My recipe for a great summer day includes a morning read, a picnic in the park, and a sunset cocktail. I’ll leave the last two to you, but if you want to indulge in the first ingredient, we’ve put together a list of eight design books we’re passionate about. From fashion to branding to architecture, there’s something here for everyone, whether you’re into a creative practice or just interested.
How can design pave the way to 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 subject with essays, interviews and maps exploring the crucial role designers can play in fostering peace. Edited by the exhibit’s curator, Cynthia E. Smith, the book includes essays by UN Under-Secretary-General Michael Adlerstein and others. $45; available now.
The oldest form of marking dates back to 2700 BC. AD, when farmers branded their cattle with hot irons. Since then, branding has grown into a gargantuan practice that can both promote belonging and foster division. Somewhere Yes: The Search for Belonging in a World Shaped by Branding takes you on a visual exploration of this dual power, ultimately affirming that branding is not about ownership (as it was with livestock), but about belonging. Written by Brooklyn-based designer and creative director Beat Kaspar Baudenbacher, the book is the perfect crash course in branding and how it’s used today. $21.95; available now.
Zoning debates were once relegated to developers, city planners and policy buffs, but with rising housing prices and growing inequality, the issue has entered the mainstream. In Arbitrary lines: how zoning broke the American city and how to fix itMr. Nolan Gray argues against zoning, saying 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 of how cities can thrive without zoning restrictions. $30; available now. —Aimee Rawlins
As COVID-19 swept across the United States, it was not uncommon to hear people say, “We’ve never had a pandemic before. This was not true, of course, and without taking into account the fact that for many, AIDS is far from a distant memory. Viral Cultures: Militant Archiving in the Age of AIDS examines the AIDS archives of the 1980s and 1990s – the documentation and records collected by activists at “a breakneck pace” during the height of this pandemic. Marika Cifor shows how these materials play a vital role in understanding and commemorating the crisis, while providing a window into how certain stories are highlighted while others are marginalized. This is a particularly relevant analysis, given the inequity revealed by COVID-19 and the systemic structures that have aggravated both pandemics. $27; available now. —AR
That the world is drowning in plastic waste is no news to anyone. Yet, despite the global movement against plastic pollution, the demand for plastic is always on the rise. In Plastic Unlimited: How Corporations Are Fueling the Ecological Crisis and What We Can Do About It, sociologist Alice Mah argues that the current situation stems not from poor waste management or poor consumer choices, but from the simple production of plastic. The goal of stopping producing more plastic, however, has been hampered by petrochemical and plastics 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 very root of the problem: the capitalist imperative for limitless growth. $19.95; on sale July 26.
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 has also written biographies of science writers- fiction John Wood Campbell Jr. and Isaac Asimov. Based 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 strained relationship with his students, as well as the origin of his most famous innovations, including the Wichita House – a self-contained prefabricated house – and the Dymaxion car in the shape of a zeppelin. $35; on sale August 2; available for pre-order now.
What should I wear?
Claire McCardell isn’t 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 in the midst of an active lifestyle. She popularized the ballerina, the spaghetti strap and matching pieces. In 1956, she published What should I wear? The what, where, when and how much mode, a manifesto that expresses her conviction that it is possible to be elegant, whatever your budget or lifestyle. The book is now a classic, and next month it will be back in print for the first time in years, accompanied by a new foreword by Tory Burch, whose Spring/Summer 2022 collection was inspired by McCardell. $24.99; on sale August 30; available for pre-order now. —Elisabeth Segran
Information can be transmitted orally or in writing, but graphic images also play an important role in the transmission of knowledge. Scientific illustration: a history of visual knowledge from the 15th century to the present day contains over 300 such images. From detailed watercolors of Galileo’s moon to statistical diagrams of war casualties by Florence Nightingale, the extra-large volume illuminates more than six centuries of scientific discoveries in anatomy, physics, astronomy, mechanics, and more. With 436 pages, it’s a beautiful ode to illustration and its ability to translate knowledge for a wide audience. $80; on sale in September; available for pre-order now.