The perfect industrial design book
August 20, 2006 3:27 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a gift: the perfect book on industrial design for my brother.

For my brother's 21st birthday I'd like to buy him a book about something to do with industrial design. Problem is, I know next-to-nothing about the subject. He's currently doing a degree in the topic, so I'd like it to be as functional and useful as possible, without being too technical (it's not an engineering-oriented degree). If possible I'd also like it to have a bit of that gee-whiz touch essential for all perfect gifts. Aesthetically, he's a big fan of futurism, but anything more general would also be fine.
posted by Paragon to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Coming from a computing background perhaps Donald Norman's "The Design of Everyday Things". It's not really a book specific to industrial design (it's used a lot in human computer interaction in Computer Science) but it covers a lot of design areas and is not written in a technical manner at all.
posted by PenDevil at 4:17 AM on August 20, 2006

How about something from Taschen?
posted by mushroom_tattoo at 4:24 AM on August 20, 2006

Your brother might enjoy Cradle to Cradle, a book about industrial design, ecology and economics.

The premiss: our "cradle to grave" industrial design (extract non-renewable resources, use non-renewable energy to manufacture non-reclaimable product, use product briefly, dump dangerous materials into our environment) is unsustainable on every level. This isn't about spotted owls or hippies, this is about human health and our economic well-being. We haven't lost yet, though; most of these problems can be solved with a more intelligent set of industrial design principles. By incorporating ecology into our designs, our businesses can make more money, employment can increase, and our environment can be improved– all at once. Those who embrace these smarter industrial designs will be at the forefront of the new economy.

The book is quite interesting just as an object; it is made of a synthetic material that allows it to be reclaimed as a "technical nutrient." Cradle to Cradle is fairly conceptual, and a skeptical person will have questions like "but how?!" That is the time to pick up Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution. This book offers a more detailed approach with examples of smart industrial design already put into place.

Both of these books have led me to become extremely observant of the industrial design I encounter all the time, and I think would be especially inspiring to someone working towards an industrial design degree.
posted by reeddavid at 5:14 AM on August 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

Raymond Lowey was a great innovator and, I think, the most original mind. His influence is everywhere.

Henry Petroski has written several interesting books about the design and evolution of ordinary things. He's not the most elegant writer, but his research is good.
posted by KRS at 6:31 AM on August 20, 2006

Infrastructure: A Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape
available in hardcover and paperback
A big coffee table book with chatty information about all the strange and beautiful industrial architecture (irrigation systems, coal mines, launchpads, etc.). Unfortunately the author talks out of his ass a bit when it gets to technical details.
posted by intermod at 7:09 AM on August 20, 2006

My fiance Dan picked up "Metals" recently. It's a very inspiring read (caveat: neither of us is a professional industrial designer, though I used to work with a few). Every page (there are 153 before the acknowledgements and index) shows a new type of material or idea, from metal foam to "growing a surface" There are tables of terms, properties, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, and processing techniques. It's a conceptual kaleidoscope, and I think would be inspirational for any designer.

It's apparently part of a series on "Materials for Inspirational Design" that includes works on plastics and wood.
posted by amtho at 8:17 AM on August 20, 2006

Rockport Publishers' series Design Secrets is an excellent collection of titles, some of which were produced in collaboration with the Industrial Designers Society of America.
posted by rob511 at 2:20 PM on August 20, 2006

I spend a lot of time looking up, ordering, borrowing, and reading design books and I think there are actually relatively few about industrial design. Don Norman is not a bad place to start, though I think some chapters are a bit padded.

Which exact genre of industrial design is your brother interested in?
posted by joeclark at 9:55 AM on August 21, 2006

I work in the resource room of the Art + Design department of the school where I'm very close to finishing my product design degree. So to add to the fine suggestions above, here's a list.

Design - An Illustrated Historical Overview
Design Sketching (Stongly recommended. Every student needs to work on their sketching skills.)
Design Language
Safe: Design Takes on Risk
The Industrial Design Reader
Industrial Design
By Design: Why There Are No Locks on the Bathroom Doors in the Hotel Louis XIV and Other Object Lessons
Humble Masterpieces (recommended, required for first-year students in our program)
Phaidon Design Classics
Thoughtless Acts?: Observations on Intuitive Design
False Flat: Why Dutch Design is So Good
Process, Materials, and Measurements: All the Details Industrial Designers Need to Know But Can Never Find (technical, essential)
Skin: Surface, Substance, and Design
1000 Chairs
The Materials for Inspirational Design series (Metals, Wood, Plastics, etc.) mentioned above.

Other gift ideas, beyond books:

Vitra chair poster
Basic Perspective Form Drawing DVD from Gnomon Workshop. To help with those drawing skills again.
The Films of Charles and Ray Eames

There's a lot more out there. Browse the design sections of the Prairie Avenue Bookstore, Quimby's (some NSFW art books), and the shop at the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum. If you can get your brother to mention what styles or people he finds inspirational, there's probably a book. For example: Karim Rashid, Droog, Apple, Ross Lovegrove, Jasper Morrison, Scandinavian design, IDEO.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:34 AM on August 21, 2006 [6 favorites]

Wow, great answers, thanks guys. Some individual replies:

@Mushroom_tattoo: I love Taschen! I bought my girlfriend a copy of the book you linked to (she's interested in the same area) and gave my brother a book of vintage retro-future graphics (he loved it) for his last birthday.

@Joeclark: I don't really know, I'm afraid. He's doing furniture design right now, but that's a required part of the programme.

@Hydrophonic: Fantastic list! I'll investigate these further, but these suggestions look most promising.

Thanks again, all. I think I'll be picking up a few of these books myself (Norman in particular sounds mightily interesting).
posted by Paragon at 4:08 AM on August 22, 2006

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