I sometimes think our world has become to big. We are surrounded by millions of objects and messages, all screaming for our attention, to be used or to be purchased. I’m a packaging junkie. It isn’t a wonderful thing to admit but if a design spends enough time on the packaging of an object – tasteful colours, appropriate imagery, decently kerned copy and, of course, some textured element – there is a very good chance that I will buy that product. I realised that what draws me to great packaging is the detail and visual story telling. Someone sat and made directed and contextually relevant decisions to create something beautiful with a devastatingly low survival rate (let’s face it, how many of us keep packaging). The human consideration in packaging, as with product and services, is something that makes me feel connected to the process of production. At the same time it reminds me of how wasteful our world is. The need to feel connected is becoming shockingly more difficult in our world. Books, like great packaging, make me incredibly happy. When I read a great book about designers or design I feel connected to their process and views. Great authors help one make sense of the world by offering alternative views, personal interpretation and case based evidence. There are so many amazing books out there on the topics of design and design for development that I often feel sad, as I know I will never be able to fully explore them all. So, in order to simplify things a bit I offer you my top 5 book to read in the new year. Some new, some old, some about philosophy, some about practice but all iconic. They tell the story of creative innovation and design, the need to be connected and the need to really see the world around us…
1. Thoughts on Design by Paul Rand (1947). This book, published over 50 years ago, captures the philosophy and views of the icon designer Paul Rand. I fell in love with Rand’s Swiss Style of typography. The book explores his views on functionality and aesthetic, and documents his views on design which can clearly be seen in his later designs such as the IBM logo.
2. Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change by Victor Papanek (first published in 1971). Today this book is on the compulsory reading list for my Industrial Design students, and many more I am sure. They usually end up discussing how such a powerful piece of work is still relevant today, even more so maybe. With the provocative start of the book stating: “There are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a few”, the book strips away the covers of consumerism and irresponsible production to reveal Papanek’s views on a more sustainable future. Revolutionary then, necessary now and key to our future.
3. The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman (first published 1988). In this book Norman explores the functional requirements of products and adds a new dimension to J.J. Gibson‘s term affordances. He also explored the term ‘user centred design’ and the importance of putting users at the very centre of the design and conceptualisation process.
4. No Logo by Naomi Klein (first published 1999). This book will change the way you look at your world. I find it hard to believe that it has been than 15 years since this book was published. Klein takes a hard look at the second economic depression (which we have all felt in some way since the publication of the book). The power of capitalism and the ultimate cost is explored. The 2010 special publication is also amazing and well with the read.
5. The Language of Things by Deyan Sudjic (2009). Sudjic, the director of the Design Museum in London, explores our world and the human desire to fill their world with objects. He reflects on a world ‘drawing in objects’. Witty, humorous and sometimes personal Sudjic exploration of this topic is unmissable.