10 Must-Read Design Books To Get You Ready For 2018

Knowledge is power.

Reading is a fantastic way to start a new year. These Co.Design favorites from 2017 can help you gain knowledge about the design world and the world around you; others are just great eye candy. Whatever your goals for 2018, crack open these books, and get inspired.


[Cover Image: Foundation Capital]
The Way To Design, by Steve Vassallo

In his book, entrepreneur and former Ideo design engineer Steve Vassallo outlines how designers can launch their own businesses and how startup founders can make design the foundation of their operation. One of his strategies? Move beyond empathy. The book is available as a free download here.

[Cover Image: Princeton Architectural Press]
Never Use Futura, by Douglas Thomas


Helvetica might be the typeface everyone knows by name, but it’s Futura–and its myriad derivatives–that’s more storied and conspicuous. Douglas Thomas charts the typeface’s history, from its philosophical origins to its rip-offs, in this book, available on Amazon.

[Image: The Monacelli Press]
SuperDesign: Italian Radical Design, by Maria Cristina Didero et. al.

2017 was filled with social unrest and designers lent their expertise to communicate the cultural pulse. In the 1960s and 1970s, Italian designers were doing the same by protesting fascism, consumerism, and inequality through art-led design. SuperDesign, available from the Monacelli Press, chronicles this movement.


[Image: Batsford]
Post-Modern Buildings In Britain, by Geraint Franklin and Elain Harwood

The whimsical, irreverent, and often wacky architecture of the late 1970s and 1980s was a refreshing break from the rigid modernist buildings that preceded them. Now, they’re under threat of erasure as redevelopment plans put many of these structures in jeopardy. Reading about the movement, and how architects broke with the past, is apt for today. For more, visit

[Cover: Basic Books]
The New Urban Crisis, Richard Florida


The title of urbanism theorist Richard Florida’s latest book–The New Urban Crisis: How Our Cities are Increasing Inequality, Deepening Segregation, and Failing the Middle Class and What We Can Do About It–outlines the defining tensions in our cities today. In earlier writing, Florida defined many of the progressive notions about how the creative class could drive social and economic progress, but these notions have fallen short. In this book, he reckons with the failings and promise of his theories, and suggests course corrections to help cities become more equitable.

[Image: Princeton Architectural Press]
Now You See It–And Other Essays In Design, by Michael Bierut

The way a creative’s brain works is an enigmatic mix of impulse, process, and intuition. In his latest book, Pentagram partner Michael Bierut, one of the most respected designers and design writers of his generation, invites readers to peek into his mind. Through 50 essays that explain how he picks a typeface and how he created Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign logo, Bierut demystifies design. The book, available from Princeton Architectural Press, stands to teach other designers new strategies and design fans new appreciation for the craft.


[Image: courtesy MIT Press]
The Strip: Las Vegas And The Architecture of the American Dream, by Stefen Al

The cities and structures we build both reflect and shape culture. In The Strip, University of Pennsylvania professor Stefan Al argues that the most distinctly American city is Las Vegas and its evolution embodies the metamorphosis of the American dream. Truly understanding the state of the United States could begin by dissecting Vegas.

[Cover Image: courtesy Visual Editions]
A Universe Explodes, by Tea Uglow


Thanks to the ever-rising value of Bitcoin, the blockchain–a secure technology that enables transactions–is becoming common parlance. This experimental e-book from Tea Uglow, a creative director at Google Creative Lab Sydney, explains how it works in an artful format. The blockchain will likely define even more innovations in the future and mastering its underpinnings will be important.

[Cover Images: Melville House]
Brolliology: A History of the Umbrella in Life and Literature, by Marion Rankine

When it rains, people whip out umbrellas, and they are more or less identical in function and construction. But within this helpful invention lies a hidden story about class warfare, bigotry, and urban design. The way our world looks and works today is a function of societal values, from the seemingly small moments, like umbrellas, to larger systems, like cities. By analyzing values through an object most of us use, Marion Rankine arms us with questions we should be asking about every other element of the designed world. Find the book on Amazon.


[Cover Image: Chronicle Books]
I Fought The Law, by Olivia Locher

Our legal system is plagued with enormous injustices and is due for reform. And as photographer Olivia Locher documents in I Fought The Law, there are plenty of small obscure laws that deserve an overhaul, too. She researched little known laws in all 50 states and photographed people breaking them for her book. For example, it’s illegal in Kentucky and Georgia to have an ice cream cone in your back pocket, a holdover from a trick thieves in the 1800s used to steal horses. The book is a cheeky look at how out of date and out of touch our justice system can be.


About the author

Diana Budds is a New York–based writer covering design and the built environment.