For the past two and a half years, Designers & Books has been offering illuminating glimpses into the bookshelves and reading lives of designers ranging from David Adjaye to Eva Zeisel. The website that launched many a book-buying binge has just unveiled a redesign by Studio Kudos, with a host of new ways to browse and view the 170 lists and 1,700 listed books (and counting!), more frequent infusions of fresh editorial content (in partnership with Superscript), and even bigger plans for the future.
“One of the main things the site now stands for is the immense generosity of the design community,” founder and editor-in-chief Steve Kroeter tells us. “We ask world-renowned designers to take time out from their impossible schedules to talk to us about books—and they do it. Amazing!” Among the lists to watch for in the weeks to come are those of Anna Sui, Phyllis Lambert, Andre Leon Talley, and Michael Rock. In the meantime, we asked Kroeter to tell us more about the origins of Designers & Books, what’s next for the site, and of course, what’s on his reading list.
What led you to create Designers & Books?
Over the years I’ve visited many design studios, and one thing I’ve noticed about them all—whether it was an architect’s office or that of a fashion designer or graphic designer—is that books are always everywhere. Whether neatly shelved or scattered about randomly, books are everywhere. When you ask why, you find that designers look to books as sources of inspiration. Books to designers are fuel for creativity, innovation, and invention.
Given the widespread interest these days in creativity, it occurred to me that if I could get well known and respected designers to share the list of books that had inspired them, then there might be an idea in that, that could be developed. Books as a reliable and powerful source of inspiration for creativity—for the design community, yes. But also for everyone in general.
What are some of your favorite elements of the redesigned site?
When we started the site in 2011 just about all we did was book lists. Pretty quickly, though, we began to add many other features—which on the one hand was great, but it also made it increasingly difficult for site visitors to easily see what was new. Our updated design highlights what’s new in a clean, easy way and also neatly shows the full range of what we now offer.
In terms of specific features, we’ve launched what we believe is the first-ever best-seller list for design books—based on sales from 10 top design booksellers (with more to be added soon). We are also working with Debbie Millman on a special series of Design Matters podcasts with authors of design books. The first four of the series are now featured on the new site.
What’s next for Designers & Books?
During August and September we will be rolling out additional new features: an all-time design book best-seller list, community book lists where visitors to the site will be able to post their all-time favorite design books—and also their 2013 favorites, a design book events calendar, and a “design books to win” program. In September we will launch our online design book fair. We have 14 publishers—from the U.S., the U.K., Germany, and Switzerland—signed up.
And finally, what titles are left on your summer reading list?
I just finished Stoner by John Williams, which has a very interesting story behind it. I was in London in July and spent a lot of time on the Tube. Even though it was on our Notable Design Book list for 2012, I never got around to reading Underground: How the Tube Shaped London. So it’s next. (By the way, what a pleasure to never have to wait more than 5 minutes for a train!) Then I am going to re-read On The Road, which I read in my first-year Humanities class in college—and just ran across on my bookshelf.