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Design as Art

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  2,011 ratings  ·  117 reviews
One of the last surviving members of the futurist generation, Bruno Munari's Design as Art is an illustrated journey into the artistic possibilities of modern design translated by Patrick Creagh published as part of the 'Penguin on Design' series in Penguin Modern Classics.

'The designer of today re-establishes the long-lost contact between art and the public, b
Paperback, 224 pages
Published September 25th 2008 by Penguin Classics (first published 1971)
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Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This has been my Italian year reading wise. After Elena Ferrante, Umberto Eco, Roberto Calasso, Felice Benuzzi, I'm adding Bruno Munari to my list of the best experiences of 2016. For me, Design as Art might be the definitive book on design, because it's precise, smart, and humorous, and because I've never before read anyone talk about design with such combination of joy and gentle scolding that at times I needed to close the book and laugh to myself. His idea that children are like cats (sit qu ...more
Jan 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: design thinkers
Part social commentary in a world of design, part designerly musing, and part thoughtful criticism at a world filled with abused objects, Munari's new publication by Penguin is a welcoming oasis of short essays (many merely one page long concisely argued and written) to the tyranny of cognitive science and user research tomes dominating design thinking today (think Norman and IDEO combined).

Clearly, Munari was writing in and for another period. That was a period spearheaded by designers-thinker
Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing


‘Copying nature’ is one thing and understanding nature is another. Copying nature can be simply a form of manual dexterity that does not help us to understand, for it shows us things just as we are accustomed to seeing them. But studying the structures of nature, observing the evolution of forms, can give everyone a better understanding of the world we live in.
It's a gem!
Natty Peterkin
Feb 04, 2018 rated it liked it
About half of this book is excellent and insightful design theory, which I found compelling and inspiring as a designer myself. However, the rest of the material somewhat detracts from the excellence of these parts with tangential stories about the author's own projects (references to his own work aren't a bad thing as such, they are just too frequent and sometimes too lengthy) and a couple of tedious chapters that spend several pages dramatically emphasising a single point.
Nov 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Maxim Gorky: "An artist is a man who digests his own subjective impressions and knows how to find a general objective meaning in them, and how to express them in a convincing form."

"[Design] is planning: the planning as objectively as possible of everything that goes to make up the surroundings and atmosphere in which men live today." (35)

"A poem only communicates if read slowly: only then does it have time to create a state of mind in which the images can form and be transformed."
Will Schumer
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I haven’t done a proper book review in the past few months, but since Scupp seems to be keeping up, I suppose I’m OBLIGATED to.

Anywho, I had originally read Design as Art a while back because it was recommended to me by someone at the Bauhaus-Archiv in Berlin, and about a year or two later by a Danish guy at a clothing store in NYC when we were talking Naoto Fukasawa. I had no idea what to expect upon going in.

What I found was one of the most brilliant explanations of the merit of i

The designer of course does not operate in nature, but within the orbit of industrial production, and therefore his projects will aim at a different kind of spontaneity, an industrial spontaneity based on simplicity and economy in construction. There are limits of how far simplicity of structure can be taken, and it is exciting to push things to these limits.

I approached Munari's book with high expectations (since it's so highly rated), but ultimately found little of interest to lat
Oct 11, 2018 rated it liked it
I liked it, I didn't love it, as much as I expected it to, so let me bullet point what I think you can expect from this book.
1. It's in essay format, a collection of essays, on design-related topics, ordered according to topics like visual design, industrial design, graphic design, etc etc. From what I understand, this book was written in the 70s, so many design principles hold relevance even today, some do not, so in that sense, some of it is slightly dated.
2. Each topic area covers a bunch o
Sep 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Though he gets a little high on his horse at times, Munari's thoughts on art as a trade are very cool, and offer an interesting exploration on the relationship between skill and practical function. As a worker in a creative field, it's a refreshing perspective to think of skill as a service rather than, like, Art, which is worth thinking about, too, in the hierarchy of high and low art, or whatever.
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The first book I've read that clearly articulates what a designer is and what their duty is to society. Over all the book was interesting. Lot's of disconnected ideas related to design and aesthetics.
Nov 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Really, really enjoyable book of essays on art and design. Some chapters were less interestinh than others, as it usually happens, but I found it a book full of curiosity, appreciation and enlightenment.
Sebastian Wocial
Mar 10, 2019 rated it liked it
“The designer of today re-establishes the long lost contact between art and the public, between living people and art as a living thing. Instead of pictures for the drawing-room, electric gadgets for the kitchen. There should be no such thing as art divorced from life, with beautiful things to look at and hideous things to use. If what we use every day is made with art, and not thrown together by chance or caprice, then we shall have nothing to hide.”

If you look books examining the i
Aug 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Design As Art is a series of short essays filled with social commentary and criticism related to art and design. I think Munari does a great job challenging the reader to think about ways to improve design (making it more accessible), however at times I got lost by his subjective ramblings.

It's important to remember that this is sort of a catalog of Munari's thoughts. If you're looking for a book to learn about design, there may be better reads.

The quality of insight varies from chapter to cha
Jim Nielsen
Jul 26, 2014 rated it liked it
This book started out really great! Munari's vision for what design can be is very well articulated and worth internalizing. However as the book went on, it got a little less interesting. The book is basically a compendium of essays on design. Some of the essays were absolutely wonderful. Others were a little more tedious. But the good ones were great and definitely worth reading.
Melissa Frost
Mar 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: design
Like listening to a wise elder ramble on an on about varying topics only to find that at the end of all of it, the specifics of the monologue have all melted together. An easy mindless but enjoyable & wise read.
Karthikraj Raviraj
Sep 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
At first, author is so creative. And there are huge list of topics covered here. There are 4 category of design explain here namely Visual design, graphic design, Industrial design and Research design.

I would have given 5 stars, if the last part of research design is not present in this book. Honestly I didn't understood a single chapter from research design, inspite I tried reading twice.. May be it is not the topic which I was expecting or the explanation for not in simple form. It
Sarwesh Shah
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Humorous, insightful and an engaging read. A must read for anyone who confuses between art and design. The author presents a viable case with respect to industrial and visual design. The chapters are not essentially list based and the book is worthy of many re-reads. Some of my best quotes are as follows:

"Anyone who uses a properly designed object feels the presence of an artist who has worked for him, bettering his living conditions and encouraging him to develop his taste and sense
Aug 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Bruno Murari asked a designer/engineer why he had painted a certain scooter yellow. "Because it's the cheapest colour", was the reply he got. He then explains that it is the hallmark of a true designer, one who knows what is immediately practical and avoids frills and jazz and jargon to justify his shoddy work. His key knife to the design process is functionality, and you can forget form for all you care ( he employs the example of an aerodynamic hearse to tell us how ridiculous style can get). ...more
Oct 04, 2018 rated it liked it
A very satisfactory read as for as content goes, but no so much when you actually take the time to appreciate the writing. Bruno Munari might be a guru of design (in his own right), but while the book does hold very interesting teachings and examples on the subject, his writing lacks the appeal and coherence of what would be expected in a book of features. A larger than expected number of pieces feel unfinished, which would create a somewhat continuous feeling of "so what?" if it wasn't f0r the ...more
Vinayak Hegde
Apr 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: ebook
The first half of the book is quite good with the author's musings and original ideas about the function of art in human life and how it related to design as functional art. Bruno Munari is deeply influenced by Bauhaus school of thought and design. The section on Japanese architecture and the simplicity and patterns on which it is built is quite enlightening. So is the section in which delves into the relation between art and natures.

Unfortunately the 2nd half on the book devolves in
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
Ignoring the fact that some things in this book did not age well (and this was to be expected).

The book starts strong and interesting but the later chapters dwell a little bit too much in the irony through enumeration and small experiences without (in my point of view), much utility.

Also, at the time of writing, the pragmatism and utility surrounding the Design world as well as using nature's forms as reference wasn’t something really new. Nonetheless, these points of view are alway
Sep 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Short little collection of musings, experiments & criticism related to the state of affairs regarding design in Munari's day and age. While his predictions regarding the future of the aesthetic landscape might be off, for instance, the idea that the desires of the future consumer will be homogeneous and perhaps rather drab, he delivers several interesting takes on the world around him, sometimes delving into the innocence of the vision of a child, while at times sounding like an old man reco ...more
Radityo Dwiatmojo
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
It is interesting to see the image of design in the 50's and the 60's that are portrayed clearly by Bruno Munari in this book. Design in that period is more related to engineering, architecture, mathematics, and physics. He introduces us something new in that time which is design as art that becomes the norm now. But, it's quite technical and rigid explanation that we will find in this book so might be a bit complicated to grasp.
Matthew Ulstad
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful little collection of semi-related but mostly isolated little essays on a whole bevy of design-related topics. Bruno Munari explores his way around a vast array of different topics in a way that is inspiring, thoughtful and humorous. Sometime dated, always timeless, this book is a great way to explore the nature of design and the world in little bite-sized treats.

5 out of 5 nylon lamps
Aug 12, 2019 added it
Shelves: essays
read this during my move from austin to nyc. given to me as a parting gift from a coworker, so there's sentimental value here. this became my first "subway read" - which felt like a mini rite of passage, or maybe that's just me being sappy - and it felt nice, to have this token from back home with me as i traveled through 25-minute commutes from little italy to ues.
Caroline Peni
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best book about design I've read so far.
As a designer, I getting to appreciate myself after reading his book. Munari spells out the role of designers in making functional things, beautiful. His ability to make a correlation between nature and product/industrial design through his writing on Orange and Peas, especially, amazed me; we, as designers, really take nature for granted.
Aug 11, 2018 rated it liked it
"One day a man with nothing but a hammer in his hand presented himself to one of the great personages of the day and said: 'With this hammer I intend to make works of art, great works that the whole world will come flocking to see.' They ushered him, kindly but firmly, out of the palace. It was Michelangelo."
Kelly Coles
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Took me a bit to get into this book, then suddenly I realized how humorous it is and I couldn’t put it down. I especially loved the industrial design section. A great book for getting into the design mindset and shaking our preconceived notions of the objects we encounter everyday. I recommend to anyone who loves a purposeful satire.
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, non-fiction
I really, really enjoyed reading Munari's thoughts and ideas surrounding the meaning of design and its relation to life and society. I did not expect to like it so much, nor did I anticipate Munari's light touches of humour and accessible writing style as I'm sure Creagh captured so well in this translation. A lovely read which I hope to return to at a future point.
Karen Shea
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I could read this once a year and find something new in it every time. The Italian mid century version of Kenya Hara's Designing Design. Creatives who don't identify as designers, aspiring aesthetes, designers who became engineers, engineers who want to be designers, the curious - this one's for you!
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Bruno Munari was an Italian artist and designer, who contributed fundamentals in many fields of visual arts (paint, sculpture, film, industrial design, graphics) and non visual arts (literature, poetry, didactic) with the research on the game subject, infancy and creativity.
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“A designer is a planner with an aesthetic sense.” 9 likes
“When the objects we use every day and the surroundings we live in have become in themselves a work of art, then we shall be able to say that we have achieved a balanced life.” 5 likes
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