Stacey’s Top Ten List: Great Design Books (Part I)

Stacey’s Top Ten List: Great Design Books (Part I)

Over my 25 years as an interior designer, and before that as a student of both fine art and design, I’ve amassed quite an extensive library of great design books. For this post and the next one, I’ve set myself the assignment of choosing my top ten all-time favourites and discussing how they have influenced the way I approach my work.

Trying to narrow my favourites down to only ten was by no means an easy task. My criteria for selection were simply this: which books do I go back to over and over again? Not all of the books on the list are typical design picture books (although some of the books selected are exactly that); others may fit more comfortably under the heading of Design Inspiration.

A few selections are books on design and art theory. Having studied both art and design, I couldn’t avoid including these—and since these are among my most treasured sources of inspiration, I am very glad I didn’t! So here they are, in no particular order. (Not all of these books are still in print, but you may be able to find them at your local library, used bookstores or online.)

Ways of Seeing, by John Berger, based on a BBC Television series, 1972. This book is about learning to see things: not just to look AT them, but to really SEE. Despite its age, the message is as current as ever. Berger’s discussion about glamour, envy, advertising, and desire is startling, and tells us much about our interest in art and design, and the industry that has grown up around both. Ways of Seeing: Based on the BBC Television Series


Rex Ray Art + Design, 2007. Rex Ray is a graphic designer and artist, and even if you haven’t heard the name you probably would recognize his work. His graphic designs grace the album covers of David Bowie, R.E.M., Radiohead and many others. This book focuses mostly on his fine art, which is powerful and very graphic. I find it riveting. Rex Ray: Art + Design


A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction by Christopher Alexander, 1977. I was introduced to Christopher Alexander while in design school and it completely changed my perspective of the built environment. This book could be used as reference, but Alexander’s editorial style never lets you forget his strong point of view: buildings and the spaces around them are for people. A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (Cess Center for Environmental)


Derriere le Miroir, the art of Valerio Adami, by Maeght France, 1970. While trawling through one of my favourite galleries and art book shops on the Ave du Bac in Paris, I found this folio. I had never heard of Adami, but his use of colour and imagery really struck me. I return to this book regularly; it’s a feast for the eyes. Unfortunately this folio is not readily available through Amazon but can be purchased through other sources.


Timeless Interiors by Axel Vervoordt. Vervoordt is actually an antique collector and art dealer from Belgium. His interest in antiques gradually led him into designing private residences, and his passion for detail, his knowledge of materials and history gives his work a special quality. Axel Vervoordt: Timeless Interiors


Next time, I’ll round out the list. Meanwhile, do you have favourite books that have shaped your interest in design? I would love to hear from you—please feel free to write with your comments. Till next time!