This summer’s most inspiring design books

Ten of Co.Design‘s favorite new titles, whether you’re looking for beach reads or serious academic research.

This summer’s most inspiring design books
[Images: Chronicle Books, Frances Lincoln, Smithsonian Books, Laurence King Publishing, Taschen, IrinaBelokrylova/iStock]

Summer is a time for creative renewal, and for many of us, that means new books. 2018’s most exciting new design books have something for everyone, whether you just want to peruse coffee table eye candy or you finally have time to pore over the essays you didn’t have a chance to read during the winter. We’ve compiled some of the most compelling new and forthcoming releases, from significant design research to pure, unadulterated fun. Find the first 10 titles below, and stay tuned for part two.


Architects’ Houses

By Michael Webb

[Cover Image: Princeton Architectural Press]
What happens when an architect becomes his or her own client? That’s the premise of the projects in Architects’ Houses, which looks at the stories behind homes designed by architects for themselves. Take the husband and wife team, Antón Gargía-Abril and Débora Mesa, whose studio spent more than a year on structural calculations for their remarkable balancing act of a home. When the architect is in the driver’s seat, the typical process–and timeline–for finishing a house can easily go out the window. Often, that’s what makes these buildings so worthy of our attention.

$41.82 on Amazon

California Captured

By Marvin Rand, Emily Bills, Sam Lubell, and Pierluigi Serraino

[Cover Image: Phaidon]

Marvin Rand is the most famous architectural photographer you’ve never heard of. Like his better-known peer Julius Shulman, Rand chronicled the aspirational architecture of mid-20th century California, but his work remained largely unknown until 2012, when journalist Sam Lubell discovered an archive of more than 50,000 of the photographer’s negatives and transparencies. California Captured (Phaidon) showcases nearly 250 of these images. Sleek, single-family homes by architects such as Richard Neutra, Craig Ellwood, and John Lautner figure prominently, in addition to Googie landmarks like the Theme Building at LAX and Tiny Naylor’s drive-through–all rendered in Rand’s crisp, unfussy style.

$40.19 on Amazon


California Crazy: American Pop Architecture

By Jim Heimann

[Cover Image: Taschen]

Almost 40 years ago, Jim Heimann published a book called California Crazy. It brought the state’s folly-filled pop architecture to the mainstream, documenting its theme parks, fast-food stands, and roadside buildings. In June, the book is being republished anew. It still features page after page of rich, archival photos of countless SoCal typologies–from buildings shaped like pumpkins, cameras, and ice cream cones, to studio sets and faux castles. But Heimann also reflects on what makes California such fertile ground for architectural experimentation and the “dicey business” of preservation, including how the first edition inspired new research into many of these formerly obscure structures (some of which no longer exist). Here’s hoping that the 40-year-update will become a regular thing.

$60 preorder on Amazon

Coffee Lids: Peel, Pinch, Pucker, Puncture

By Louise Harpman and Scott Specht

[Cover Image: Princeton Architectural Press]

Did you know the Smithsonian has more than 50 coffee cup lids in its permanent collection? Thanks to the work of architects Louise Harpman and Scott Specht, who have been collecting lids for years, this form of “invisible” design will be preserved forever. The duo’s new book about the typology, titled simply Coffee Lids, is a glimpse into the depthless variation and ingenuity of an object that few people have ever even considered. “Looking something as simple as a humble coffee lid is an entry into that conversation,” Harpman told Co.Design‘s Katharine Schwab, “to slow down, take notice, wonder, ask questions–what is that, how is it made, who designed it?”

$18.08 on Amazon


How To Make Repeat Patterns: A Guide for Designers, Architects and Artists 

By Paul Jackson

[Cover Image: Laurence King Publishing]

Channel your inner M.C. Escher with How To Make Repeat Patterns (Laurence King). The guide, by paper artist Paul Jackson, reveals the rules of symmetry that undergird complex patterns and offers tips for producing your own designs, whether for wallpaper, architectural facades, or digital products.

$24.33 on Amazon

Inside North Korea

By Oliver Wainwright

[Cover Image: Taschen]

The humans in Oliver Wainwright’s photos of North Korean buildings look like scale models: tiny figures, invariably dressed in drab tones, that serve only to underline the yawning size and shimmering jewel-tones of Pyongyang’s architecture. “It looks as if someone has emptied a packet of candy across the city, sugary pastilles jumbled up with jelly spaceships,” wrote Wainwright, the Guardian architecture critic who visited the country on a tour in 2015, when he shot the photos in this Taschen tome that will be released in August. Unlike most accounts of the city, Inside North Korea offers a thoughtful analysis of Pyongyang’s urban history, situating its widely photographed architecture in context with the Kim dynasty and the way it seeks to articulate its goals through buildings. It’s sobering, and mesmerizing, at the same time.

$60 preorder on Amazon


Lorna Simpson Collages

By Lorna Simpson

[Cover Image: Chronicle Books]

The collages in this monograph are a revelation. Artist Lorna Simpson takes models from vintage Ebony and Jet ads and gives them elaborate new hairstyles, using ink washes, geological formations, and other mysterious imagery. The book features 160 artworks that, together, form a meditation on the language of hair and black identity. As poet Elizabeth Alexander writes in the introduction: “The repetitions in these images suggest that we are thought of by some as a dime a dozen: undervalued, yes, but also, abundant. Black women are everywhere glorious and unsung.”

$29.95 preorder on Amazon

Shakespeare Dwelling: Designs for the Theater of Life

By Julia Reinhard Lupton

[Cover Image: University of Chicago Press]

This inventive book by an English and comparative literature professor at UC Irvine examines the spaces that bring Shakespeare’s tales to life. Author Julia Reinhard Lupton analyzes dwellings in five classic works–Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Pericles, Cymbeline, and The Winter’s Tale–and draws on theory from the likes of Martin Heidegger and Don Norman to offer insight into everything from “the ethics of habitation and hospitality” to “the literary dimensions of design.”

$27.50 on Amazon


Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours: Adapted to Zoology, Botany, Chemistry, Mineralogy, Anatomy, and the Arts

By Patrick Syme and Abraham Gottlob Werner

[Cover Image: Smithsonian Books]

Skimmed-milk white. Arterial blood red. Celandine green. In the 19th century, naturalists were struggling to standardize the colors they observed in nature–without the utility of post-Industrial Revolution digital precision of CMYK or RGB. Werner’s Nomenclature Of Colours, published in 1814, gave scientists, artists, and naturalists a common language to talk about color–even Darwin famously used the color dictionary on his travels. This spring, the Smithsonian re-released the book in a small, pocket-sized version, perfect for travelers or anyone who spends time outdoors. It’s an evocative creative document–and a lovely antidote to life lived online.

$13.46 on Amazon

Women Design

By Libby Sellers

[Cover Image: Frances Lincoln]

Women Design (Frances Lincoln) assumes the Herculean task of highlighting women’s contributions to design–including architecture, industrial design, digital design, and graphics–from the 20th century to the present day. It has no business being just 176 pages, but author Libby Sellers, a prominent British gallerist and curator, manages to pack a wealth of information in profiles of 21 women designers. Historic pioneers such as Denise Scott Brown, Ray Eames, and Lella Vignelli get their due, as well as contemporary stars like Neri Oxman, Patricia Urquiola, and Kazuyo Sejima. “Women have always been, and remain, a significant part of the design profession,” Sellers wrote. “. . . Yet, if asked to name the design world’s greats, most people would produce a list of predominantly male names.” This book attempts to correct the narrative, and it tells some rollicking stories along the way. Be sure to check out the section on the “Damsels of Design,” a group of women industrial designers GM hired to address what a 1957 press release described as “woman driver’s problems” like “anything in cars that might snag their nylons.”

$30 preorder on Amazon