The Best Books on Design and Architecture

  • December 20, 2012

Michael Marshall, internationally recognized for design excellence, recommends books on design and architecture.

Recommended by Michael Marshall, AIA, NOMA

A Technique for Producing Ideas

by James Webb Young


Anyone interested in a system of design should find this small work, originally published in 1965 for advertising copywriters, useful as a general “how to” book with numerous strategies for the creative process.  A Technique for Producing Ideas will appeal to any readers interested in the formulation of ideas, whether novices or experienced project managers leading creative teams of multidisciplinary designers.

Norman Foster, A Life in Architecture

by Deyan Sudjic

Weidenfeld & Nicolson

This book provides a vivid portrait of the British architect Norman Foster, whose firm is responsible for “City Center” in downtown Washington, D.C., a mixed-use residential/commercial urban development project now under construction, and the recent renovation of the courtyard atrium of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery. For me as an architect, Foster and Partners, a global practice, is the gold standard for a design organization that executes projects worldwide with a consistently high standard of excellence and always with great concern for the environment, context and sustainability. This book, along with the companion documentary, How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster, illustrates the focused and highly successful career of an architect and leader of one of the most successful architectural design organizations practicing today.  From humble beginnings in Manchester, England, Foster has designed some of the most dynamic buildings of the late 20th and 21st century. Foster and Partners has contributed to some of the most interesting and thoughtful urban design projects in major cities around the world, always with a keen interest in improving the environment and the quality of life of the inhabitants. When asked what his favorite design is, Foster is quick to say “the design of our practice.”

The Biography of a Building: How Robert Sainsbury and Norman Foster Built a Great Museum

by Witold Rybczynski

Thomas & Hudson

Another book involving Foster and Partners, this one follows the commission and execution of one of the practice’s most important early buildings and the relationship between the clients, Sir Robert and Lady Sainsbury, retail magnates in the United Kingdom, and Norman Foster, architect of the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, a museum at East Anglia University in Norwich. The book chronicles the events in the developing relationship between the Sainsburys and the university; the entire process from selection of the architects through construction; and later expansion of the museum and study center. This book will take the mystery out of how great architecture is developed and built. It’s often said that “great architecture requires a great client,” and here we get insight into the often overlooked collaboration between architects and those who commission them.


The Soul of Design

by Lee Dermiand

Robert D. Austen

The Soul of Design harnesses the power of plot—as in every great narrative has a beginning, middle and end—to create extraordinary industrial products. Great product design has certain attributes that are conveyed by their “form and function,” rendering those attributes inseparable. The relationship of form and function of non-ordinary products and services, when executed to provide the best value and quality, have the potential to command higher financial returns to the producers of those goods and services far above the generic or ordinary products of their competitors. To support this idea, the book provides numerous illustrations of product design, movies and other creative endeavors, and examines the search for the DNA of what makes for commercial success beyond the basic marketing of everyday products.

Oscar Niemeyer Buildings

Text by Alan Hess, photos b Alan Weintraub


This large coffee-table book captures the long career and life’s work of one of the 20th century’s most prolific architects through a beautifully compiled photographic essay of Oscar Niemeyer’s buildings and projects. Using the language of modern architecture fused with the essence of Brazilian aesthetics, Niemeyer developed a style of architecture that evokes the rhythms and movement of samba, with seductive shapes and colors that have great resonance in the landscapes and cities of Brazil. His architecture displays the same quality of spirit as the play of the Brazilian national soccer team, the beat in the music of Jobim and the sway in the dancing of samba. With the recent passing of this great master at the age of 104, his contribution to modern architecture is being examined through recent research and publications such as this brilliant book of photography.

Dieter Rams: As Little Design as Possible

by Sophie Lovell


Dieter Rams is the designer’s designer. His design philosophy has been the inspiration for the numerous high-tech products, furniture, everyday objects and architecture from the mid-20th century until today. His main output and service to the world of design has been to produce products for Braun, the German consumer products company, and his radios, clocks, shelving systems, juicers and other home products are now commonplace in our modern environment. His products have the double honor of being in production today while they are also part of major museum product design collections globally. This book is a catalog of his beautifully designed products in clear, full form and detail. Through this book, readers will come to realize that great design is not a hit-or-miss proposition, but willfully executed acts of production in service to great value and quality.

Michael Marshall is the principal of Marshall Moya Design. His projects have been recognized with international, national, and local awards for design excellence including the International Award of Excellence in the 2012 Chimelong International Icon Design Competition and, the American Institute of Architects DC’s 2012 Award of Excellence in Historic Resources for the Howard Theatre; the 2012 Timothy Anderson Awards for Excellence in Historic Rehabilitation for the Howard Theatre; and four national graphic design awards from Graphic Design USA’s 2012 American Graphic Design Competition.

Marshall received a Master’s degree in Architecture from Yale University, where internationally recognized architects, Frank Gehry and James Stirling, were his studio professors. He lives in Washington, DC where he enhances the built environment through design excellence in architecture.

comments powered by Disqus