4 fireside-worthy books about the men and women who designed our world

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Josh Scott

New Year’s Day is well in our rearview mirrors, but for many parts of the world, winter is far from over. Whether you’re enjoying a balmy California day or sheltering from a Northeastern blizzard, the cooler seasons are a perfect time to discover the many unexpected ways that industrial design shapes our lives. Here are four fireside-worthy tales (each available on Amazon) of men and women whose influence extends far beyond the automotive sector—and far beyond the time period in which they sketched.

industrial strength design book cover
Josh Scott

Industrial Strength Design: How Brooks Stevens Shaped Your World

In the postwar decades, industrial designer Brooks Stevens’s instincts permeated multiple business sectors with ease and fluidity. If you like your peanut butter out of a wide-mouth jar, thank Stevens for the idea. Ditto for sporty Evinrude outboard boat motors, a clothes dryer with a clever window in front, and the 1958 Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, too. Spanning 300 pages and featuring 267 color and black-and-white images, Industrial Strength Design also covers his original Jeep Wagoneer design, Studebaker’s Gran Turismo Hawk coupe, and even the Skytop Lounge train. Stevens was so into the future, he popularized the term “planned obsolescence.” $28 from amazon.com

damsels in design book cover
Josh Scott

Damsels in Design: Women Pioneers in the Automotive Industry, 1939–1959

If you’re a woman who gets cars, industrial art, and boardroom brawn, you might have the tenacity possessed by the “damsels of design” in Detroit in the mid-20th century. For exceptional women like Helene Rother, contributing to the form and function of products built by American automakers was not only essential, but precedential. For instance, Rother—a veteran designer at GM, Miller-Meteor, and Nash—is credited with leading Cadillac’s instrument panel and seat construction during its midcentury heyday. She and many others populate this 192-page reference book, which also includes profiles of female designers at Ford, Packard, Studebaker, and Tucker. $35 from amazon.com

raymond loewy industrial designer book cover
Josh Scott

Raymond Loewy: Pioneer of American Industrial Design

Next summer, when you’re enjoying an icy bottle of Coca-Cola while driving a Studebaker Avanti to the bus station for a Greyhound Scenicruiser tour, think of industrial designer Raymond Loewy—mastermind of all three iconic shapes. The French-born Loewy was prolific; during a career lasting until age 87, he designed the Shell Oil Co. logo and the presidential Air Force One graphics. A substantial 262-page hardcover book measuring 9.5 inches by 12.25 inches, Raymond Loewy: Pioneer of American Industrial Design will open your mind to 20th-century American design generally, and Loewy’s genius in particular. $67 from amazon.com

master of proportions design book cover
Josh Scott

Tom Tjaarda: Master of Proportions

Sized like a burly ream of copy paper, this new book on Detroit-born designer Tom Tjaarda boasts 474 pages, is a bountiful 8.5 inches by 12 inches, and weighs a whopping 5.35 pounds. Master of Proportions chronicles the life of the designer of the Ferrari 330 GT 2+2, the DeTomaso Pantera, the Fiat 124 Sport Spider, the Aston Martin Lagonda Coupe, and the utilitarian Ford Fiesta. Abundantly illustrated, the book traces how Tjaarda, after a Motor City upbringing, moved to Turin—then considered the epicenter of European automotive design—and emphatically made his mark. $150 from amazon.com

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