars such as Ai Weiwei, Ma Yansong, Jia Zhangke, Chen Man, Masha Ma, Wang Shu, and Zhu Pei. Zara Arshad

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Girls’ Fashion in Japanese Manga
Mana Takemura

Japanese manga has been a subject of critical inquiry, or a subject of desire, for many male scholars, including Hiroki Azuma. However, there have been hardly any books on girls’ fashion in manga from the female perspective. Characters appearing in manga dress themselves to construct a narrative (reminding me of what Walter. J. Ong argued in relation to “orality”) about themselves. Are manga illustrators just as creative as fashion designers? This book introduces the relationship between characters and fashion to provide a unique perspective on girls’ manga and fashion design. Daijiro Mizuno

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Graphic Design: A History, 2nd Edition
Stephen J. Eskilson

When Stephen J. Eskilson’s Philip Meggs-challenging history of graphic design appeared in 2007—then subtitled A New History—it drew some heavy fire from critics at Design Observer. Just five years later, a substantially overhauled new edition has arrived, suggesting that the book succeeded in finding an audience. Eskilson has made necessary corrections, expanded the sections on Swiss, postmodern and contemporary design and the bibliography, and added 75 new images. His book is well illustrated, cleanly laid out, and the mass of text is readably presented—vital in a production on this scale. For anyone seeking a broad, serviceable introduction to graphic design history, these refinements add up to strong competition for the latest (posthumous) edition of Meggs’s survey. Rick Poynor

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The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City
Alan Ehrenhalt

Most recent books of cities tend to be breathless accounts by civic boosters. Ehrenhalt avoids facile generalizations—People are Returning to the City!—and instead takes a close look at how specific American cities are changing, both demographially and physically. He focuses on eight metropolitan areas, finding complex patterns that vary from place to place: gentrification, suburban densification, downtown invention, and resistance to change, as well as stagnation. Witold Rybczynski

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Herb Lubalin: American Graphic Designer (1918–81)
Adrian Shaugnessy

Herb Lubalin admirers have waited a long time for a reassessment of his achievement and it’s been clear for a decade or more that typographic taste has re-embraced once unfashionable Lubalinesque styles. Detailed research leads Adrian Shaughnessy to conclude, in a long, adroitly paced biographical essay, that Lubalin was a far more noteworthy and less commercially driven figure than he imagined when he threw out his old copies of U&lc. Unit Editions’ book, designed by Spin, is a gorgeous, meticulously reproduced compendium that does everything in its power to win over the unconverted to Lubalin’s cause. Rick Poynor

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Janik Coat

In her children's book debut, French graphic designer Janik Coat teaches the progeny of the design-inclined about opposites and basic spatial, dimensional, and aesthetic vocabulary through a minimalist red hippo-hero, who remains charmingly catatonic throughout the book. With unexpected parallels and contrasts and a simple semiotic sensibility, Coat explores fundamental concepts in simple yet whimsical ways. Maria Popova

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Diane Keaton; text by J.D. Waldie

It’s no secret that Diane Keaton is an architecture junkie: The Academy Award-winning actress has become a fixture at Los Angeles preservation events and has restored several notable homes across the city. Her previous book, California Romantica, was a luscious love letter to the Spanish Colonial and Mission residences that dot the Southern California landscape, and with House, Keaton broadens her aesthetic focus, moving beyond one region and style to examine how contemporary design defines the way we live now. Through the work of whimsical residences by architects like Annabelle Selldorf and Tom Kundig, one theme emerges: designers have the power to see the potential in our most forgotten spaces and materials, and transform them into a home. semiotic sensibility, Coat explores fundamental concepts in simple yet whimsical ways. Alissa Walker

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How to Make a Japanese House
Cathelijne Nuijsink

Japanese houses are some of the most popular pieces of architecture today, witnessed by a nearly endless stream of inventive designs found on blogs and in magazines. This book highlights more than 20 unmistakably Japanese houses designed by three generations of the country’s architects. Loads of insight into the issues behind the innovative designs—regarding the clients, cultural aspects, urban planning, etc.—comes through in interviews with the architects, carried out by Nuijsink after she moved from the Netherlands to Japan. John Hill and also recommended by Nathalie de Vries

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Ikko Tanaka and Future/Past/East/West of Design
Kazuko Koike

Ikko Tanaka was a graphic designer and a founding member/art director of MUJI. 21_21 Design Sight, a design museum in Tokyo, organized an exhibition to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of his death. This book serves as an exhibition catalogue with contributors including Tadao Ando reevaluating Tanaka’s achievements in design. Daijiro Mizuno

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Imperfect Health: The Medicalization of Architecture
Giovanna Borasi and Mirko Zardini, eds.

Just about every exhibition these days is accompanied by a print catalogue, but very few are valuable artifacts in their own right. This companion to the Canadian Centre for Architecture’s exhibition of the same name expands upon the gallery content through the inclusion of essays also focused on the relationship between architecture, cities, and health—a rarely explored topic ripe for investigation. The juxtaposition of visual imagery and academic writing accentuates the differences between the many takes on the topic, some direct but many subtly nuanced. John Hill

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Information Graphics
Sandra Rendgen and Julius Wiedemann, eds.

Information design books abound, but count on TASCHEN to take a common publishing trope and elevate it both in concept and in execution. Weighing in at 8 pounds, this lavish, ultra-large-format, 480-page tome by art historian Sandra Rendgen explores the four key aspects of visualizing data—Location, Time, Category, and Hierarchy—through exemplary work from more than 200 projects, alongside essays by information architect and TED founder Richard Saul Wurman, Guardian Datablog editor Simon Rogers, Density Design’s Paolo Ciuccarelli, and Rendgen herself. Maria Popova

Instant: The Story of Polaroid
Christopher Bonanos

A charming illustrated biography of Polaroid and its founder, the progressive visionary Edwin Land, whose philosophy and products served as models for Steve Jobs and Apple. This is the rare design-themed book that has a conventional story arc—an almost miraculous rise, followed by immense success, and then a catastrophic fall—and Bonanos tells it with sympathetic but gimlet-eyed intelligence. There is much to be learned from this story about both how to and how not to think about the making of objects, and the running of design companies, at all scales.Mark Lamster

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I Saw a Peacock
Ramsingh Urveti

For the past 17 years, Indian publishing house Tara Books has been giving voice to marginalized art and literature through a commune of artists, writers, and designers collaborating on remarkable handmade books. This die-cut masterpiece two years in the making is based on a 17th-century British “trick” poem and illustrated in the signature Indian folk art style of the Gond tribe by Indian artist Ramsingh Urveti. Each line of the “trick verse” builds upon the previous one, flowing into a kind of rhythmic redundancy embodied in the physical structure of the book as each repeating line is printed only once, but appears on two pages by peeking through exquisitely die-cut holes that play on the stark black-and-white illustrations. Thus, if read page by page the way one would read a traditional book, the poem sounds spellbindingly surreal—but if read through the die-cuts, a beautiful and crisp story comes together. Achieving this required a remarkable level of ingenuity in order to make the conceptual structure of the poem fit the physicality of the book as a storytelling artifact—a true feat by Japanese-Brazilian RISD designer Jonathan Yamakami.Maria Popova

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Japan Japanese
Helmut Schid

Helmut Schmid is a graphic designer born in Austria in 1942. Currently Schmid lives in Japan and continues to work vigorously. Without question, his book Typography Today, released in 1980, is one of the most significant contributions to the development of typographic design in the last few decades, but Japan Japanese is also a unique book, which revisits Schmid’s early work (1968–73) on the Swiss typography and photography magazine Typografische Monatsblätter. As a look at the precursors to the contents of Typography Today, this book offers a visual historiography of contemporary typography. Daijiro Mizuno

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Katsuji Wakisaka: Japanese Textile Designer
Katsuji Wakisaka

A biography of a Japanese textile designer who worked for prominent textile design firms such as Marimekko and Larsen. After working over 40 years as a textile print designer, Wakisaka currently designs for SOUSOU, a fashion brand based in Kyoto. This book is a full of inspirational sources—over 10,000 of them—celebrating Wakisaka’s long and successful career. Daijiro Mizuno

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La Formentera: The Woodland Refuge of Juan Montoya
Photographs by Eric Piasecki; Introduction by Karen Lehrman Bloch

This is important because it is so beautiful. Formentera, named for the Spanish island where interior designer Juan Montoya once lived, is a 110-acre site near the Hudson River town of Garrison, New York. There is, of course, an interesting house with skillful interiors, but the emphasis here is on nature—trees, forests, streams and ponds, subtly augmented with sculpture, walls and walks. Idyllic. Stanley Abercrombie

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Logo Life: Life Histories of 100 Famous Logos
Ron van der Vlugt

It takes a special kind of creative alchemy to transmute image into icon and catalyze a cultural cult driven by a commanding brand identity. Logo Life: Life Histories of 100 Famous Logos from Dutch publisher BIS and creative director Ron van der Vlugt offers exactly what it says on the tin, covering brands as diverse yet uniformly enduring as Apple, LEGO, Adidas, Google, Xerox, and VISA. Each short chapter traces the visual evolution the respective brand logo, zooms in on noteworthy milestones in the company’s trajectory, and highlights first-hand accounts and curious anecdotes by the logo designers. Maria Popova

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Lowrider Space: The Aesthetics and Politics of Mexican American Custom Cars
Ben Chappell

Sports cars like Porsche can spawn near fanatic cults—even among designers. So can lesser vehicles, such as the 1960s Chevrolets that serve as the basis of Texas “lowriders”—hydraulically modified and painted cars created in Mexican American communities. This book looks at what might be called the anthropology of design and customization. It is written by Ben Chappell, an assistant professor of American Studies at the University of Kansas who spent time with groups of lowriders in Austin. He reports that early ‘60s Chevys are the quintessential lowriders. “A ‘61 to ‘64 Chevy Impala would be perfect. And there are practical and mechanical reasons for that. The frame of the Impala is really good for hydraulics. It’s a very solid car. There are lots of flat surfaces for murals. But it also represents the past to people whose families were entering the middle class in the ‘60s. That was a time there was more consciousness about Mexican American identity, and people trying to become more visible in American society.

Just as motorcycle gangs have morphed from semi criminal outfits to more social ones, the gangs with which lowriders are associated in pop culture are frequently anti gangs—alternatives to less savory outfits in the same neighborhoods. The cars form a basis for local clubs that function like the backers of teams or hunting or social clubs. “If you have a hydraulic suspension, you can actually make the car bounce, you can ride on three wheels, you can do all kinds of tricks that really make it stand out in traffic or at a car show. That’s the signature modification that defines a lowrider.” Car customization is a social medium too. Phil Patton

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Machine Art, 1934
Jennifer Jane Marshall

The first history of MoMA's landmark Machine Art show of 1934, which set a standard for design exhibitions that remains a pervasive influence nearly 80 years later. This book recovers the show's backstory and context, especially the roll of photographer Ruth Bernhard, though its writing and conclusions sometimes veer into overly theoretical academicism. Mark Lamster

Makers: The New Industrial Revolution
Chris Anderson

In November 2012, MUJI held an exhibition entitled “Patterns of Furniture in Tokyo” and last year Droog mounted the exhibition “Design for Download” in Milan. Why are these design firms sharing and selling digital data? Because digital manufacturing (digital fabrication) is changing the role and meaning of design and designers. Chris Anderson, the former editor-in-chief of Wired magazine and the author of Free and The Long Tail, introduces the Maker Movement, the rise of a new kind of DIY through digital fabrication: how 3D printers, 3D scanners, Computer Numerical Control Cutting Machines, and laser cutters can democratize the way we design, make, share, and sell things. Makers sketches the future of design. Daijiro Mizuno

Mirko Ilić: Fist to Face
Dejan Kršić; Preface by Milton Glaser; Introduction by Steven Heller

Substantial monographs about contemporary designers don’t come along that often and this one about Mirko Ilić bursts at the seams with the man’s energy, generosity, loquacity and sense of danger. Yugoslavia—as it was then—was never going to be big enough to contain him and he went on to take New York by storm with op-ed illustrations and design concepts of uncompromising directness, and no inhibiting qualms about good taste. Croatian writer Dejan Kršić does a great job of relating the story and the book is packed with the provocative, high-octane images that make Ilić one of a kind. Rick Poynor

The New Art of Landscape: Conversations between Xin Wu and Contemporary Designers
Xin Wu, with contributions by Diana Balmori, Kongjian Yu, Bernard Lassus, Patricia Johanson, Erik Dhont, Maya Lin, Paolo Bürgi

This is a Chinese publication that presents in-depth interviews with contemporary landscape architects, with bilingual text in Chinese and English. The interviews cover landscape artists from different parts of the world. Diana Balmori

Norman Bel Geddes Designs America
Donald Albrecht. ed.

Norman Bel Geddes Designs America accompanies the first major exhibition about Norman Bel Geddes (1893–1958), at the Harry Ransom Center at University of Texas in Austin.

Bel Geddes began in theater. He became the quintessential industrial designer of the founding generation—the pop apotheosis of the profession—but Raymond Loewy, Walter Dorwin Teague, and Henry Dreyfuss ended up better known and more highly respected. At the height of his career Bel Geddes was already the object of joking New Yorker cartoons and covers. Curator Donald Albrecht traces Bel Geddes’s career in this first full volume about him. Running through the story is the theme of theater: dramatic effects were the stuff of Bel Geddes’s earliest work, in costumes and sets for stage, and the keynote to his work in products and presentations. His designs for hardware participated in the same melodrama as his dramaturgy. His buildings and technology were more Amazing Stories magazine cover than serious proposals. There were the pod-like cars, thousands of which were deployed in the Magic Motorways of the Futurama display for the General Motors Highways and Horizons exhibit at the New York World’s Fair of 1939–40. There were amazing visionary multi-engine airliners and ocean liners. It turned out that there was a mundane reality behind all of these: the freeway traffic jams and the crowded aisles of Boeing jumbo jets or Carnival cruise lines. But dramatized and futurized, it was technological opera. Bel Geddes’s approach is seen in miniature in the cover of his book Magic Motorways, where the type is shadowed and stretched like figures in a film noir set. The present book looks behind the wizard’s screen, with never-before-seen drawings, photos, films, and models from the Ransom Center collection. Essays by 20 scholars accompany the images. The exhibition called “I Have Seen the Future: Norman Bel Geddes Designs America” opened in Austin in September and will travel to the Museum of the City of New York in 2013. Phil Patton

The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design
Editors of Phaidon Press

Every once in a while, along comes a book-as-artifact that becomes an instant, inextricable necessity in the life of any graphic design aficionado. This season, it’s The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design—an impressive, exhaustive, rigorously researched, and beautifully produced compendium of 500 seminal designs spanning newspapers, magazines, posters, advertisements, typefaces, logos, corporate design, record covers, and moving graphics, examined through 3,000 color and 300 black-and-white illustrations in their proper historical and sociocultural context. Though the concept is hardly novel, wedged somewhere between 100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design and Bibliographic, the book-in-a-box execution holds a rare kind of mesmerism, its dividers inviting you to organize and explore the wealth of design legacy by designer, subject, chronology, or alphabetical order. Maria Popova

Photo Gallery of Good Buildings: West
Building Mania Cafe

While Japan in the 1950s to the 1970s was under the strong influence of the United States, Japanese architects and designers developed new movements like Metabolism and Anonymous Design to visualize the their future. Osaka, as a host city of World Expo 1970, is still filled with various “modernistic” buildings. This book revisits those old futuristic buildings and reintroduces its design details. Fun to read as inspirational design source, cultural anthropology, or architectural history. Daijiro Mizuno

Porsche: Origin of Species
Karl Ludvigsen

A Venn diagram of designers and Porsche fans reveals a major overlap. Sober, businesslike design academics or executives turn into positive Bieber buffs when the subject of the quintessential German sports car comes up. As respectably modern as a Braun coffee mill or Vitsoe shelving system, a Porsche 356 or 911 possesses the additional advantage of being speedy and sensual. These are the people who will enjoy Karl Ludvigsen’s latest Porsche book, from Bentley, the auto book publisher. Ludvigsen is highly regarded by automobile collectors and historians; his three-volume Porsche history, Porsche: Excellence Was Expected, is standard. One such collector is comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who is very serious about his sports cars. (He constructed a special garage for them, at great expense, in Manhattan.) Seinfeld has written a foreword to Porsche: Origin of the Species. The book, arriving in the year that F.A. Porsche died, tells of the early days of the Porsche company, in Gmund, Austria, and the birth of the mythic 356. Phil Patton

The Postcard Age: Selections from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection
Lynda Klich and Benjamin Weiss

Leonard Lauder, like so many postcard collectors, fell in love in childhood with the distant times and places the cards evoke. But unlike most collectors, he had the wherewithal to assemble a great collection of them. In the process, he helped raise awareness of the cards above the dusty dingy hobbyist sales world. Today, we can see the cards as the Twitter or better Pinterest feed of their time and therefore an invaluable inexpensive time capsule of the world of the early 20th century. The notes on the back of the cards are revealing, too: many are mundane appointment reminders or greetings—the e-mail of great cities with twice- or thrice-daily mail delivery in the years before universal telephony. Leonard Lauder donated a selection of his cards, a group produced by the Wiener Werkstätte, to his brother Ronald Lauder’s Neue Galerie in New York, devoted to Germanic art and design. The Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Collection is likely the world’s best, and samples architecture, art, commerce, and the incidental surrealism of the medium. Phil Patton

Quay Brothers: On Deciphering the Pharmacist’s Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets
Ron Magliozzi and Edwin Carels

The Quay Brothers, twins from Pennsylvania who live in London, are two of the most visionary artists working in film, and this catalogue accompanied an exhibition at MoMA. They began by studying illustration and, alongside the film stills, the book includes little-seen examples of their designs for books and posters. Like their films, the graphic work seems to emanate from some uncanny middle Europe where expressionism and surrealism are conducting a weird embrace. An essential volume for admirers, it includes two projects by the brothers, including a fanciful conversation with a 16th-century lettering artist. Rick Poynor

The Raw and the Cooked
Peter Bialobrzeski

Photographer Peter Bialobrzeski takes us on a voyage through Asian megacities in this large-format book, moving from the periphery to the center, from what will be torn down to what will replace it; moments of tension between the two are particularly striking. By placing the key to the names of the cities at the back of the book, we don’t perceive the difference between one place and the next; a fictional city results. In this Baudelairean stroll, night looks like day and the cities have never looked so simultaneously complex and beautiful. John Hill

The Shape of Design
Frank Chimero

I first wrote about Frank Chimero's book over a year ago, when he mounted an incredible Kickstarter campaign to fund it. Chimero raised over $112,000, funding his project in four hours, then going on to almost triple his goal. The book gets so many things right before you even get to the words: it's a beautifully designed, hardback, self-published (in the U.S.!) entrepreneurial success, which made me want to buy it just so I could see the result. But the actual writing is also fantastic. Chimero offers intelligent meditations on the motivation for designing, and looks far outside of the design world for examples, drawing anecdotes from musicians and chefs, and illustrating theories with references ranging from 18th-century haiku masters to Wall-E. Chimero writes a lot about the connections between design and jazz, and that's what his writing reminds me of most: it’s lyrical, rhythmic, soulful. It was a book that I didn't want to end. Alissa Walker

The Shape of Green
Lance Hosey

Architect and author Lance Hosey mines the history of ideas—Aldo Leopold, Christopher Alexander, Diane Ackerman, E.O. Wilson, among many others—to shape an argument about the aesthetics of sustainability. It’s a convincing argument that moves from the small scale to the large, from forks and cars to landscapes and cities. Architecture makes up the bulk of the book, but the whole undertaking works well in bringing form and appearance into discussions that tend to focus solely on performance as an indicator of sustainability. John Hill

Sign Painters
Faythe Levine and Sam Macon

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. From members of the legendary San Francisco sign shop New Bohemia to artists like Stephen Powers to tradesmen like Doc Guthrie who teaches a vocational class in downtown L.A., Levine and Macon capture the spirit and resurgence of a craft which nearly disappeared forever. A documentary also produced by Levine and Macon will be released next year. Alissa Walker

The Style of the Stedelijk
Frederike Huygen

The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, one of Europe’s major art institutions, has a long commitment to the sensitive application of graphic design. In this engagingly focused, dual-language study, in the Premsela Design Story series, Dutch design historian Frederike Huygen examines the innovations of Willem Sandberg, a graphic designer who, in 1945, became the museum’s director, as well as contributions by Wim Crouwel, Anthon Beeke, Walter Nikkels, and Experimental Jetset. An accompanying film by Lex Reitsma documents the development of the Stedelijk’s latest visual identity by Mevis & Van Deursen before it reopened in 2012. Rick Poynor

Terunobu Fujimori: Architect
Hannes Rössler and Michael Buhrs, eds.

Published on the occasion of a retrospective exhibition at Museum Villa Stuck in Munich, this book is a welcome addition to the few titles on the Japanese architect who started practicing architecture at the age of 42, after two decades of teaching architectural history. Fujimori’s distinctly personal architecture balances his long view of architecture (especially his appreciation of prehistoric “standing stones”) with a desire to wrap modern buildings in nature. It’s great to have documentation of over 20 of his completed projects in one place, alongside urban planning projects, photos from the Street Observation Society he started with artist Genpei Akasegawa, and essays by prominent architects and writers. John Hill

Thanks for the View, Mr. Mies: Lafayette Park, Detroit
Danielle Aubert, Lana Cavar, and Natasha Chandani, eds.

It’s safe to say that the Lafayette Park housing development near downtown Detroit is not one of Mies van der Rohe’s more well-known works, but the treatment that it is given by the trio at Placement (in their first project) should change that and make it the most readily understood building in his oeuvre. This well-researched and designed compilation of all-new interviews, essays, and photographs, accompanied by archival material, paints a vivid picture not only of the buildings and landscapes but also of the residents and how they see and live at Lafayette Park. It’s an enlightening picture of a modernist oasis that is greatly appreciated and cared for by its residents. John Hill

To Forgive Design: Understanding Failure
Henry Petroski

“Forgive” seems an odd word to find in a title, especially of a book about design. But there it is: To Forgive Design: Understanding Failure is Henry Petroski’s most recent volume of several on failure.

Henry Petroski, of course, is an engineering professor at Duke who, in addition to his classic history of the pencil and contemplation of ordinary small objects, wrote To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design and Success Through Failure: The Paradox of Design.

The titles help us look at the uneasy border between engineering (which is arguably Petroski’s real subject) and design in some wider sense. This is an important line although it risks raising many old and misleading divisions. (The Apple Samsung patent case also touched this issue, as does the legal distinction between engineering patent and design patent.)

Engineers tend to be deeply suspicious of aesthetics. Petroksi’s account of the famous failure of the Tacoma Narrows bridge suggests why. “Galloping Gertie,” as the suspension bridge was nicknamed, is famous from an old strip of black-and-white film in which winds set off a steadily amplifying wave motion. Eventually, the bridge shakes itself to failure.

But Petroski’s version of the familiar story is different. It was not simply miscalculation or failure to consider physical effects that led to the failure, he says. It was not “unknown unknowns.” No, Petroski blames over confidence and self importance on the part of engineers—and their aesthetics. He argues that “engineers can be blinded by fashion.” In the 1930s, he says, bridge engineers had come to think that solid older bridges, exemplified by the Brooklyn bridge, were clunky and homely. They came to prefer a new aesthetic of slender, ribbon-like designs, such as the George Washington bridge. It was not just because such bridges were lighter and less expensive to build that engineers moved toward them, Petroski writes, but because they looked more attractive. And inevitably they sacrificed function to this form: like a too-thin fashion model, Gertie was a victim of her own desire to look slender.

Looking at the failure of design has become something of a cliché in academia, but Petroski shows that it remains critical. What about the failures of non-engineering design? Or can engineering be defined as the part of design whose failure can be easily identified—while that of aesthetics cannot? There are many flavors of failure: failure to sell in the marketplace, failure to achieve affordable price, failure to last, failure to be maintainable or sustainable. But what of failure to imagine? Failure to dream? Phil Patton

Torre David: Informal Vertical Communities
Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner, eds.

This amazing book—part architectural monograph, part urban planning analysis, part screenplay-waiting-to-happen explores in essays, plans, and photographs the incredible story of Torre David, a skyscraper that was abandoned in the wake of the Venezuelan banking crisis—and then transformed in 2007 into a 45-story city that now houses more than 750 families. Within the building are supermarkets, hair salons, churches, playgrounds, and parking lots. Torre David, the authors argue, “with its magnificent deficiencies and remarkable assets, gives us the opportunity to consider how we can create and foster urban communities.” Allison Arieff

Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet
Alex Blum

When I told people I was reading a book on the physicality of the Internet—the colocation centers, undersea cables, and yes, tubes that carry our emails, Facebook statuses, and YouTube videos to our desktops—I usually got a smirk. Under anyone else's guise, Tubes would have been a really dull read. But the witty and engaging Andrew Blum turns this topic into a global adventure, a Verne-esque Journey to the Center of the Internet, if you will, filling the pages not with boring treatises about “packets” and “rack units,” but the plucky personalities who move our data. Plus, in a book that's so much about place, he’s meticulous about setting each scene, noting temperatures, colors and scents—yes, the Internet smells!—with graphic detail, which makes these locations catapult off the page and into your subconscious. Since I’ve read the book, I think about Tubes every day, as I try to look for signs of the Internet as I move through our busy world. I can’t think of another book which has changed my worldview like that. And this book does it in a truly delightful way.Alissa Walker

Underground: How the Tube Shaped London
David Bownes, Oliver Green, and Sam Mullins

The world’s first—and probably most iconic—underground railway celebrates 150 years next year (2013). This new, official publication captures the story of its creation, blending social history with “the story of the pioneering engineers, designers and social reformers who created the system, reflecting on the problems of keeping a fast-growing city on the move.” A fascinating insight into the evolution of not just the London Underground and its identity, but also of the character of London itself.
 Zara Arshad

Understanding Architecture
Robert McCarter and Juhani Pallasmaa

The authors of this primer on architecture contend that experience “is the only valid means of evaluating a work of architecture.” Of course, a book’s reliance on photographs means that the visual takes precedence in one’s appreciation of buildings and spaces. To help overcome this predilection, each of the 72 works in this sweeping view of architecture spanning millennia is accompanied by a floor plan that locates the photographs and traces the body’s movement through the spaces. Photos are also keyed within the texts, which are rich in description and analysis, going well beyond the simple formal descriptions in Phaidon’s contemporaneous 20th Century World Architecture atlas. John Hill

A Visual Inventory
John Pawson

England’s famously minimalist architect and designer here shares not his recent work (although some details of his own London house are included) but 260 full-page images from the hundreds of thousands he has collected around the world. I find it fascinating to see what has attracted and inspired him. Some things are, as expected, minimal—one of them just a streak of light on a wall—but many of them, such as a Gothic Revival stair by George Gilbert Scott, not minimal in the least. Stanley Abercrombie


Walkable City
Jeff Speck

As the former design director for the National Endowment for the Arts, and co-author of the bible-like Suburban Nation, Jeff Speck has spent a lifetime helping American cities work better. Yet for all the innovation he witnessed, the greatest change always came from a return to one of our simplest actions: walking. Using real-world case studies (and an accessible, blissfully non-academic voice), Speck argues that a “walkable city”—a dense, urban environment designed with pedestrians in mind—is not only a nicer, healthier place to live and work, but can serve as an economic driver for the U.S. As new pedestrian plazas and car-free festivals proliferate across the country, the timing could not be better for Speck’s highly entertaining and inspiring vision for getting our country back on its feet. Alissa Walker

Wendell Castle: Wandering Forms
Wendell Castle; Text by Alastair Gordon; Foreword by Evan Snyderman

Wendell Castle isn't a household name, but maybe it should be. Castle was a pioneer in making furniture as three-dimensional sculpture, first with anthropomorphic carved wood pieces and then in candy-colored molded plastics. Alastair Gordon tells this story with great affection and sympathy in a beautifully made book. Mark Lamster

The Where, the Why, and the How: 75 Artists Illustrate Wondrous Mysteries of Science
Jenny Volvovski, Julia Rothman, and Matt Lamothe; foreword by David Macaulay

No, it's not a handbook for cub journalists but rather a beautifully designed book that brings scientists and artists together to explain the “wondrous mysteries of science.” All I can say is “thank you.” I want to know how stars are born, how much of human behavior is predetermined, and how migrating animals find their way back home (especially as the parent of an inquisitive first-grader). And I can’t tell you how much easier and more pleasurable it is to grasp such concepts when they’re accompanied by such incredible illustrations. I especially appreciate the perspective of the book’s authors who were inspired by the charts and diagrams created at a time when the scientific world was still very much in early development. Back then, visual explorations helped impart a greater understanding of natural phenomena. Accordingly, the introduction applauds the plethora of information set before us but gently urges the reader that “before you do a quick online search for the purpose of the horned owl’s horns, you should give yourself some time to wonder.” Excellent advice. Allison Arieff

Wiel Arets: Autobiographical References
Robert McCarter; Designed by Irma Boom

One of the greatest feelings with a book is to know that it is something special even before cracking it open. Such is the case with Irma Boom’s methodical yet lovely design of this book on Dutch architect and educator Wiel Arets. Located somewhere between a monograph and a theoretical treatise, the book’s mix of projects, lectures, debates and interviews is carefully organized through color-coded tabs across five chapters. Thankfully the quality content is deserving of such a design. John Hill

Wim Crouwel: A Graphic Odyssey (Japanese edition)
Tony Brook and Adrian Shaughnessy

It goes without saying that Wim Crouwel is one of the greatest graphic designers of the 20th century. This book—a Japanese edition of the London Design Museum exhibition catalogue originally published by Unit Editions* and now out of print—celebrates more than 60 years of Crouwel’s designs, including his rigorous grid system, typographic designs such as the New Alphabet, and museum exhibitions. *A digital version of the catalogue for iPad, with enhanced content such as a video interview with Crouwel, has been produced this year by Unit Editions. Daijiro Mizuno

Writing About Architecture
Alexandra Lange

If I could hand-pick someone to write the handbook for my profession, it would be the passionate, provocative, prolific Brooklyn-based architectural critic Alexandra Lange. In her singular voice, Lange essentially allows us to sit in on her lectures for the graduate classes she teaches at New York University and School of Visual Arts, including entire pieces by famous critics—like Herbert Muschamp's legendary review of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao—followed by comprehension questions. But even those of us who don’t aspire to make a living off our writing will benefit from reading Lange's book. While her intent is to educate the next generation of architectural critics, she is also focused on expanding the profession—building an army of citizen critics. Those of us who live in buildings should not only decide how we feel about a particular building, she explains, we should actively aspire to make the building, the block, the neighborhood, better. Writing About Architecture purports to be a textbook, but it’s really Lange's highly personal guide for any urban dweller on how to experience, explain, and improve our cities. Alissa Walker


We’ll be adding new books throughout December, so be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to Designers & Books to receive e-mail updates. Abrams and Laurence King Publishing are marking the season with special book offers for Designers & Books readers, including on selected Notable Books of 2012 (more publishers to come).

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