Small Planet

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Our Favorite Design Books – 2017 Edition

It’s only money.

Small Planet

Small Planet

We love buying books. We especially love buying books about typefaces, graphic design, architecture, illustration, design history, fashion, and anything else that celebrates the creative mind at work. If it’s big, expensive, inspiring, and beautiful, we are all in.

Our 2017 favorites do not disappoint, they’d be fun additions to any library. But remember, while giving to others is really, really great, aren’t the best gifts the ones we give ourselves?



New York City Transit Authority: Objects

NYC’s transit system has given us so much iconic municipal design over the decades, it’s strange to think there haven’t been more coffee-table collections dedicated to it. Brian Kelly’s photo essay on subway artifacts is both a landmark work and a refreshing, unexpected take on the city’s history told through the objects that guide us every day (and often are taken for granted).


The Electric State

The new narrative artbook (and Kickstarter project) by artist Simon Stålenhag has all the things we love: determined/plucky heroines, toy robot sidekicks, retro-futurist alternate histories of the 1990s, and “ruins of gigantic battle drones littering the countryside heaped together with the discarded trash of a high tech consumerist society in decline.” Sold!


Before & Further

It’s a dream project. Australian husband-and-wife artists Dabs and Myla took over the Modernica office building in L.A. and turned it into one massive art installation, inside and out. The limited edition book Before & Further captures the candy-colored Pee-wee’s Playhouse fun of it all — sculptures, paintings, furniture, decorations, lighting — in all its pop glory.


Never Use Futura

Almost a hundred years since its creation, Futura continues to define how we perceive the idea of “modern.” For design students, the font is tasty, forbidden fruit (the title is a common phrase they hear from professors). Douglas Thompson’s beautiful book is a thoughtful consideration of why advertisers and major-league designers are still drawn to it, despite complaints about overuse.


Draplin Design Co.: Pretty Much Everything

Part gonzo autobiography, part essay on the state of modern design, part branding survey of the last 30 years, Aaron James Draplin’s sprawling book lives up to its title. Pretty Much Everything captures both the spirit and the staggering range of Draplin’s work.


High Line: A Field Guide and Handbook

Mark Dion’s witty, alternative guide to one of New York’s newest (and best) public spaces blends maps, essays, observations on urban design, insights into local flora and fauna, a few fibs, and other treats into a short and useful volume. The 2nd edition from Printed Matter came out this year, in collaboration with Friends of the High Line.


The EPA Graphic Standards System

We have a confession to make: we love standards manuals. A lot. This reissue of the 1977 manual is a fascinating, colorful look into the agency’s desire to inspire and educate in an era of big dreams, major problems, and diminishing budgets. Bonus reading: the superlative NASA Graphics Standards Manual.


The Work of Hipgnosis: Walk Away René

At least ¼ of your dad’s record collection from the ‘70s was probably designed by the artists at Hipgnosis. Some of their later work definitely didn’t age well (the infamous Scorpions Animal Magnetism cover), but their iconic work for Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Genesis, ELO, and others defined the era. Originally published in 1978, Walk Away René captures Hipgnosis in all their creative, transgressive glory.



Based on the Fondation Cartier’s exhibit in Paris, Autophoto: Cars & Photography, 1900 to Now captures photography’s long love affair with cars and car culture. A diverse range of artists, from William Eggleston to Catherine Opie to Yasuhiro Ishimoto, explore everything from roadway geometry to the daily interactions we have in, around, and about automobiles.


Calvin Klein

Our good friends over at Rizzoli just released the definitive Calvin Klein retrospective, and it looks fantastic. Klein wrote and compiled much of the material himself, and the book is massive (480 pages) for a reason … CK’s influence on fashion, advertising, modelling, photography, and culture is monumental.


Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed

Frédéric Chaubin showcases stark, yet stunning brutalist architecture as he takes us back to the USSR’s final decades. Many structures took on neutered forms, devoid of personality and passion, while others committed to an aesthetic inspired by flying saucers and alien takes on Stonehenge. The wild differences were emblematic of the renewal of identity in the last years of the Soviet era.


Midnight Modern: Palm Springs Under the Full Moon

Palm Springs’ modern architecture is some of the most photographed in the world, but almost always during the day. Australian photographer Tom Blanchford got permission to photograph many of these iconic properties at night, and the results make you want to go there. Right now. Published by powerHouse Books.


F*ck That’s Delicious

Ok, so not technically a design book — but the type of book where you pick up to spend ten minutes examining the typesetting. Hip-hop juggernaut and former chef Action Bronson muses about recipes, life on the road, overlooked culinary institutions, the nature of appetite, and much more. Acclaimed food journalist Rachel Wharton is a co-writer.


Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia

It is near-impossible to talk concisely about Hippie Modernism, which explores the counterculture of the ‘60s and ‘70s through the works of those who sought utopia by abandoning mainstream society. Maybe that’s the point. Influenced by lo-fi indie publications and corporate advertising language of the time, the book is full of essays, typography, and images that capture the art, design, and architecture of the time.


No Words Posters: One Image is Enough

As the title indicates, this book speaks volumes with very few words. Armando Milani’s curated collection of posters from a diverse, international group of designers addresses big ideas, such as peace, social justice, the effects of technology, and helping people connect to worlds outside of their own.



Say what you will about Yoko Ono — we happen to think she’s pretty awesome. Grapefruit, in particular, is a window into Ono’s creative, loving, and quirky world. Published in 1964, before, well, a lot of stuff happened, this excellent example of conceptual art is as poetic as it is thoughtful.