Summer is here, and with it comes our annual reading list of thought-provoking books on design and activism. This time, we asked some of our favourite creative thinkers and community members to share their most memorable reads from recent years. Keep scrolling to see the eclectic list, which includes picks by creative director Liza Enebeis, Memberful Design‘s Harald Dunnink and Julie Donders, Dutch design icon Richard Hutten, and independent publisher (and our resident bibliophile!) Bebel Abreu.
Whether you’re looking for a dose of optimism to accompany you on your day off, or an in-depth exploration of the design paradigms that will carry us into the future — here are six titles we think you’ll love.
Flourish: Design Paradigms for Our Planetary Emergency
By Sarah Ichioka & Michael Pawlyn
About the authors: Michael Pawlyn is a world-renowned biomimicry expert and founder of the innovative architecture firm, Exploration. Sarah Ichioka is an urbanist and leader of multi-disciplinary strategic consultancy firm Desire Lines. Here they join forces on a critically-acclaimed new book which maps out key design paradigms in a time of planetary emergency.
About the book: The first title on our list comes highly recommended by Julie Donders and Harald Dunnink, who you might know from their work at Momkai and De Correspondent. “We picked it because it proposes a bold set of regenerative design principles for addressing our environmental and social crises, which has been a helpful frame for us to prioritise planetary health in our work,” explains Julie. “Sarah Ichioka is also one of our upcoming guests on the Memberful Design podcast. Our first season has just wrapped, so have a listen while you wait!”
Learn more at: flourish-book.com
The Secret Lives of Color
By Kassia St Clair
About the author: Kassia St. Clair is Britain’s bestselling historian under 40. Her books are known for telling hidden or overlooked stories in art, politics, fashion and culture, while her features, interviews, essays and reviews have appeared in the Economist, the Telegraph, Architectural Digest, the TLS and Wired.
About the book: From acid yellow to kelly green, and from scarlet women to imperial purple—this book dives into the fascinating role that colour plays in our society. “It’s full of humour and inspiration from history and nature,” says creative entrepreneur (and previous WDCD Challenge winner) Emy Bensdorp, who considers it her favourite book of the past few years. “Not necessarily a 1:1 connection to our field practice, but it showed me the beauty of our surroundings, human inventiveness and the richness of our environment.”
Learn more at: kassiastclair.com/books
By Kate Raworth
About the author: It’s safe to say that Kate Raworth is one of the most influential economists of the 21st century. Fed up with the myth of infinite growth on a finite planet, she developed the concept of “doughnut economics” as an alternative model for making, buying and using things within ecological boundaries.
About the book: Described as a “must-read” by designer Richard Hutten, this book lays out what policymakers, industry leaders and activists can do to create economies that balance the needs of people with the needs of the environment. It’s filled with compelling research and ambitious ideas on everything from degrowth to circular design and systems thinking, and doesn’t shy away from hard-hitting questions about what it all means for a world in crisis.
Learn more at: hive.co.uk
Work Hard and Be Nice to People
by Anthony Burrill
About the author: Anthony Burrill might be a graphic artist by trade, but his work spans everything from music to architecture, curation, education and more. Whatever the medium, there are three things that sit at the heart of his practice: bold words, gentle humour, and a deep love for all things analogue and imperfect.
About the book: If you know Studio Dumbar’s Liza Enebeis, you’ll know she has a near-encyclopedic knowledge of books. This made it nearly impossible for her to pick a favourite for our list (sorry, Liza!) but she eventually settled on this modern classic by Anthony Burrill. Filled with wise words on getting things done, success, motivation, collaboration and happiness, this punchy yellow tome is the perfect poolside read for anyone working in the creative industries. “The title alone says it all — especially ‘be nice to people’,” says Liza. “I think everything begins with respecting each other. If we have respect for ourselves, each other and the planet, we can go together a long way.”
Learn more at: anthonyburrill.com
Brutally Honest: No Bullshit Strategies To Evolve Your Creative Business
By Emily Ruth Cohen
About the author: Emily Ruth Cohen describes herself as a ‘no-nonsense business consultant’ who cares about the creative industry. Through her books and seminars, she gives creative professionals the tools they need to make smart business decisions, always in an engaging, concise, and actionable manner.
About the book: This entry was recommended by our very own programme manager, Tuğçe Akbulut, and is especially useful for any designer looking to carve out their own path as an entrepreneur. As Tuğçe notes: “The book’s name reflects its truth indeed. The writer understands deeply the strengths and weaknesses of creative minds in terms of business decisions, financial realities, client relations and marketing. She directly speaks to you like a good friend and helps you to reflect on your business decisions honestly and transparently.”
Learn more at: casadavka.com
Um Feminismo Decolonial
By Françoise Vergès
About the author: Born in Paris but raised on Réunion island, Françoise Vergès is a fearless thinker, journalist, political scientist, activist and historian. She is known for writing books, producing films and curating exhibitions which delve into feminist and anti-racist histories, from primers on class and sexuality to reflections on the #MeToo movement.
About the book: Coming in last is a powerful manifesto selected by Bebel Abreu of Bebel Books, who also happens to be What Design Can Do’s director in Brazil. In this book — which is available in English as A Decolonial Feminism — Françoise Vergès takes a long, hard look at the intersection of gender, race and capitalism, and how these forces shape the lives of the millions of women who “clean the world”. In the author’s own words: “Every day, in every city, thousands of black women, racialized, ‘open’ the city. They clean the spaces that patriarchy and neoliberal capitalism need to function.” This book invites you to learn their stories so that we might better understand how to free ourselves from the systems that oppress us.
Learn more at: plutobooks.com
Top image: Work Hard and Be Nice To People by Anthony Burrill. Photography by Kate Davis.