8 design books you should read this summer

My recipe for a good summer day includes a morning reading, a picnic in the park, and a cocktail at sunset. I’ll leave the last two up to you, but if you’re willing to indulge in the first ingredient, we’ve put together a list of eight design books we’re excited about. From fashion to branding to architecture, there’s something here for everyone, whether you’re in a creative practice or just interested.

Peace designs

Peace designs

How can design pave the way for peace? An exhibit at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, highlights 40 tangible ways designers can help resolve conflict and promote justice. An accompanying book — Designing Peace: Building a Better Future Now — expands on the topic with essays, interviews, and maps that explore the critical role designers can play in nurturing peace. Edited by the curator of the exhibition, Cynthia E. Smith, the book includes essays by UN Deputy Secretary General Michael Adlerstein, among others. $45; now available.

Somewhere Yes

Somewhere Yes

The oldest form of branding dates back to 2700 BC, when farmers branded their cattle with hot irons. Since then, branding has grown into a gigantic practice that can foster connectedness and foster division. Somewhere Yes: The Search for Belonging in a World Shaped by Branding takes you on a visual exploration of that dual power, arguing that branding isn’t about ownership (like livestock), but about belonging. Written by Brooklyn-based designer and creative director Beat Kaspar Baudenbacher, the book is a perfect crash course on branding and how it’s used today. $21.95; now available.

Random lines

Random lines

Zoning debates used to be relegated to developers, city planners and policymakers, but with house prices rising and inequality even more pronounced, the issue has gone mainstream. In Random lines: how zoning broke the US city and how to fix it?, M. Nolan Gray argues against zoning, arguing that it stifles growth and innovation — and exacerbates racial and economic inequality. In a particularly illustrative chapter, he examines the largely unzoned city of Houston, using it as a case study for how cities can thrive without zoning. $30; now available. —Aimee Rawlins

Viral Cultures

Viral Cultures

As COVID-19 swept through the US, it was not uncommon to hear people say, “We have never experienced a pandemic before.” This, of course, was not true, ignoring the fact that AIDS is far from a distant memory for many. Viral Cultures: Archiving Activists in the Age of AIDS examines AIDS archives from the 1980s and 1990s – the documentation and records collected by activists at “breaking pace” during the height of that pandemic. Marika Cifor shows how these materials play a vital role in understanding and commemorating the crisis, as well as providing a window into how some stories are elevated while others are marginalized. It’s a particularly striking analysis, given the disparities exposed by COVID-19 — and the systemic structures that exacerbated both pandemics. $27; now available. —AR

Plastic unlimited

Plastic unlimited

That the world is drowning in plastic waste is not news to anyone. But despite the global movement to fight plastic pollution, the demand for plastic is still rising. In Plastic Unlimited: how companies are fueling the ecological crisis and what we can do about it, sociologist Alice Mah argues that the current situation does not arise from poor waste management or poor consumer choices, but from pure plastic production. However, the goal to stop producing more plastic has been thwarted by petrochemical and plastic companies fighting to protect their markets and denying the risks. Ultimately, the book is a fiery analysis of the plastics industry, but it also draws attention to the heart of the problem: the capitalist need for boundless growth. $19.95; on sale July 26.

Inventor of the future

Inventor of the future

Buckminster Fuller has been hailed as one of the greatest minds of our time. Now the visionary architect — most famous for his geodesic domes and flying car designs — is the subject of a revealing new biography by Alec Nevala-Lee, who also wrote biographies of science fiction writers John Wood Campbell Jr. and Isaac Asimov. Drawing on dozens of interviews and thousands of unpublished documents, Inventor of the Future: The Visionary Life of Buckminster Fuller paints a rich portrait of the architect’s tumultuous life, including his fraught relationship with his students, as well as the origins of his most famous innovations. including the Wichita House – a self-sufficient prefabricated house – and the zeppelin-shaped Dymaxion car. $35; on sale August 2; now available for pre-order.

What shall I wear?

What shall I wear?

Claire McCardell is not a household name, but she should be. She was a designer in the 1940s and 50s who shaped American fashion by creating women’s clothing that was both aesthetically pleasing and easy to wear during an active life. She popularized the ballet flats, the spaghetti straps and the mix-and-match items. In 1956 she published What Shall I Wear? The What, Where, When, and How Much of Fashion, a manifesto that expressed her belief that it is possible to be stylish no matter your budget or lifestyle. The book is now a classic and will be back in print next month for the first time in years, along with a new foreword by Tory Burch, whose Spring-Summer 2022 collection is inspired by McCardell. $24.99; on sale August 30; now available for pre-order. —Elizabeth Segran

Science Illustration

Science Illustration

Information can be passed on orally or in writing, but graphic images also play an important role in transferring knowledge. Science Illustration: A History of Visual Knowledge From the 15th Century to Today contains over 300 such images. From Galileo’s detailed watercolors of the moon to Florence Nightingale’s statistical diagrams of war casualties, the oversized volume highlights more than six centuries of scientific discoveries in the fields of anatomy, physics, astronomy, mechanics and more. At 436 pages, it is a beautiful tribute to illustration and the ability to translate knowledge for a wide audience. $80; on sale in September; now available for pre-order.


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