The 8 Design Books We’re Most Excited About This Winter

We rounded up the best books about design, architecture, and visual culture coming out over the next few months.

The 8 Design Books We’re Most Excited About This Winter

The luxury of lying around reading a book may feel like it passed along with the holiday, but there will still be many winter nights ahead for bunkering down and cracking open a book. In the spirit of keeping you up to date on the newest releases, we’ve compiled the best upcoming art and design titles. A few were published this month and will be available now, while the others will roll out in February and March—something to look forward to before winter thaws.


By the People: Designing a Better America (October, 2016)
This book actually came out in October, but since its companion exhibition—By the People at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum—is about to close, this is a perfect time to pick it up for your home. Cynthia E. Smith, the exhibition curator and the book’s author, travelled over 50,000 miles to visit cities across the country and seek out the most inventive ways residents are combatting poverty with design. The book collects 60 projects that tap into local strengths to address social issues in highly specific but transformative ways—such as mobile food markets for food deserts, and a big-box-store-turned-community center. At a time when many will depend on their cities to meet their needs where the federal government will not, this book provides abundant inspiration for change from the ground up. Buy the book here.

Watercolors by Finn Juhl (January, 2017)
The pioneering Danish architect and furniture designer Finn Juhl is as known for his sculptural, wooden furniture as he is for designing the interiors of places like the Danish Embassy in Washington, D.C., and the conference room of the United Nations Trusteeship Council in New York. Less known are the watercolor sketches Juhl used to formulate designs of both his furniture pieces and his interiors. Full of colors like mustard, teal, and burgundy, these soft watercolor illustrations of classically 20th-century offices are a modernist’s dream. Buy the book here.

See Red Women’s Workshop: Feminist Posters 1974-1990 (February, 2017)
The radical feminist London art collective See Red’s first commission was a flyer for International Women’s Day in 1975, on which they screen-printed a fist of solidarity rising out of the female symbol, alongside details of the march. During the next two decades of the group’s existence, they would go on to create protest art that was loud, bold, graphic, shocking, and clever—addressing everything from unpaid domestic work to equal pay, education, and opportunities for women. See Red disbanded in 1990, but many of the demands they made in their powerful graphics are still being made today, and there’s a lot to be learned from their wonderfully subversive style of communication. Find the book here.

Flâneuse (February, 2017)
The concept of the flâneur and idle walking and observing has long been used as a way to write about a city and its culture, most popularly by Charles Baudelaire, Walter Benjamin, and other 19th-century writers. The fact that the flâneur was always male was written off as a consequence of the time: Women were restricted from wandering the streets alone. With Flâneuse, Lauren Elkin provides ample evidence of female wanderers in the decades since, in figures like Virginia Woolf, Sophie Calle, George Sand, and Jean Rhys. Per her own description, a flâneuse is a “determined, resourceful individual keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city, and the liberating possibilities of a good walk.” Any city lover or urbanist can relate to that. Find the book here.

Divine Golden Ingenious (February, 2017)
Is the golden ratio the divine formula for beauty, or is it design’s biggest myth, as John Brownlee argued in an article for Co.Design? It may always amount to personal opinion—but the history of the golden mean is still ripe for exploration. Divine Golden Ingenious: The Golden Ratio as a Theory of Everything? traces its history from Euclid in the 3rd century BC to the 19th century, when it was first characterized as the “universal constant of beauty.” Then it brings us up to today, and promises to illuminate the answer to the question: Does it really play a universal role in the organization of our world? Find the book here.

You Say to Brick: The Life of Louis Kahn (March, 2017)
Louis Kahn is known as one of the great American 20th-century architects, though he completed almost all of his best-known work in a period of just two decades, from his early 50s up to his death at the age of 73. He may have arrived late to his style—which combined modernist design elements with the reverence of ancient monuments—but the many medical and educational research facilities, government centers, museums, libraries, parks, and religious buildings he built are distinctively his. A biography by Wendy Lesser argues that while his work was often for the public good, and he was beloved by students and peers, he was privately a secretive and mysterious person. The book promises to reveal a new side to the man so celebrated for his legendary architecture. Find the book here.


Sophie Calle: Rachel Monique (March, 2017)
Sophie Calle’s show Rachel, Monique came to Manhattan in 2014, where a neo-Gothic Upper East Side chapel hosted the French conceptual artist’s loaded eulogy to her mother. The installation—which included a deathbed film that documented Calle’s mother dying, as audio of her mother’s diary entries—is now a book. Calle is known for her large-scale, participatory performance pieces like Take Care of Yourself, where she asked psychiatrists, philosophers, linguists, and more to analyze a letter from an ex-boyfriend. With this work, Calle uses different artifacts to piece together her mother’s life and who how an often fraught, but always inextricable relationship between mother and daughter. Find the book here.

The Perfect Pencil (March, 2017)
The Perfect Pencil is written by Caroline Weaver, the woman who owns and operates the magical CW Pencil Enterprise Shop in Lower Manhattan, an unlikely, yet prospering business that is dedicated to the age-old writing instrument. Those who have visited the shop can testify that Weaver has managed to make an object many would consider near-obsolete into a collectable luxury—and her obsession is poised to be just as infectious in this new illustrated tome. In it, she interviews pencil makers, tells stories about famous writers’ favorite pencils, and writes essays about the surprising history and culture surrounding one of the most quotidian objects in the world. Find the book here.

About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.