15 design books to read this fall

Dee Yonker

It’s that time of year, folks. Days are getting shorter, pumpkin spice lattes are beckoning once again, and Vogue’s fashion checklist is already making the rounds. It’s also the perfect time to pick up a new book (or 15) as we creep, ever so slowly, toward the season of yellow leaves. We’ve compiled a list of the most exciting new reads to get your creative juices flowing, with books on everything from the architecture of Chanel to the history of the pixel. Happy reading!

[Image: Penguin Random House]

Creative Acts for Curious People

Coming to you from Stanford University’s world-renowned Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, aka “d.school,” this new book, subtitled How to Think, Create, and Lead in Unconventional Ways, is full of practical exercises designed to spark creativity in the face of uncertainty. Curated by executive director Sarah Stein Greenberg, the book was honed in the classrooms of the d.school, so you can expect almost two decades’ worth of memorable stories and insights from the school’s history. $25.76; available for preorder

[Image: Abrams]

Innovation by Design

Shameless self-plug: In Fast Company’s new book published by Abrams, editor-in-chief Stephanie Mehta and a team of Fast Company editors highlight the people, companies, and trends that have placed design at the heart of business conversation. With a focus on sustainable and socially conscious design—and a foreword by Design Matters host Debbie Millman (who has her own book coming out this fall; we’ll have more on that soon)—Fast Company Innovation by Design: Creative Ideas That Transform the Way We Live and Work is an urgent read for anyone looking to harness the power of design. $40; available for preorder

[Image: Princeton Architectural Press]

Dressing the Resistance

Here’s why you will like Dressing the Resistance: The Visual Language of Protest Through History: first, because it weaves historical and current protest movements across the globe with the power of clothing to fight for radical change; and second, because it will give you the most obscure trivia knowledge of the dresses American suffragettes wore (they were made of old newspapers printed with voting slogans). And third, because it includes a foreword by Ane Crabtree, the costume designer of The Handmaid’s Tale. $27.95; coming soon

[Image: MIT Press]

Designing Motherhood

The designed objects surrounding the many aspects of motherhood—from birth control to childbirth and beyond—vary from archaic to iconic. Written by Michelle Millar Fisher and Amber Winick, this book features 80 of these objects, including a Snugli baby carrier, tie-waist skirt, and home pregnancy kit. Through striking visuals and compelling stories, Designing Motherhood: Things That Make and Break Our Births illustrates the vital role design plays in the arc of human reproduction. $44.95; out this week

[Image: Princeton Architectural Press]

Baseline Shift

This book is for students and practitioners of graphic design, but also for anyone with an interest in women’s history (which should mean everyone). Baseline Shift: Untold Stories of Women in Graphic Design History showcases auteurs, advocates for social justice, and creators ahead of their time, from a calligrapher during Harlem’s Renaissance to the invisible drafters of Monotype’s drawing office. $27.50; coming soon

[Image Phaidon]

Woman Made

James Brown may have been singing about a man’s world, but if this book teaches us anything, it’s that we are living in a world designed by women. Featuring more than 200 female designers from more than 50 countries, Jane Hall’s Woman Made: Great Women Designers is a glorious visual celebration—and the most comprehensive, fully illustrated book on women designers ever published. From icons like Eileen Gray to contemporary trailblazers such as Faye Toogood, the book shines a long-overdue spotlight on these women and the extraordinary objects they made. Sorry James, it’s a woman’s world after all! $59.95; available for preorder

[Image: Giphy]

Frame By Frame

This limited-edition book, courtesy of Giphy, features 35 holograms, stickers, and image flips that replicate the experience of a digital GIF in a print format. Futuristic and nostalgic at once, Frame by Frame celebrates independent artists and reimagines the poignancy of GIFs in a world outside our phones. Talk about a technology reversal! $75; available in limited quantities online and at select bookstores in Brooklyn

[Image: MIT Press]

A Black Gaze

Contemporary Black artists are dismantling the white gaze. This book is an exploration of that process, through the lens of contemporary Black artists like Deana Lawson and Kahlil Joseph. Curated by Tina Campt, a professor of humanities and modern culture and media at Brown University, A Black Gaze: Artists Changing How We See demands that we see Blackness anew. $29.95; available now

[Image: MIT Press]

A Biography of the Pixel

Alvy Ray Smith, cofounder of Pixar, is here to dispel everything you thought you knew about pixels. In his latest book, the computer scientist argues that the pixel is the unifying principle of most modern media. From Fourier waves to Turing machines to the first digital movies from the likes of Pixar and DreamWorks, Smith will take you on a journey of a particle so inherent to the modern image it’s easy to forget it even exists. $39.95; available now

[Image: Princeton Architectural Press]

Big Data, Big Design

The subtitle—Why Designers Should Care About Artificial Intelligence—reveals the message of this book, which was written by professor Helen Armstrong and designer Keetra Dean Dixon, and looks at the world of machine learning and artificial intelligence through a design lens. Through interviews, essays, and theory, Big Data, Big Design provides designers with the tools they need to harness the potential of AI and ML—and put it to good use. $29.95; coming soon

[Image: Taschen]


A whopping 500 illustrations spanning photographs, sketches, and plans make up this visually stunning monograph of Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. Titled Kuma, Complete Works 1988–Today, the book is a celebration of Kuma’s approach to sustainable architecture and his focus on traditional craft. From his Great Bamboo Wall house to his design of the Japan National Stadium for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, his work is likely to inspire anyone with an interest in sustainable design. $200; available now

[Image: Taschen]

Gio Ponti

This unprecedented tribute offers a fascinating glimpse into the life and vast catalog of work of Italian architect Gio Ponti, who was instrumental in Italy’s midcentury renaissance. This biographical book spans more than six decades and 136 projects—many of which have never been published before. Gio Ponti: The Complete Work, 1923–1978 is a real gem for anyone with a design sensibility. $250; available now

[Image Phaidon]

The Architecture of Chanel

The mention of Chanel has always conjured sophistication and elegance, but how is that feeling translated into a building? American architect Peter Marino has designed 16 Chanel stores worldwide, from Chicago and New York to Istanbul and Hong Kong. With more than 300 images, architectural plans, and original sketches, this book is a stunning celebration of the long-standing collaboration between Marino and the fashion powerhouse that is Chanel. $125; available for preorder

[Image: Princeton Architectural Press]

Two Hundred and Fifty Things an Architect Should Know

“How to live in a small room with five strangers for six months.” “Something about feng shui.” “What the planet can afford.” These are some of architect Michael Sorkin’s invaluable observations, tips, and bits of advice for fellow architects. Sorkin died from COVID-19 complications last year. This posthumous collection, paired with 100 photographs, illustrations, and archival images of his work, is a practical, poetic, and playful compilation of the knowledge he amassed in his career. $19.95; coming soon

[Image: Thames & Hudson]

Yves Béhar: Designing Ideas

In his first book, industrial designer and entrepreneur Yves Béhar presents a comprehensive retrospective of his 20-year career. Project by project, Béhar talks us through how each of his designs came to light—from his Leaf Lamp for Herman Miller to Proteus, the underwater ocean learning center he has envisioned for Fabien Cousteau, the famed French explorer’s grandson. In many ways, this book can be understood as an exploration of what constitutes design in contemporary culture. $85; out this week

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