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Design by Nature, by Maggie Macnab


In her new book Design by Nature, Maggie Macnab addresses the importance of metaphor in communication using the natural world as a starting point. For an abstract thought or concept, meaning can sometimes be expressed faster by pairing two superficially dissimilar ideas than by trying to explain it directly using the physical sciences. Consequently, metaphor has existed as a tool for conveying thought since human beings first began to examine the conceptual relationships that underpin our world...



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The Portfolio Handbook: A Guide to Creating Your Design Portfolio


ID books rarely show process, yet portfolio presentation requires the viewer to understand the underlying thinking in a matter of seconds. Meanwhile, most ID schools don't run those students through the paces of Photoshop or InDesign that is requisite for putting their work in the best light. With The Portfolio Handbook, the University of Cincinnati Class of 2012 asked people in-the-know how a portfolio should be structured so you wouldn't have to.



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Learning Curves by Klara Sjolen and Allan Macdonald


While there are plenty of books on figure drawing and fine art in bookstores, precious few appear on the art of design sketching. Learning Curves is Klara Sjolen's follow up to her 2005 book Design Sketching. Students at the Umea Institute of Design generated the content of the earlier book, while the more recent book showcases the output of working designers...



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The Toaster Project, by Thomas Thwaites


Somewhere between a travel romp and an investigation of the modes of production in a modern capitalist society, The Toaster Project tracks his quest to build an entire appliance "from scratch." The sad little toaster he built appears on the cover and looks more like a poached egg than a modern convenience, but by the time the narrative is finished, it's pretty clear that it was a quickly-scrambled quest to get it to look like anything at all...



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Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits, by Debbie Millman


Our Book Editor Robert Blinn analyzes Millman's interviews with the likes of Grant McCracken, Malcolm Gladwell and Karim Rashid, and how Brand Thinking encapsulates the conflict inherent in branding today.



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Open Design Now


We have never reviewed a book this rich in content and new ideas. Of course, Open isn't the work of one author either. Instead, it includes articles by and interviews with design luminaries such as Joris Larman, collectives like Droog, manufacturing pioneers Bre Pettis, open design commentators and lawyers that we promise you haven't heard of but will be thankful to read...



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Paul Jackson's Folding Techniques for Designers


To hear reviewer Daniel Stillman tell it, Paul Jackson has been pushing the boundaries of origami for years. "As a boy, I geeked out to many of his awesome models—his horse from an equilateral triangle first offended me for its lack of purity (origami was from squares!) but won me over for its elegance." Nevertheless, Stillman isn't afraid to offer constructive criticism in his fair analysis of what is ultimately an excellent book...



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Dieter Rams: As Little Design As Possible, by Sophie Lovell


Phaidon's new monograph on Dieter Rams follows closely on the heels of 2009's Less and More and the observations we made there on the man's life remain true. Indeed, just as both titles try to translate his design ethos "weniger, aber besser," into English ("less, but better"), both monographs attempt to distill a man's life and work into photographs while also making it clear that this is a man who wants his work to speak for itself. Nevertheless, author Sophie Lovell's unprecendented access to Rams's archives and home yields some additional insights...



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Car Guys vs. Bean Counters


In his book, Car Guys Versus Bean Counters, Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman in charge of product development, chronicles the very wary GM of 2001 through it's first still-born turn-around, it's acquisition by the American and Canadian governments and it's new born success since 2009. Reviewed by Ray Jepson.



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A Taxonomy of Office Chairs, by Jonathan Olivares


We review Jonathan Olivares' dissertation on the taxonomy of office chairs examining every detail of a curated set of chairs presented along with full-color photographs in chronological order. Each picture includes a brief description, along with references to the novel features it embodies and page references to the detailed feature set section, which comprises the bulk of the book. If that's not enough, wait till Olivares' goes into "full geek mode" with breakdowns of chair bases, armrests and more...



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Disrupt: Think the Unthinkable to Spark Transformation in Your Business by Luke Williams


Luke Williams' new book Disrupt opens with a quote from Jerry Garcia, so you know it's going to be different: "We do not merely want to be the best of the best. We want to be the only ones who do what we do." That said, Williams' core thesis is not a new one: The only way for a business to succeed is to cultivate disruptive innovation, even if it disrupts their existing business...



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Hella Jongerius: Misfit


Phaidon's new monograph of Hella Jongerius, Misfit, is a text and photographic extension of her love of "misfit" products that defy appearances of mass production despite being mass produced. Its quirks are apparent from right off of the bat, from the non-traditional binding to the transparent shapes on the cover that the user can employ to "customize" the cover image vase. Like enamel on a vase, the lines have weight and are echoed in the string used to hold the book together...



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Usefulness in Small Things, by Kim Colin and Sam Hecht


In Usefulness in Small Things, Industrial Facility's Kim Colin and Sam Hecht share their "Under a Fiver" collection. The premise of the collection is simple. As Hecht puts it in his introduction, "As I continued to travel, I made sure to wander through any local hardware stores, pharmacies or supermarkets I came across, finding low-cost objects that told me something about where I was." The resulting array is a delightful antidote to the image-based work so popular on the Internet...



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The Industrialization of Design, by Carroll Gantz


Carroll Gantz's The Industrialization of Design is the first history of design we've seen in quite a while and also serves to explain the diminished status of industrial design in this country as compared to Europe. The book opens tracking the "Twin Revolutions" in industry in the United States and Britain, walking the reader from the origins of design in both countries into the seamless multinational production effort that is most ID today....



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Cult-ure, by Rian Hughes


Rian Hughes' new book Cult-ure is bound in faux leather and gold trim. The biblical references don't stop there, as the author handily provides a fabric page marker for the reader to keep track of what page/psalm they're on. Interestingly, the yellow and black dust jacket barely covers the front. On the back of that caution-strip, explanatory prose clarifies the allusion, stating that Cult-ure is meant to be "Gideon's Bible for the boutique hotel."...



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1000 Product Designs, by Eric Chan/ECCO Design


1000 product designs in the realm of chairs, lighting, kitchen gadgets, furniture, office accoutrements and everything in between. Although we know that a picture is worth 1000 words, this book proves that design is a word that can be told in a thousand pictures...



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Staging Space, by Robert Klanten


Gestalten released Staging Space a compilation of the 'scenic interiors and spatial experiences' late last year. It's quite a thorough volume, covering a broad cross-section of categories, split into many sections including office spaces, exhibition design, scenographic environments and spatial explorations. Chapters begin with a short forward, putting the work in context in a general sense, and each following entry is left open to the readers interpretation with a short, easily digestible description...



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Exposing the Magic of Design, by Jon Kolko


Kolko's book is subtitled "A Practitioner's Guide to the Methods and Theory of Synthesis," and this reviewer joked that it sounded like an undergraduate film or semiotics course. Exposing the Magic of Design is blunt, direct, serious and self-assured. At less than 200 pages and full of diagrams, processes and methods, Kolko certainly didn't have time for any hand-holding. In this era of easy distraction, Exposing the Magic's interaction design requires complete attention. Perhaps that's the way the author meant it...



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Living with Complexity, by Donald Norman


A photograph of Al Gore's messy office opens Donald Norman's new book Living with Complexity. At first this reviewer looked at the office and the piles of paper in judgment and then began to realize that the very man campaigning against messing up the environment had a rather messy desk. Donald Norman might differ. Living with Complexity takes the theses offered in his earlier books and extrapolates them from the world of goods into the world of service providers...



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Designing Media, by Bill Moggridge


We're jealous of Bill Moggridge's social network...which is a rather meta way of expressing that his new book Designing Media, about the divide between traditional and virtual media, includes interviews with an amazingly diverse range of fascinating, talented and powerful people. True to the occasionally awkward mashup that is print media in the digital age, Moggridge's book includes an additional DVD of the actual interviews themselves...



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Victore or, Who Died and Made You Boss, edited by James Victore


James Victore's new monograph is so slick that a stranger on the subway asked us what we were reading because he "needed a new book." The design strikes such a careful balance between craft and irreverence that has the same appeal as the cool kid in school that never followed the rules but still graduated on time. And the cover painting sandwiches those uncommon pages between a carefully defaced oil painting festooned with Victore's trademark hand illustrations...



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Box, Bottle, Bag, by Andrew Gibbs


Although it's broken into six chapters, including Luxe, Bold, Crisp, Charming, Casual and Nostalgic, frankly, it's all pretty luxurious (even "Ugly Mug Coffee"). Instead, those categories serve to denote which cultural signifiers the designers wanted for their products. With the printed word harking back to Gutenberg and the development of script reaching even further into history, modern day graphic and package designers have an broad and deep lineage of visual forms to chose from....



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Vending Machines: Coined Consumerism, by Christopher Salyers


While the sale of used panties in a vending machine might be due primarily to cultural factors, what can't be denied is that Japan's demographic trends (urban population density and an aging populace coupled with technological sophistication and relative affluence) point toward where most First World countries may be headed in the near-future...



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Innovation X, by Adam Richardson


So, with business sold on the merits of design, the future's never looked better for a working designer than now, right? Well, relatively early in the book, Richardson provides an eye popping analogy to America's favorite pastime. In baseball, we no longer see batting averages above .400 (40%), although at the turn of the last century, we did. Times have changed...



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Priceless, by William Poundstone


One might hope that the real estate bubble and 2008 bust might shatter once and for all the myth of the rational consumer, but unfortunately our profligate ways don't show any signs of slowing. John Stuart Mill coined the term homo economicus, to refer to an idealized human consumer who always behaved with rational self interest. Salespeople, however, whether hawking Cadillacs or Gucci loafers, have long realized that J.S. Mill was a little off the mark...



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Design Meets Disability, by Graham Pullin


a book called Design Meets Disability isn't the first thing that a "fashionable" designer might pick up off the shelf no matter how sexy amputee/paraplegic Aimee Mullins happens to be, nor how gorgeous Cutler and Gross's eyewear advertisements appear ... and that, um, short-sightedness is rather unfortunate...



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Women as Design and Cars, by Stephen Bayley


With a brief note of full disclosure that I too love both Women and Cars , let's commence with an actual discussion of both books, but first to telegraph my conclusion: Each book would have been far more interesting if its subject matter had been tackled with the other book's thesis...



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Glimmer, by Warren Berger


Idealistic designers can't simply push "good" design into the marketplace, but often presume that transformative design can be done at the drafting table instead of understanding that manufacturing product is only the beginning (or maybe even that a manufactured product is the problem). Consequently , after reading a multitude of "Business = Design" books, this reviewer was thrilled to read the term "wicked problem" about halfway through.



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Deconstructing Product Design, by William Lidwell and Gerry Manacsa


William Lidwell and Gerry Manacsa take 100 (mostly) iconic products and hold them up to the scrutiny of a panel of modern design thinkers. For a hard-core industrial designer, deconstruction as disassembly might have been more interesting than deconstruction as critical analysis. Although it could have revealed some hidden engineering mysteries, our desire to see Segways in pieces and Tickle Me Elmo eviscerated may have to wait for another book.



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Baked-In: Creating Products and Businesses that Market Themselves, by Alex Bogusky & John Winsor


Imagine a famous product designer saying, "It's critical that companies wake up to the fact that the product itself is the most powerful brand-building and business tool they have." I doubt this would make much news. It's something a lot of us have probably said and agree with, but the problem seems to be when we say it, it appears too self-serving or falls on deaf ears. This time is different. This time we aren't saying it, Ad men are.



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Change By Design


The crux of what Brown is getting at is what McKinsey & Company referred to as the "T-Shaped" person, where the vertical axis represents the depth of the skill set that forms their core competency. Valuable design thinkers, however, "cross the T," holding not only deep familiarity with their core role, but also a disposition for collaboration across enterprises.



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A Fine Line: How Design Strategies are Shaping the Future of Business, by Hartmut Esslinger


While not exactly summer beach reading, Hartmut Esslinger's new book on Design Strategy, A Fine Line crams as many ideas, themes and disparate story arcs into its 180 pages as a Dan Brown novel. For the first few chapters Esslinger follows the tried and true business book methodology of using real world examples to illustrate lessons in leadership and strategy.



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Classic Cars: 100 Years of Automotive Ads, by Jim Heimann and Phil Patton


The collapse of the US auto industry stands as one of the national tragedies of this generation, but it also provides boundless opportunities for ironic reflection when looking through a book like Heimann and Patton's Classic Cars. The first time we opened their book of historic auto ads, it revealed a blue '67 Olds Toronodo, complete with a matador against a red background, framed against the caption, "After you've walked off with all the honors, what do you do for an encore?"



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Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams


Anyone who thinks that minimalist or clean product design begins and ends with Jonathan Ive would be well served to check out the latest exhibit on Dieter Rams. Unfortunately, the exhibit in question was already held at the Suntory Museum in Osaka, Japan—but the contents of the retrospective have also been catalogued in a book, Less and More available in limited numbers through the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.



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I Miss My Pencil, by Martin Bone and Kara Johnson


No strangers to industrial design, both authors work at IDEO, with Bone as design director and Kara Johnson leading the materials team. A series of 12 projects done for the sheer joy of creation, I Miss My Pencil reads like a student's wet dream of industrial design 101. The book is broken into three sections: Aisthetika, which deals with sense and experience, Punk Manufacturing, which combines craft and mass production, and Love+Fetish, which might be enough to titillate any objectophiles out there.



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Rethinking Sitting, by Peter Opsvik


While the Aeron looks like it could have been inspired by H.R. Giger's Alien and sports levers that promise comfort, the sparse Scandinavian design of Opsvik's chairs belies their versatility. Most chairs are composed of simple bent birch and cotton padded supports, with nary a lever to be found, but once a human being sits on it, the chairs deform, flex and rock into a variety of positions. While sitting in one of his chairs for an extended period of time remains the most visceral way to understand his designs, Rethinking Sitting does an admirable job of presenting ergonomics to those of us in less comfortable postures.



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Sketchbooks: The Hidden Art of Designers, Illustrators and Creatives, by Richard Brereton


Historically, artists have often self-edited their sketchbooks by tearing out pages or censoring their output. While it's hard to discern exactly what editorial oversight Richard Brereton performed when he chose which particular plates would make it into his compilation of sketchbooks by design professionals, he clearly did not limit his search to classically drawn figures. Instead, Sketchbooks presents a diverse range of styles, subject matter, and even artistic skills, and that's a good thing.



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Design is the Problem, by Nathan Shedroff


"This isn't a book about sustainable design. Instead, it's a book about how the design industry can approach the world in a more sustainable way. Design is interconnected—to engineering, management, production, customer experiences, and to the planet. Discussing and comprehending the relationship between design and sustainability requires a systems perspective to see these relationships clearly....."



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New Skateboard Graphics, by J. Namdev Hardisty


For a graphic designer or a product designer interested in applique, New Skateboard Graphics is an eyeful. In the foreword, Michael Leon explains the realities of the modern sales environment where the consumer tends to observe the boards with the bottom graphics visible at a distance on a wall or in miniature in a catalog. Hardisty follows up with a short essay on the two-way connection between the branding of the company and the aesthetics of the riders, but from there it's all about the graphics.



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Design Disasters: Great Designers, Fabulous Failures, and Lessons Learned, edited by Steven Heller


There's no reason why every finished design can't be built from a cornucopia of failures, so much so that perhaps the very nomenclature of failure needs to be reconsidered. Perhaps we designers have already subliminally assimilated this lesson. After all, most people I know don't call it failure, we call it process. For me, success and failure are the same things, just on a different timeline.



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Women of Design, by Bryony Gomez-Palacio and Armin Vit


Looking at the actual work contained within, I couldn't help but notice that stereotypes about the feminine aesthetic seemed to apply more broadly to the client than the designer, which strongly indicates that the capacity of a designer to produce good work for a client has little to do with gender.



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The L.A. Earthquake Sourcebook, designed by Stefan Sagmeister and edited by Gloria Gerace


Amazon's publicity blurb for The L.A. Earthquake Sourcebook bills it as "the coolest earthquake preparedness-book ever published," which I imagine to be true, but I also can't think of much competition. A collaboration between Stefan Sagmeister and The Art Center College of Design in association with the L.A. Earthquake Get Ready Project, the Sourcebook juxtaposes essays by experts like FEMA Director James Lee Witt with excerpts from authors like Joan Didion.



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The Big Necessity: Adventures in the World of Human Waste, by Rose George


George asks why such a fundamental aspect of our designed lives remains on the margins of polite conversation. After all, she points out, Le Corbusier called the toilet "one of the most beautiful objects industry has ever invented." Its purpose is unremittingly crucial. "The toilet is a physical barrier," she writes, "that takes care of the physical dangers of excrement."



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Manufractured, by Steven Skov Holt and Mara Holt Skov


Clearly, there's something about using human detritus that's uniquely resistant to industrialization, and work like Splan's seems more suited to the Gugenhiem than to the Cooper-Hewitt, but it still provides a valuable commentary on human society (e.g. Why does a skin negligee seem utterly unmanufacturable, when we've already done such a marvelous job industrializing the skinning of cows, lizards and some small furry mammals?)



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Wired to Care, by Dev Patnaik with Peter Mortenson


The concept of "needsfinding" seems unique to our consumer culture. True needs like air, sleep or hunger announce themselves with neurochemical fury, tearing animals away from what they think they should be doing and dragging them into the immediacy of their body. So when we industrial designers talk about the customer's undiscovered needs and how our products can address them, we should admit to ourselves that needsfinding, as we know it, is an oxymoron.



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