Designers’ Book Club: leading creative figures reveal their favourite tomes

Designers’ Book Club: leading creative figures reveal their favourite tomes

We’ve turned over a new leaf, asking leading creatives in the field of architecture and design to recommend the most inspiring tomes; the books they read, re-read and reference. Here’s the result: our library of tantalising titles from those in the know. Read on...

'what is a designer' book by norman potter

What is a designer: things . places . messages by Norman Potter (Hyphen Press)

As chosen by Tony Chambers, brand and content director of Wallpaper*

‘Norman Potter was a complex man, ­ one difficult to define. He was a cabinetmaker, a designer, a poet, a teacher and of course a writer. He was also an anarchist.

His book What is a Designer was first published in 1969 and then enlarged and republished in 1980 by Robin Kinross’s Hyphen Press. This was the edition on the required reading list when I joined The Central School of Art and Design in 1984. It made an instant impact and has been a constant source of inspiration ever since.

The book proposes what design could be (note there is no question mark in the title) and combines lofty ideas with down-to-earth advice. It presents weighty matters in an accessible format. And in the rather shouty visual environment of the 1980s, the book’s quiet, sober design and typography was a blessed relief.

A third edition was published in 1989 and incorporated revisions including a new introduction in which Potter considered his own position in the light of the tremendous changes of the previous decade. His fierce criticism of the ‘designer culture’ of the 1980s is prescient today ­ especially for me in my current occupation.’

Josef Hoffman 1870-1956: In the Realm of Beauty book

Josef Hoffmann 1870-1956: In the Realm of Beauty by August Sarnitz (Taschen) 

As chosen by Jaime Hayon, designer and founder of Hayon Studio

‘Hoffmann is a visionary of his time and his designs of great inspiration for me.’

Moonraker, Strangelove and other celluloid dreams: the visionary art of Ken Adam by David Sylvester

Moonraker, Strangelove and other celluloid dreams: the visionary art of Ken Adam  (exhibition catalogue) by David Sylvester (Serpentine Gallery, 1999)  

As chosen by Simon Mitchell and Torquil McIntosh, architects and co-founders of Sybarite 

‘We just love his set designs and the freedom in which he designed – shooting rockets out of volcanos for You only Live Twice and thinking to the future for 2001: A Space Odyssey.  He had this ability to design in a very timeless fashion which, whilst you could tell it was designed in a particular period of architecture, is still very relevant and very cool today.  His work was intimately thought out, his attention to detail is incredible and he could adapt his drawing style to suit different genres of film – an inspiration for the way in which we work at Sybarite.’

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