Whether you’re lying on a beach or reclining at home keeping cool in the air conditioning, these design book recommendations from Cooper Hewitt Staff will pique your interest and dazzle your senses.

Patterns: Inside the Design Library

by Peter Koepke (Phaidon Press, 2016)

Valerie Newton, Manager, SHOP Cooper Hewitt

I’m a huge fan of textile design and printmaking and have a small library of books devoted to this topic. One of my favorites is Patterns: Inside the Design Library by Peter Koepke. The Design Library has the world’s largest and best organized collections of documentary fabrics, original paintings, wallpapers, embroideries, and yarn dyes, numbering over seven million designs. The collections date from the 1750s–present and are sorted into over 1,200 categories for easy access. Many of the prints are featured in this book, which I find to be a great resource when designing my own textiles


American Plastic: A Cultural History

by Jeffrey Meikle (Rutgers University Press, 1997)

Jessica Walthew, Conservator

American Plastic: A Cultural History by Jeffrey Meikle—a classic and engaging cultural history on Plastics (a perennial favorite topic of mine).


Gothic Revival Worldwide : A.W.N. Pugin’s Global Influence

edited by Timothy Brittain-Catlin, Jan De Maeyer, Martin Bressani. (Leuven University Press, 2017)

Nilda Lopez, Library Technician, Cooper Hewitt Libraries

I absolutely adore the Victorian Gothic Revival and Pugin’s intricate designs. This book focuses on his global influence and how it weaves its way through Europe, North and Latin America, and even the South Pacific. Broken into chapters of art historical criticism, it brings fresh ideas to the significance of the Gothic Revival.


Are We Human? Notes on an Archeology of Design

by Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley (Lars Müller, 2017)

Ellen Lupton, Senior Curator of Contemporary Design

My favorite design book is Are We Human? by Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley. This heady, original little paperback is overflowing with ideas and images. The thesis: design has changed the human organism at the biological level, from the earliest tools to digital technologies. You can read the whole book in 90 minutes, and finish it feeling a little more (or less) human.

Available on SHOP Cooper Hewitt

NASA Graphics Standards Manual 

by Christopher Bonanos (Standards Manual, 2015)

Emily Brillion, Visitor Services Associate

It’s absolutely gorgeous in every way and daresay one of the best coffee table books a person could own. It’s full of incredible information and a treasure to have in your hands from its unwrapping to the back cover (Its packaging comes in shiny silver reminiscent of space food). You learn a lot about the concepts, the history, and the graphic sensibilities behind the NASA brand in general, but most importantly about the vessels, tools, and science that make NASA the organization that it is.

Available on SHOP Cooper Hewitt

Tools: Extending our Reach

edited by Cara McCarty and Matilda McQuaid (Cooper Hewitt, 2015)

Pamela Horn, Director of Cross-Platform Publishing and Strategic Partnerships

From Paleolithic times (1.85 million years ago) to the present, tools have been at the frontier of design. This book looks at 175 tools that have propelled us forward as humans. Crossing cultures and disciplines the book highlights innovations and breakthroughs throughout the history of the human species. Forty-eight contributors—historians, scientists, curators, designers—tell fascinating stories that make these extraordinary objects come alive.

Available on SHOP Cooper Hewitt

Shaping Things

by Bruce Sterling (The MIT Press, 2005)

Rachel Ginsberg, Interactive Lab Director

My favorite design book is Bruce Sterling’s Shaping Things. It’s a small volume packed with ideas about the relationship between manufactured “things” and the cultures that surround them. In some ways dense, but the kind of density that makes you want to re-read until you understand. The other thing I love about this book is how it signifies Sterling’s path from brilliant prolific writer of science fiction to design theorist. I see this as a tremendous testimonial to the power of storytelling and world-building. Sterling discusses how building “technocultures” —theoretical frameworks— can help us to make sense of the world.


Find other design books at SHOP Cooper Hewitt and use your 10% member discount.

Featured Image: Textile (England), 1972; Company: Miss Mouse ; H x W: 20 x 40.5 cm (7 7/8 x 15 15/16 in.); 1991-18-9

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