Introducing The Design Book

Phaidon Editor Joe Pickard previews our compact yet authoritative compendium of product design
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Joe Pickard with The Design Book
Joe Pickard with The Design Book

Whether you're keen to kit your home out in genuine Wilhelm Wagenfeld door handles, browse for Wassily chairs in Berlin flea markets, purge your office of naff nick-nacks, or are anxious to have a good story to tell when friends comment on your Swiss Railway Wristwatch, you'll find something to please you in our forthcoming item-by-item design history, The Design Book. It boils down centuries of product design into 500 iconic pieces, ensures all of them are still in production; and is thick enough to offer real insight, yet is sufficiently compact and portable to take along to your nearest Vitra or Design Within Reach showroom. Arranged in chronological order this satchel-sized, single volume could be described as both ultimate aspirational shoppers' guide and authoritative, neat summation of design history. We asked the book's editor, Joe Pickard, to talk us through the work that went into Phaidon's latest soon-to-be design classic.

 

Fortuny Moda Lamp - Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo-Pallucco Italia-1985- present
Fortuny Moda Lamp - Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo-Pallucco Italia-1985- present

So exactly what is The Design Book  Joe?

It's a compilation of 500 inspirational designs drawn from the past 500 years, from furniture and lighting to kitchenware and electronics. It's only £12.95 or $19.95, and so it's an affordable way to familiarise yourself with great design.

 

 

Opinel Knife (1890) - Joseph Opinel 1890-present
Opinel Knife (1890) - Joseph Opinel 1890-present
 

 

How did you make the edit?

We made sure everything in The Design Book is still in production. It doesn't matter if it dates from the 17th or 21st century; if it's in The Design Book it has stood the test of time. We also wanted to make the objects featured more attainable, so there are no yachts or planes in the book.

 

Bolle Vases (1968) - Tapio Wirkkala, Venini 1968 - present
Bolle Vases (1968) - Tapio Wirkkala, Venini 1968 - present

There are a good few recent inclusions in there. Can we really class them as classics?

We decided to include the iPhone (2007), the Kelvin LED lamp (2009), and the Dyson Air Multiplier fan (2009), bringing the book right up to date. You might not describe these as 'classics', as they've only been in use for a few years, yet these objects innovated specific areas of design - the mobile phone, the electric fan, the desk lamp - which had remained unchanged for some years.

 

E 1027 Daybed (1925) by Eileen Gray (1879 -1976) Classicon, 1990 - present
E 1027 Daybed (1925) by Eileen Gray (1879 -1976) Classicon, 1990 - present

Who wrote the entries?

The writers were experts, chosen because they knew a great deal about a specific aspect of design. The British editor and designer Ilse Crawford, for example, is a wonderful interiors commentator, and so offered great insight into the home furnishings. The texts are a concord of expert insights and opinions.

 

TS 502 Radio (1965) by Marco Zanuso (1916 - 2001) and Richard Sapper (1932 - ) Brionvega 1965 - present
TS 502 Radio (1965) by Marco Zanuso (1916 - 2001) and Richard Sapper (1932 - ) Brionvega 1965 - present

Can you offer us a little insight into the design of the book?

Yes. We wanted to produce something in keeping with our highly successful titles The Art Book and The Photo Book. So, there's just one image of each product, and one product per page. The texts are concise, but still offer insight into how a certain piece fits in with a greater design movement or how it might have taken on unexpected significances. The inventor of the AGA stove, for instance  - a Nobel Prize-winning physicist - turned his hand to kitchenware after an industrial accident left him housebound. Or take the paperclip, a Norwegian invention that was worn by the resistance during Nazi occupation as a symbol of national pride. It's amazing how these objects have taken on lives of their own.

 

Toast rack (1878) Christopher Dresser (1834 - 1904) Alessi 1991 - present
Toast rack (1878) Christopher Dresser (1834 - 1904) Alessi 1991 - present

Who do you think The Design Book will appeal to?

Anyone who wants great objects in his or her life. Since all the products are currently available, it becomes a great guide to furnishing a new house or apartment. It also offers an accessible, flick-through design history. Read the whole thing and you'll understand the whole history of design. Yet, casual browsers can pick up on the different movements and see how styles have changed. Flicking through it, it becomes clear what was once popular and what's come back around again. It's also a great gift purchase.

Lucellino Lamp (1992) by Ingo Maurer (1932-) Ingo Maurer 1992 - present
Lucellino Lamp (1992) by Ingo Maurer (1932-) Ingo Maurer 1992 - present

And has working on the book changed the way you view the role of design?

Yes, it has actually. I have a renewed respect for simple products such as the clothes peg or the Post-it note. Most people don't think of everyday objects such as these as being designed, but they demonstrate ultimate functionality and simplicity in design. The Design Book has opened my eyes to the actual role of design too. Some of these common items are just as worthy designs as say, an Eames chair.

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Lounge Chair (1956) Charles Eames (1907 - 78) Herman Miller, 1956 - present
Lounge Chair (1956) Charles Eames (1907 - 78) Herman Miller, 1956 - present


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Phaidon is the premier global publisher of the creative arts with over 1,500 titles in print. We work with the world's most influential artists, chefs, writers and thinkers to produce innovative books on art, photography, design, architecture, fashion, food and travel, and illustrated books for children. Phaidon is headquartered in London and New York City.
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