Recommended Products: Books
The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman
A wondrous classic by a famous design curmudgeon that will forever change your understanding of faucets and doorknobs.Things That Make Us Smart : Defending Human Attributes in the Age of the Machine by Donald A. Norman
The redoubtable and always opinionated Norman tackles the morass of digital design.Usability Engineering by Jakob Nielsen
After reading this book by Donald Norman's business partner and web-design guru, you will understand why software is so screwed-up, even if you can't figure out how to make it any better.The Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton Christensen
Enlightening business-school work describing how technologies shape industries so intimately that even the best-run corporations tend to be blindsided by any genuinely novel tech development. Unlike most biz guru book, this one has documented case studies.Rebuilding the Reichstag by Norman Foster and David Jenkins
Ferociously wonderful book by Lord Foster of Thames Bank describing how a hideous building that was a byword for genocidal cruelty has become the most ecologically advanced capitol building in the modern world, and one of the most "just plain beautiful" structures in Europe.
BOBOs in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There by David Brooks
This work of "comic sociology" by a right-wing pundit tells you maybe half... okay, maybe two-thirds of what you need to know about the new American elite class of "bourgeois bohemians." Worth it just for the close study of their consumption patterns: cellphones, coffee and sport utility vehicles.Cute, Quaint, Hungry and Romantic: the Aesthetics of Consumerism by Daniel Harris
Loose, riffing, Oscar-Wildeian essays on what makes consumer goods jump of the wire racks, dwelling on hyped-up pseudo-qualities like "deliciousness" and the "all-natural." The spectacular chapter on "The Futuristic" may be the best thing ever written on science fiction aesthetics.Industrial Design: Reflections of a Century edited by Jocelyn de Noblet.
A standout among end-of-the-century books, this design compendium by a wide variety of mostly European experts covers not 100 but the last 150 years. Big enough to break the coffee table, but copiously illustrated and full of fresh and interesting takes on the old stories.Martin Johnson Heade by Theodore E., Jr. Stebbins, with contributions by Janet L. Comey, Karen E. Quinn and Jim Wright
Awe-inspiring coffee-table book about a Viridian darling, the 19th century American artist, Martin Johnson Heade. Heade was a nature painter (specializing in storms and swamps) whose self-educated palette always makes his meticulous landscapes seem remarkably uncanny.The Art of Albert Paley: Iron, Bronze, Steel by Edward Lucie-Smith, Albert Paley
Stunningly beautiful book about the phantasmagoric metalwork of Albert Paley, who is far and away the greatest metals artist ever to come out of Rochester New York.Engineering a New Architecture by Tony Robbin
Remarkably interesting academic work about lightweight structures supported with shells, cables and membranes. A good place to go if you want to live in a concrete egg carton that thrums like a drumhead.
Inconspicuous Consumption: An Obsessive Look at the Stuff We Take for Granted, from the Everyday to the Obscure by Paul Lukas (1997)
It's mostly outtakes from Lukas's design-hobbyist fanzine, "BEER FRAMES, the Journal of Inconspicuous Consumption." Lukas is the kind of guy who gets whimsically obsessed with knicknacks like cat toys, animal-cracker packaging and canned sauerkraut juice. Enlivening, funny, and with a nice eye for graphic and engineering detail.
Dreyfuss: Industrial Designer, the Man in the Brown Suit by Russell
This is the best biography of a designer I've ever read. This may be because Dreyfuss was nowhere near so kinky and multivalent a figure as Tibor Kalman. Respectful yet frank, the book brings home its thesis that Dreyfuss, through concentration, integrity and hard work, transcended mere professionalism to become a major 20th century cultural figure. Lavishly and effectively illustrated; the before-and-after shots of cramped, backward products receiving the modernist Dreyfuss treatment are well-nigh mind-boggling.
A House Like Me by Michael McDonough
Architecture history by Viridian fellow-traveller Michael McDonough. A cranky Fascist/Futurist novelist/journalist builds a weird all-natural tank of a house on a crag in Capri. The book is a "portfolio of unique insights into the controversial artist and his provocative home." Many valuable life-lessons here for cranky novelist-journalists with grandiose design schemes.
of Desire: Design and Society Since 1750 by Adrian Forty (1986)
Top-flight scholarly work on the interplay of designers, manufacturers and advertising in Britain. I especially admire the eye-opening chapters on "scientifically efficient" office furniture and "home labor-saving" products. Very lucidly written with 272 marvellous period illustrations. A classic.
When Things Start to Think by Neil Gershenfeld, 1999
Best book I've ever seen out of the MIT Media Lab. Thin on handwaving, ruthless toward megahype, it's chock-a-block with provocative techie ideas. If you're the kind of guy who wants to power your laptop with your ductile piezoelectric shoe-soles, you've found your guru in Neil Gershenfeld. Especially good are the dizzying chapters on "The Personal Fabricator" and "Smart Money."
The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization by Thomas L. Friedman
Don't let the fact that it's a New York Times bestseller fool you. The guy is the Foreign Affairs columnist for the New York Times, after all. A very thoughtful, profusely anecdotal work on the real-life meaning and consequences of global capitalism. The chapter on "Globalution" demolishes more foreign -affairs cliches than I can count.
Theory and Design in the First Machine Age by Reyner Banham, 1960.
The Sun, The Genome, and the Internet: Tools of Scientific Revolutions by Freeman J. Dyson, 1999
Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy by Dave Hickey, 1997
Robert Dawson and Gray Brechin's Farewell, Promised Land: Waking From The California Dream (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).
Engineering guru Petroski talks very lucidly and practically forever about the tiny, almost invisible incremental improvements in forks, paper clips and zippers. Worth the price of the book just to change your intimate relationship with forks.
Designing Modernity: The Arts of Reform and Persuasion 1885-1945, selections from the Wolfsonian design museum, edited by Wendy Kaplan, Thames and Hudson Press, 1995.
This book was the prize in the first Viridian design contest. A fine compendium of twentieth-century posters, furnishings and gizmos, many of them with blatant political and ideological leanings. Valuable historical material here, for it's hard to find other compendiums of Italian fascist finery. As totalitarian dictators go, the Duce had some rather gifted designers.
Hot Designers Make Cool Fonts by Allan Haley, Rockport Publishers
This book was the prize in the second Viridian Design contest.
Typography is one of those geeky, nitpicking lines of creative work that can become painfully fascinating. I don't advise buying a typography book unless you're already a typography victim. Like me.
Nine Nations of North America, by Joel Garreau
A little dated now, but one of the best works of American culture theory and American geography. A very original premise that is carried out very convincingly.
Publications by Andy Goldsworthy:
Wood, by Andy Goldsworthy.
Andy Goldsworthy is a sui generis environmental artist who rearranges the landscape with his bare hands and then takes arty photographs of the results. This book favors his extensive work with bark, twigs, and branches. This art is vastly more effective than any mere description would suggest.
Stone, by Andy Goldsworthy.
The inimitable British artist does astonishing and otherworldly things with boulders, ice, sand, and pebbles.
How to Break Into Product Design, by Pamela Williams.
We Viridians like to spend our time imagining cool devices that we might buy, but if you actually want to be in the business of making and selling things, you should have a look at this book first, and get some sense of what you're up against in the new global gizmo market.
Recommendations from our readers!
We recently asked subscribers to the Viridian Email List to recommend books for our growing bookstore; here's the first round of recommendations.
Proceeds from our participation in the Amazon Associates Program will fund the development of cool Viridian swag, which we'll sell in order to support the development of even more cool Viridian swag!
New! - A couple of emails received 6/8/99:
From Mike Stone, Managing Editor of Whole Earth Review:
From Cassandra Thomas, catnhat:
Joel Garreau recommends (er, shameless plug) HIS OWN BOOKS!
I think Edge City: Life on the New Frontier , is a Viridian book because it explores as its central theme the idea that we humans are creating the biggest change in 150 years in the ways we build cities because we at core want to take the forces of the city, bring them out to the edge, and combine them with nature, to produce a garden. I demonstrate that for all our grievous errors, as often as not we are succeeding, albeit in our usual cockeyed ad hoc way. I am criticized for being guardedly optimistic that this is at all possible. But that too is Viridian. And meanwhile, I especially commend the last two chapters of the book to Viridians. These would be the San Francisco chapter on "Soul", and the Washington chapter on "The Land." I really poured my heart into those, and I believe them intensely Viridian in aspiration. So there.
My earlier book, The Nine Nations of North America , is more widely understood as Viridian, in that it celebrates the way North America operates as if it were nine separate civilizations or economies, regardless of political boundaries. This effort, chockablock with interviews with real people, literally works from the ground up to establish who we are, how we got that way, where we're headed, and what we value.
Recommended by Cosma Shalizi: http://www.santafe.edu/~shalizi/
Boy, check these out. Wow. I've gotta buy every one of them, except the ones I've already got. A viridian bonanza! -- Bruce S.
Philip Ball, The Self-Made Tapestry: Pattern Formation in Nature (Oxford University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-19-850244-3)
No better place for budding techno-organicists to start understanding self-organization, and how to make things that pull themselves together. ( Long, boring review .)
Reyner Banham, Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (MIT Press, 1981, ISBN 0262520583).
What was really going on in the Modernist design movement: corporate sponsors, industrial policy, unacknowledge sources of inspiration, etc., etc.
Stephen Budiansky, Nature's Keepers: The New Science of Nature Management (Free Press, 1995, IBSN 0-02-904915-6).
Compelling case for tossing out all the cuddly bits of ecology --- harmonious ecosystems, self-regulating populations, balance of nature, etc., etc. --- while re-emphasizing the importance of actually understanding ecosystems. Good on re-engineering ecosystems. Doesn't think large enough. ( Long, boring review .)
Joshua M. Epstein and Robert Axtell, Growing Artificial Societies: Social Science from the Bottom Up (MIT Press, 1996, ISBN 0-262-55025-3).
A kind of guide to building your own SimEarth for technically-savvy social scientists. We can use this to craft physical-social simulations which combine fascination with awe-inspiring dread of what we're doing to the planet.
Gary William Flake, The Computational Beauty of Nature. (MIT Press, 1998, ISBN ).
Serious but accessible guide to constructing computational models, especially of chaotic, fractal, & adaptive systems. Almost certainly useful to designers who want to replace the physical with the informational. ( Long, boring review .)
Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes: A History of the World, 1914--1991 (Vintage Books, 1994, ISBN 0679730052).
Philip Morrison and Kosta Tsipis, Reason Enough to Hope (MIT Press, 1998, ISBN 0-262-13344-X).
Philip Morrison is one of the wisest and most humane scientists alive; also one of the inventors of the atom bomb. This is his eminently sensible, if not yet sufficiently Viridian, advice on how to keep from blowing ourselves up, or making most of the species so miserable it would welcome that as a relief. ( Long review. .)
Karl Popper, The Poverty of Historicism (Routledge, 1957, ISBN 0415065690).
How to avoid wasting your time trying to predict the future, define your terms, and re-build society from scratch, when you could be figuring out how to make things work and change them for the better.
Herbert Simon, The Sciences of the Artificial (MIT Press, 1996/1969, ISBN 0-262-69191-4).
A few hundred years from now, this will be one of the few books they'll pick out to show what was good and important in 20th century thought --- if anyone still reads books a few hundred years from now. Essential reading for anyone who cares about design, or thought, or the thinking that goes on in design, including social design.
Dan Sperber, Explaining Culture: A Naturalistic Approach (Blackwell, 1996, ISBN 0-631-20045-2).
The result of mating Richard Dawkins's ``memes'' with some actual knowledge of cultural anthropology and cognitive psychology. A must for people who want their ideas to take over the world. ( Long, boring review .)
D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson, On Growth and Form (Dover Books, 1992, ISBN 0486671356 but 2nd ed. dates to 1942).
Classic on the mechanical design of organisms, and using very simply physical-chemical mechanisms to get adaptive, elegant, functional forms. Plus the man wrote like an angel.
Yi-Fu Tuan, Escapism (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999, ISBN 0801859263), Cosmos and Hearth (U. Minnesota Press, 1996, ISBN 0816627312), Passing Strange and Wonderful (Island Press, 1993, Kodansha 1995, ISBN 1568360673) Morality and Imagination: Paradoxes of Progress (U. Wisconsin Press, 1989, ISBN 0299120643), The Good Life (U. Wisconsin Press, 1986, ISBN 0299105407)
Beautifully-written, impeccably-researched books about the interface between nature and culture, and the refashioning of nature by culture.
Edward R. Tufte, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (Graphics Press, ISBN 096139210X) Envisioning Information (Graphics Press, 1990, ISBN 0961392118) Visual Explanations (Graphics Press, 1997, ISBN 0961392126)
Maybe the best books ever written about how to make visual displays which are at once useful and compelling. I'd really like to see an interface to global climate models built along Tuftean lines.
The World Bank, World Development Report 1998--1999: Knowledge for Development. (Oxford University Press, 1998, ISBN 0-19-521118-9).
Appalling lumpentechnocrat prose, but _lots_ of interesting stuff about bringing information, knowledge and electronic communications (not always clearly distinguished) to the poor, using IT in poverty-reduction schemes, controlling pollution through public pressure and disseminating information, etc. Also the best available statistics on the world's distribution of wealth, resources, information, health, etc., etc.
[End of Cosma's recommendations!]
Ted Byfield recommends: "Wolfgang Schivelbusch's Disenchanted Night: the Industrialization of Light in the Nineteenth Century is pretty short (definitely a Viridian virtue) and excellent."
(((Bruce Sterling remarks: "Disenchanted Night" has some very interesting material on the European history of energy and lighting practices. Another Schivelbusch book, The Railway Journey is even better. I'm stuck in the middle of the most recent Schivelbusch book, on the history of drugs and spices .)))
Ted Byfield recommends: "Pierre Bourdieu, Acts of Resistance: Against the Tyranny of the Market (nyc: new press, 1998) also weighs in at a whole 108 numbered pages and calls a spade a spade."
Ted Byfield recommends: Pierre Bourdieu, On Television (nyc: new press, 1998), a hefty 104 pages, pins the tail on the arsehole.
Edited by Ted Byfield (and a vast cast of nine other people):
(((bruces remarks: "Nettime" is a mailing list for anarcho, Euro-lefty, digital-arts people. Nettime is what WIRED would be if WIRED came out of a squat in East Berlin, and had no funding, no ads, no paper and no ink. I've been on the nettime list for years now; my 1996 science fiction novel HOLY FIRE is a kind of valentine to nettime, and ISEA, Ars Electronica, and their many related, opaque, delightful, Eurocybercultural concerns.
Bob Morris recommends: Ecology of Fear - Mike Davis - Metropolitan Books
With a chapter titled "The Case for Letting Malibu Burn" ( since we, in effect subsidize the wealthy to continually rebuild in Malibu after fires ), one could assume the real estate interests in L.A. would attack Davis unrelentingly. And they have. About the worst they've proven is that some of his facts are wrong. His ideas though, are provoking. Mass mindless boosterism has created an L.A. that is an environmental disaster waiting to happen with a mindset that ignores nature. (((bruces remarks: it's a fun book to read and William Gibson is major devotee of this Davis guy. For the record, however, I must proclaim that it is extremely unViridian to get your facts wrong.)))
Bob Morris recommends: The More You Watch The Less You Know - Danny Schechter - Seven Stories Press.
The title say it all, in this analysis of mass media and mass news, from someone who has been in alternative and mainstream media for thirty years.
Bob Morris recommends: Eat The Rich - P.J. O'Rourke - Atlantic Monthly Press
Why is Tanzania, with huge resources, desperately poor, while Hong Kong, with zero resources, quite wealthy? Why did Albania's capitalism blow up? Why does Sweden's socialism work? And why does Shanghai have the worst of both worlds? O'Rourke explores economics throughout the world in this well-written and sometimes quite funny book. Useful even if you aren't a right-wing Libertarian.Robert G. Kennedy III recommends: Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel . Having won the 1998 Pulitzer for Nonfiction, it probably doesn't need any plugs, but I'm going to plug it anyway. I'm not even finished reading, and it has changed my worldview. It will change yours, too. It's very Viridian, beings about germs, death, and the impermanence of institutions.
Adam Lipscomb recommends: David Brin The Transparent Society While I don't agree with all of his thesis, there are some interesting points raised re: corporate privacy that might be useful in preparing the Viridian "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" next century.
Adam Lipscomb recommends: Gregory Benford Deep Time - A look at the concept of building/thinking in long range terms, as well as some fascinating proposals for global warming fixes.
Warren Ellis is on the Viridian list, and he writes, uhm, scripts for, er, "comic books."
Warren Ellis remarks: Not only are my books "dull, irrelevant and stupid," but worse; they're graphic novels. They do, however, seem to sell quite well, and the referral fees might make you a few pennies.
Written and created by Warren Ellis, illustrated by Darick Robertson
Best Graphic Novel: International Horror Guild Best New Comic (International): British National Comics Week Awards
Written by Warren Ellis, illustrated by Leinil Francis Yu
It starts in Hong Kong in the 1970's, with the best killer in the world; the collapsing Scots assassin McLeish, who cannot murder without drinking four bottles of Scotch first. It ends a day later, with a fireball in Hong Kong Harbour -- it was believed. Now the man who lit that fireball is in New York... Logan, the enigmatic soldier who haunts the 20th Century. And there's a dead body in his bed with a chunk of explosive stuck to it along with a calling card. The sign of McLeish, who should be a twenty years'-soaked piece of filth on the bottom of Hong Kong Harbour...
ART OF THE LONG VIEW by Peter Schwartz
How Buildings Learn by Stewart Brand
Stefan Jones recommends: The Existential Pleasures of Engineering by Samuel C. Florman
The Immense Journey by Loren C. Eiseley