edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 1/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
Material ConneXion: The Global Resource of New and Innovative Materials for Architects, Artists, and Designers
by George M. Beylerian and Andrew Dent, edited by Anita Moryadas
Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, $80
288 pages, 2,000 illustrations
Having led his own innovative furniture company for decades and worked as the creative director for Steelcase, George M. Beylerian says he was "driven" to match the discoveries of science to the needs of designers. The result was Material ConneXion, one of the most helpful ideas of recent years—with a combination gallery, library, and showroom in New York and similar establishments in Milan; Cologne, Germany; and Bangkok.
Beylerian's vision and accumulated wisdom now take book form, divided into categories that give an idea of the book's scope: carbon-based substances, cement, ceramics, glass, metals, naturals, and polymers. (The photography is so fine that the textures of even carbons and polymers come across.) In addition to showcasing thousands of materials, Beylerian offers opinions, predictions, and wish lists from gurus such as Zaha Hadid, Sheila Hicks, Gere Kavanaugh, Carl Magnusson, Massimo Vignelli, and Kevin Walz. There's also a brief bibliography, and a valuable glossary. Your library should stock this book—and any updates that might follow.
Cracking the Whip: Essays on Design and Its Side Effects
by Ralph Caplan
New York: Fairchild Publications, $35
Hidden behind an extremely annoying cover with intentionally illegible type, 63 delightful essays consider what design—any kind of design—can be and do and mean. Ralph Caplan has a clear eye, a subversive wit, uncommon sense, and a killer instinct for the perfect phrase. These brief pieces, which have appeared previously in a number of design magazines, "rove freely from hardware stores to fashion to pasta and corporate culture," as he explains in his preface. "They report on the verticality of New York City, on tourism as a lifestyle, on art, craft, and the imperfections of bathrooms." Buy this book, wrap it in brown paper, and savor every word.
Humble Masterpieces: Everyday Marvels of Design
by Paola Antonelli
New York: Regan Books, $22
209 pages, 200 illustrations
Paola Antonelli, curator of architecture and design at New York's Museum of Modern Art, has produced a sweetheart of a book based on MoMA's 2004 exhibition of the same name. As her introduction puts it, "Everything is designed, one way or another." Yet some things are so familiar that they seem to have always been with us: the lead pencil, the crochet hook, the whisk, chopsticks, marbles. Antonelli revels in these simple, anonymous objects as well as the more recent innovations that we take for granted, including Post-it Notes, Q-tips, ice-cream cones, and double-chambered tea bags. Not only are we reminded of the pushpin, but we also learn who designed it, why, and how. The eclectic collection even recognizes the not-so-essential wonders of the Slinky, the Swiss army knife, and the Kikkoman soy-sauce dispenser. All these examples have design stories, and Antonelli has impressively ferreted them out, making this one of those surprising books we never imagined we needed, but we do.
What They're Reading...
Principal of Valerio Dewalt Train Associates
Design Denied: The Dynamics of Withholding Good Design and Its Ethical Implications
edited by Michael LaCoste, introduction by Stanley Tigerman
Chicago: Archeworks, $25
120 pages, 13 illustrations
The product of a three-year study by students at the design school Archeworks, this book "reminds us that design should make life better, not just better looking," Valerio says. "In our culture, good design is demanded by the elite, but the masses are taught that it's either too expensive or too difficult to understand—creating the myth that good design is almost un-American."