(This is a reblog from August 2012)
As mentioned in Part I, designers are quite serious about their books. The next five books are readings that have influenced and enriched my design philosophy (hopefully for the better):
6. A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction by Christopher Alexander. This is a book that reminds us to keep things simple. It is very easy for designers (myself included) to overcomplicate things, but as with most things, simple is best. As suggested by the title, the book introduced me to a way of thinking that I wasn’t immediately familiar with having been first educated as an interior designer. Beginning with the first category of “Town” (which seemed like a huge category), Alexander helped me to break all of the elements that are essential to a town into bite-sized pieces. For example, town begins with “independent regions” and ends with “things from your life”. The book lays out its foundation in much the same way by beginning with the general and zooming in to the specific. The “pattern language” comes from understanding the parts of our lives (in the built environment) that are familiar to us and highlighting them.
7. Architecture: Form, Space & Order by Francis D.K. Ching. I don’t know a design student (now or when I was in school) that did not have a copy of one of Ching’s many books. The books of Francis D.K. Ching, Professor Emeritus of the Department of Architecture at the University of Washington, were a mainstay on my bookshelves in school and now. Form, Space & Order beautifully illustrates the many important elements of architecture – from the basics of point, line, plane, volume to more complex ideas of proportion, the orders and symmetry (all with hand drawn examples). It helped me with my ‘design vocabulary’, and because I am a visual person, the diagrams helped tremendously. I am now using the Ching books to assist me as I study for my professional license in architecture.
8. Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture. I must admit, I didn’t see the importance of this book when I was in school. I felt the book was stodgy and over my head. Most of my design classmates had traveled abroad (I had not) or could name a few significant pieces of architecture (I could not). For whatever reason, I took this book with my as I traveled to France and Rome after graduate school. Reading passages here and there clicked for me and I could appreciate specific chapters that are relevant today: i.e. “the education of the architect” is useful and true (even today) as it calls for the architect to be “equipped with knowledge of many branches of study and varied kinds of learning”.
9. Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough & Michael Braungart. In 2004, all I knew about the environment was that I should recycle. Recycle what? I don’t know… paper, I guess. Reading Cradle to Cradle quickly let me know that my little bit of recycling wasn’t doing much good. I realized that I knew very little about the larger issues at hand, and as a designer, it was essential for me to know the fundamentals of how and why we were where we were as a society. In short, this book is asking us to do more with less. In order to accomplish this, I knew I had to educate myself on exactly how to do that. For me, this book began that discussion and armed me with the frame of mind to begin asking the right questions. Cool fact: the book is made of waterproof paper that is biodegradable.
10. Domino: The Book of Decorating by Domino Editors. As previously stated, things can’t always be so serious! Here is another fun coffee table book that outlines many different design styles (ladylike luxe, cool collector, cultured irreverence) and shows you how to pull the looks together depending on the room you want to decorate. What I like about this book is that the spaces shown are not brand new, they are often older spaces with quirky details (like most first apartments and homes) and it is the colors, textures and furniture that makes the spaces come to life.