Saturday, January 31, 2015

Smithsonian Great Design by DK Publishing - I Love DK!!

It's time once again for the I LOVE DK promotion where readers pick their favorite DK book.  All you have to do is pick one that you love and let DK know with a short review or a sentence or two.

On Valentine's Day they will select one of the reviews and that  reviewer wins a $250 DK shopping spree from DK.  They will also select a participating blogger for the same prize. 

So, if you love DK books as much as I do I encourage you to participate  between January 19 and February 4th.  Just go to Twitter and use the hashtag #ILoveDK letting DK know you favourite DK book.  Not on Twitter?  No problem.  They also have a Facebook page.   I left this a little late, but there's still a few days left to let the world know your favourite book from DK Canada and win a great prize!

Anyway, I posted about lots of great DK books over the past few years. Here's my recent favourite:

Smithsonian: Great Design features over 100 designs from around the world using numerous photographs and informative text. Within the covers, you'll find information about furniture, flatware, vehicles, graphics and much more. There's really something for everyone. In a nutshell, it's " the world's best design explored and explained."

I loved this book!! The thing I loved most about it was that it taught me that every item I see or touch each and every day has been gone through the design process. It can have a designer label or a generic one. It doesn't matter if it's sold at Wal-Mart, a high end "designer" store, or given away for free. Someone somewhere made decisions about its form and function. The book was definitely an eye-opener.

Besides being informative, the book is beautifully laid out with absolutely gorgeous photographs. Many of the designs are iconic, while others are less well known (at least to me) and somewhat surprising. Some of the items are just beautiful; some more functional; many a little of both. I love that the book is presented chronologically (1860 to the present), which allowed me to see the evolution of design. I also enjoyed the information on the designers and design movements.

The book starts with an interesting, but short, introduction explaining what design is and how it works. Each chapter starts with a list of items designed in that time period. I kind of wish there were page numbers on that page so that I could quickly find what I'm interested in, but I guess that's what the table of contents is for.

Within the chapters, each design item is featured on a 2 or 4 page spread. There are lots of photos and information about the item. The Visual Tour section is my favourite part because it focuses on the details of the particular item with annotated and/or labelled photographs. Besides the photographs, there's lots of information about the items including: date, materials used, country of origin, and scale of the piece. There's also a side bar about featuring information about the designer, many times with a photo.

There's so many great items in this book. It was hard, but I managed to pick a few favourites. Here they are:

  • Kitchen/dining items: Flatware, especially the spoons (page 30-31), Aga cookers (pages 42-43) Kilta tableware (page 118-119), and Pride cutlery (pages 122-123)
  • Vehicles: Volkswagen Beetle Model 1300 (pages 80-03), Vespa (pages 98-101), Austin Seven Mini (pages 168-171), and Cadillac series 62 (pages 172-175)
  • Furniture: Egg chair (pages 162-163), Barcelona Chair (pages 58-59), Wiggle Chair (pages 202-203), Vermelta Chair (pages 229-235), Laver sofa (pages 238-239), and Masters Chair (pages 248-249)
  • Miscellaneous: Penguin paperback covers (pages 102-103), Dyson DC01 vacuum cleaner (pages 226-227, I have a soft spot for all things Dyson)

The most surprising item in the book was the London Underground map (pages 64-65). What surprised me was that the diagrams were very similar to those used on our bus schedules here. It didn't occur to me that these needed "designing". However, after reading the information about how and why they are designed that way, I was amazed I didn't see it before. I liked the Munich Olympic Games pictograph (pages 204-205) for much the same reason. Both of these were very cool!!!!

Book also features a table of contents and index.

Highly recommended. This gorgeous coffee table book will be looked at repeatedly and already sports a number of bookmarks.

For more information about this book, please visit, while DK revamps its website.

I'd like to thank Chris at DK Canada for this review copy.

Smithsonian: Great Design by DK Publishing, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2013. ISBN 9781465414403(Hardcover), 256p.

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