Penny Sparke
Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, Halifax, 2010; originally published 1995, English
Nonfiction, Product/Industrial Design
ISBN: 9780919616516

From the Publisher. In this book Penny Sparke argues that “taste” has been a quality assigned to women while “design” is a man-made construction that has taken aesthetic authority away from women. She uses familiar objects of our everyday environments—furniture, cars and domestic appliances and interiors—to look at how taste has become a gendered issue in our culture. Ever since the industrial revolution, the cluttered interior has been associated with femininity while the minimal forms of modernist architecture have acted as markers of a masculine aesthetic. This in turn has succeeded in trivializing and marginalizing women’s material culture. Ranging across histories of domesticity, feminine consumption and home-making, as well as modern design and broader cultural theories, Penny Sparke offers a rethinking of the history of our modern material culture.

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Chris Bangle

This is a fantastic book for anyone who doubts the infallibility of modernism, or who harbors a secret admiration for pop and kitsch. I am sure it is too one-sided to make for a good textbook in design schools, but I enjoyed it, learned from it, and really respect Sparke for writing it.

I am eternally indebted to Alec Bernstein from Designworks USA for turning me on to this masterpiece, along with three others on my list—An Essay on Typography, The Nude, and Poetics of Music in the Form of Six Lessons. He’s a smart guy.

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