1. DESIGN EMERGENCY, by Paola Antonelli and Alice Rawsthorn, Phaidon, 2022
Published by the Phaidon publishing house, this book resumes research carried out during the Covid pandemic and constitutes a fundamental compendium for understanding design as a social practice in an increasingly crisis-ridden world. Paola Antonelli and Alice Rawsthorn, always among the first to identify the clues of the changes taking place, bring together designers and experts from different disciplinary fields in a series of interviews, ranging from communication to technology, from social commitment to ecological strategies, and touching on sensitive and disparate themes such as justice, migration, the health crisis and identity stratification. This important book marks an epoch, showing how design today should no longer conceived as a means to manufacture new products, but as a tool to “fix” the broken relationships between man and nature and to respond to “states of emergency”, which instead of shrinking are multiplying.
2. FRAGILITY, by Marlies De Munck and Pascal Gielen, design and illustrations by Lotte Schröder, Valiz, 2022.
There is no point in deluding ourselves. We are all fragile, and it is our nature as living beings threatened by dangers, aggression, contamination, and also as social beings, increasingly at the mercy of the judgments and looks of others. Not only is our body fragile, but also our identity and our will. So how is it possible to turn this vulnerability into a strength? It is also a matter of design, walls, protective surfaces, but also openings and thresholds. This small book, written by two philosophers who play with literature, and illustrated by Dutch designer and artist Lotte Schröder, leads us into the world of our fragility, to discover the power of design and art, capable of producing connection and beauty and of reversing the course of things.
3. POST_CRAFT, by Alex Coles and Catharine Rossi, Sternberg Press, 2022.
In recent years, the design world has been rocked by the Craft wave, the return of “handmade” and craft traditions, the Makers and FabLab revolution. Born as critiques of an increasingly consumerist, polluting and unfair industrial society, all these practices have profoundly changed the very definition of design, which has become increasingly ethical and sustainable, local and participatory. New economic processes and social dynamics have become widespread, with the effect of progressively separating design from industry and reinserting it into the horizon of the everyday. The third volume of the EP series, published by the Sternberg publishing house, and edited by Catharine Rossi and Alex Coles, allows us to better understand this revolution, and what effects it has produced and how it has reshaped the world (not only that of design): after the post-modern, is it the era of the post-craft?
4. SEEING, by Jonathan Olivares, Nieves, 2022
This is a picture-only book that you can leaf through like a fanzine. Or that you can look at like a mood board that brings together photos, drawings and illustrations, giving us access to the world of Jonathan Olivares, a multi-award-winning designer based in Los Angeles. The constellation of images allows us to explore the resonances that link the author’s three passions, skateboarding, graffiti and industrial design - a game of clues and cultural influences, of formal suggestions and unexpected counterpoints, of unforeseen details, that explains to us not so much what but rather how a designer sees the world.
5. MODERN ALCHEMY, by Emanuele Coccia, Viviane Sassen, JBE Books, 2022
Emanuele Coccia is, without doubt, one of the most innovative thinkers of the new millennium. And Viviane Sassen is, without doubt, one of the most radical and celebrated photographers of recent years. This volume, whose sumptuous graphic design was curated by the Parisian publishing house JBE Books (Jean Boîte Éditions), presents itself as a summit meeting, in which texts and photographs create a skilful and surprising composition of images and words. If Coccia’s text, on the fertile threshold between philosophy and literature, explores the hybridisations of matter and language, Sassen’s photographs create a complex universe, whose layers and components are difficult to comprehend. The concept at the heart of the book is alchemy - the idea of a continuous transformation of the elements, where nature becomes art and art becomes nature. An intoxicating journey.
6. HERBARIA. PIANTE, ERBARI MODERNI E FLORILEGI, by Domitilla Dardi, 24 ORE Cultura, 2022
A book that is a feast for the eyes. Accompanied by dazzling iconography, it presents historical and contemporary declinations of the herbarium, at once a botanical collection, a space of creative invention and a treasure chest of wonders. The introduction is an illuminating essay by design historian and MAXXI curator Domitilla Dardi, who reveals how these objects show the transformations of the relationship between man and nature, between scientific observation and artistic experimentation.
7. PUNK SUPREMATISM. Introduction by Sezgin Boynik, texts by Slavoj Zizek, Rastko Močnik, Zoja Skušek. Graphic design by Ott Kagovere, Rab-Rab Press, 2021
This is not exactly a design book or a book about design, although it looks like a design piece, as the beautiful graphic design was curated by Ott Kagovere. Published by the independent Finnish publishing house Rab-Rab Press, founded by researcher and activist Sezgin Boynik, the book brings together for the first time fundamental texts on punk culture in the political context of post-Yugoslavian Slovenia in the 1980s: an explosive mix of radical philosophy and anarchist practices, with contributions by committed and transgressive authors such as Slavoj Zizek, Rastko Močnik and Zoja Skušek. When punk becomes an instrument for revolution.
8. RO-SÉ, A Book as a Bridge, by Nathalie du Pasquier, edited by Luca Lo Pinto, Sternberg Press, 2022
Published on the occasion of an exhibition at MACRO in Rome, the book takes the form of a collage of photographs and texts - a mix between a catalogue and an artist book. It is a fundamental opportunity to (re)discover the work of Nathalie du Pasquier, French by birth, Milanese by adoption, one of the most important figures in art and design in recent decades, best known for participating in the Memphis group founded by Ettore Sottsass in the 1980s. Paintings that, by inventing refined colour combinations, shake up the aridity of abstraction, alternate with objects with surreal and metaphysical overtones, and texts full of acumen and verve. An exciting kaleidoscope of forms and ideas.
9. THE CARRIER BAG THEORY OF FICTION, by Ursula K. Le Guin, Unknown, 2019
A small and cheap book that is however very relevant. Although it does not deal directly with design, anyone who deals with or is interested in design should read it, as it presents a hypothesis that overturns the view of the discipline and its history (and not only). What if, wonders the famous science fiction writer Ursula Le Guin, the first human artefact was not a stick, a killing tool, but rather a container for the things one needs to live, “useful, edible and beautiful things”? Then the history of humanity (and of design) should be rewritten, not from the perspective of wars, exploitation and domination, but of taking care of things, of the body, of the world... a feminine rather than feminist history, in any case revolutionary and necessary. The edition, published by the independent publisher Ignota, founded in 2017 in the Peruvian Andes, is embellished with an introduction by Donna Haraway and drawings by Korean artist Lee Bul.
10. LA VIE MATERIELLE: MODE D’EMPLOI, by David Enon, Premier Parallèle, 2021
A small instruction booklet full of drawings and diagrams explaining how to build containers and objects. This modest-looking book is a veritable design object as well as a treatise on design. Affirming his preference for simplicity of form and gesture, French designer David Enon reconstructs the definition of design from the ground up. Alluding in the title to George Perec’s famous book (La vie: mode d’emploi, Life: a user’s manual), with irony and wisdom, Enon explains that design is precisely this - the ability to juggle “material life”, i.e. to invent ways of using materials and objects in everyday life. In praise of the designer as bricoleur (and of the designer-bricoleur in each of us).