learning about history

I am currently an Industrial design undergrad and I am wondering what would be the best way to educate myself about important designers and design from the past outside the classroom. Are there any books I should buy and read? or are there other ways I can go about this?

Hello Kit,

Firstly my commendation on deciding to learn about design history. I have seen a lot of people not seem to give much care about it. They go onto to design something done around 100 years ago and theink they are the bomb. At first I’d just get my hands on a basic round up of contemporary design - from the arts and crafts movement to now - I would imagine your university library will have one of these books. Then decide what era/type of design you like the best/ find most interesting. It helps to generate an understanding of design practise if you can relate to a particular time or designer. I recently got my hands on ‘Modernism: Designing a New World’ by Christopher Wilk. It is blooming good; all encomposing of the ‘ism’, very well written and extremely interesting.


hope this helps - good luck


thanks, ill definitely look into it. Ive already taken a design survey course which covered all the major eras but the problem im having is actually identifying famous/important designs. anyone have any recommendations for learning about specific designs and not just reading about them?

just keeping reading and remembering the products - print some off and stick them around your room - make a timeline of famous designs perhaps


Try checking out the ‘Genius of Design’ series. There is a DVD coinciding with a well written book. I am looking to apply for CCA soon and I am determined to do the same as you. This series gives a broad spectrum of design history and I think you would benefit from it too!


This should get you started. Keep in mind that what is so great about reading any kind of “history” is that one discovery leads to another.

American Industrial Designers: Category:American industrial designers - Wikipedia
(note: while Steve Jobs absolutely affected the “design” of his company’s products, I question the propriety of listing him as an “Industrial Designer”, per se. (my personal comment))

German Industrial Designers: Category:German industrial designers - Wikipedia

Italian Industrial Designers: Category:Italian industrial designers - Wikipedia

Dannish: Category:Danish industrial designers - Wikipedia (to which I would add: Arne Jacobsen

Finnish: Category:Finnish industrial designers - Wikipedia (to which I would add; Tapio Wirkkula

Here’s a good site for “vintage modern” products; the designer’s names are included; links are provided to the designers.

Selecting a particulate “product” can also lead you to a designer; an old TV series: Connections, by James Burke, is interesting in that regard.

The history of design is something that is perfect to learn in an academic environment, but unfortunately, many schools don’t seem to adequately teach it. Fantastic that you are interested in learning more. There are many documentaries on designers and architects and video is a nice entry point to survey a lot and then decide what you would like to read deeper about. A few I like:

Visual Acoustics about Julius Schulman
The Architect and The Painter about Charles and Ray Eames
The Sketches of Frank Gehry
Frank Lloyd Wright by Ken Burns
Art & Copy
Milton Glaser; To Inform and Delight