The Top 10 Design Books of 2012


What do we love more than lists here at Flavorwire? Lists about books, that’s what. In keeping with one of our favorite time honored traditions — the end-of-year requisite roundups — we thought we’d take a look at some of the most noteworthy design books released in the past twelve months. Often relegated to the coffee table category, the design tome is a hallowed genre that’s more pictures than prose, but affords what we think is still the best form of inspiration in the world: the impeccably printed page.

From Phaidon’s comprehensive book-in-a-box featuring 500 plus graphic designs to Taschen’s enchanting retrospective of fairy tale tree houses for grownups, click through to check out our favorite design titles of 2012.

A Visual Inventory by John Pawson

Image credit: Phaidon; Wallpaper

A journey into the creative world of one of design’s most elegant and accomplished architects, A Visual Inventory is 320 perfect pages presenting a selection of the some 200,000 photographs John Pawson has taken over the course of his 30-year-long career. Like an inspiring international Instagram in book form, the visual diary is annotated with Pawson’s personal notes and spans different countries and time periods. From Pawson’s visit to Peter Zumthor’s St. Benedict’s Chapel in Switzerland, to when he was designing key works like the new Cistercian monastery in Bohemia, and more recent work trips to Japan, Seoul, New York, and Paris.

The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design

Image credit: Phaidon

Phaidon’s fabulous book-in-a-box is a tactile treat for design lovers everywhere featuring 500 graphic designs including newspapers, magazines, posters, advertisements, typefaces, logos, corporate design, record covers and moving graphics from around the world. As T Magazine explained, “The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design is the commercial art cannon embodied: 500 topic sheets on everything from a 700-year-old Buddhist text to the album art of Beck’s The Information.” Extra bonus: a clever (handy) handle.

How to Make a Japanese House by Cathelijne Nuijsink

Image credit: domus

Writer and contributor Cathelijne Nuijsink’s new book How to Make a Japanese House is a stunning exploration of the country’s ever-inspiring domestic design scene. Broadly divided into generations — featuring grouped works of those born in the 1950s, ’60s, etc., the book includes projects by Flavorwire favorites Atelier Bow-Wow, Sou Fujimoto, TNA, Jun Igarashi, Kazuyo Seijima, and many more.

Roman and Williams: Buildings and Interiors by Stephen Alesch, Robin Standefe, and Jamie Brisick

A retrospective of the epic work of the designers behind some of New York’s most fashionable scenes (The Standard, The Ace, The Dutch), this gorgeous book showcases a trademark style that’s both elegant and eccentric in the best possible way. Including photos of the homes of clients Kate Hudson, Gywneth Paltrow, and Ben Stiller, among others, this book is a must-have for any creative reference library.

The Architectural Model: Tool, Fetish, Small Utopia edited by Peter Cachola Schmal and Oliver Elser

Image credit: domus

This is hands down the best book ever written on the profession’s most mysterious marvel: the architect’s miniature model. Curator Oliver Elser created the book as a companion piece to an extensive exhibition by the same name at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum in Frankfurt. Ranging from tiny utopias in mason jars to paper pop-ups, this is a great way to study — and learn from — some of the most beautiful and bizarre models ever made.

Concrete edited by William Hall

Image credit: selectism

Who knew something so seemingly boring could spawn one of the best design books of the decade. Yes, we said it, this surprisingly tantalizing tome — in the words of Wallpaper reviewer Jonathan Bell — gets down and dirty with the notorious material, unashamedly singing its praises through a series of captioned photographs that run the full range of concrete’s structural, sculptural, textural, and technological applications.

Tree Houses: Fairy Tale Castles in the Air edited by Philip Jodidio

Image credit: Taschen

Enchanting tree houses for grown-ups. What more do we need to say?

The Little Black Jacket by Karl Lagerfeld and Carine Roitfeld

Image credit: Chanel

Created by Karl Lagerfeld and the former French Vogue editor, Carine Roitfeld, this bold little book is but one component of one of the fashion event’s of the year: a traveling exhibition celebrating Chanel’s little black jacket. Featuring more than 100 celebrities photographed by Lagerfeld himself, this timely title includes fashion uberstar Sarah Jessica Parker, Uma Thurman, Kirsten Dunst, Yoko Ono, and many more.

Rookie Yearbook One by Tavi Gevinson

Image credit: Time Out

It’s (mostly) fashion, some design with helpful short articles about all-important topics like how to bitchface and how to make a zine. In short, it’s brilliant whether you’re an Urban Outfitters-wearing, Courtney Love-worshipping teenage girl or not.

Wendell Castle: Wandering Forms by Alastair Gordon

Image credit: Amazon

Because sometimes we all need a little good ol’ fashioned high end hippie design fun. And by hippie design, we mean jaw-dropping, inspired-by-nature furniture and sculpture. TIME Magazine summed his work up when they wrote, “How to describe the furniture and household objects produced by Castle, an 80 year old American designer and craftsmen? Organic would characterize some Biomorphic would work for others.. For others .. only surreal will do.”