Dan Formosa

Product/Industrial Designer / United States / Smart Design

Dan Formosa’s Book List

I included some design and non-design books in my list. All of them have been influential, although for some books, direct connections may not be obvious.

13 books
Arthur J. Pulos

Published in 1983, this is great book on design. 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.

Bruce Nussbaum

I jumped immediately into the pre-publication copy I received. This book provides an insightful look into creativity both within and outside the corporation. I’ve referred many people to it.

James Collins

A look at pretty-good companies that have been in existence for decades, and (suddenly) became great. Personal discussions about the many companies I consult with conjure up various principles discussed in Jim Collins’s book.

Charles E. Osgood

First published in 1957 and written for psychologists, it’s a bit difficult to get through. But it’s a great look at early (and still relevant) methods of measuring and understanding perceptions and emotions.

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.

Chas Williams

A nice look at the way working musicians get around the complexity and limitations of traditional music notation—which is a god-awful example of information design.

Harold McGee

This is a significantly sized textbook on food history and science. Brilliantly written, it contains a wealth of interesting facts about the things we cook and eat. While it delves deeply at times into food chemistry, it is extremely easy to follow. I find myself quoting its many factoids in lots of daily conversations (maybe because I know a lot of people who talk a lot about food).

I’m a big fan of wheel charts. Jessica Helfand’s book contains brilliant examples.

Fritjof Capra

Not a new book, but a thought-provoking introspection of Eastern thinking, and its relevance to science.

The printed page can be a beautiful thing. But it often isn’t. Ellen Lupton’s book discusses fonts and page layouts, and has many examples. And of course the book itself is nicely designed.

Edward R. Tufte

This (and Edward Tufte’s subsequent publications) should be required reading for everyone, everywhere. The ability to both think and communicate visually is critical to understanding in all fields.

Malcolm Gladwell

This, and other books by Malcolm Gladwell, are great not just because of the interviews and topics covered but also because of the writing style, which makes you feel like you’re standing side-by-side with the author and interviewees during their conversations.

Charles Seife

A fascinating look into the origins of the number system, and how math emanated from a desire to understand nature. It discusses how culture evolved accordingly. Also addressed is how the fear of zero (along with a fear of too much science), through the religious beliefs of the Catholic Church in Europe, curtailed the advancement of civilization. The book evokes thoughts about how a fear of math today—or at least an avoidance of quantitative techniques in the field of design—may be having similar effects.

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