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Design as Art

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  3,466 ratings  ·  211 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, between livin
Paperback, 224 pages
Published September 25th 2008 by Penguin Classics (first published January 1st 1966)
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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 ·  3,466 ratings  ·  211 reviews

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May 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, study
"Art asks questions,Design practically answers them"
-what I got out of the book

Its really gotten out of hand lately and its vague as it is! but to answer most of the questions In a short informative thingie I always do here at Goodreads! I will say its the bridge between science and everyday life and thats my own philosophy what design is, you may have your own Idea about it! but its more related to having a practical solution rather than have a stylized approach in mind like most of the des
kartik narayanan
Mar 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
I started reading this book since I am fascinated by design and this book is considered one of the best on it. But, sadly, I just couldn't get into it. I was bored throughout and had to stop reading midway. The reasons being - most of the concepts which might have been earth shattering 50 years back are now common knowledge and the other being that we have progressed into the realm of computers. The book is not really at fault for not addressing the second point but it just feels so dated. ...more
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
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
Liam O'Leary
Jun 26, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: on-art
Video review here
Appealing coffee book material, but conceptually vapid and over-opinionated as an art theory book. Many, many two page essays here explain basic principles that you forgot you already knew. 'The circle represents infinity, the square is home or a house'...

The problem is that he treats readers as his consumers rather than his peers or pupils. This reads like a sales pitch. This is a book convincing the public that 'design is art', but not a book informing future designers what m
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. ...more
Keen Reader
Dec 02, 2021 rated it really liked it

3.5 Stars!

Penguin published many handy and interesting little books like this around the 1970s which are really insightful and informative, by the likes of John Berger and Susan Sontag, and many others, covering many fields of art and culture in new (for the time at least) and refreshing ways.

Munari makes for good company as he chats away about his various ideas on beauty, design and taste and although some of what he says may fall under the obvious to many, he still makes for worthwhile and eng
Mar 21, 2020 rated it liked it
I enjoyed all of these essays, and there were a few that particularly stood out. I wish good reads had half star allocations because this would be 3.5. I liked it.
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." (68)

"Any kno
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 industrial, g
Park 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.
Jan 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful little book.

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 latch on to.

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. ...more
Hrafnkell Úlfur
Nov 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: list, óskáldað
Umfjöllun Munari um rósir og hönnun þeirra:

"We therefore have an object that is absolutely useless to man, an object good for nothing better than being looked at, or at the most sniffed (though it seems that some producers have now invaded the market with roses that do not even have the virtue of scent). This is an object without justification, and one moreover that may lead the worker to think futile thoughts. It is, in the last analysis, even immoral."
Mar 19, 2022 rated it really liked it
Definitely worth reading! To me, this was a good read full of foods for thought. Towards the end it got a little dull, exaggerating examples to emphasize the point - which I thought was a little redundant. A disappointment for me was the fact that colored images are printed black&white. I am not exactly sure what’s lost there but would love to see the whole thing in the future. Anyway, recommended to folks in design or enthusiasts.
Nov 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: physical-library
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.
Evan O'Coimín
Nov 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
lifechanging! very very fascinating, a lot easier to read than i expected, complete with fantastic illustrations :)
Nov 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
More for enjoyment than any practical takeaways, the enjoyable parts were inspiring though I found myself skimming a couple of sections. Would like to dip in to again!
Seb Swann
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 intersection
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
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: design
This book is a collection of short informal essays, many of which are not worthy of publication and seem to stand solely in the shadow of Munari's reputation as a designer. They read as notes to self and are not nearly as informative as I expected them to be, not to mention that they are not very cohesive as a whole (especially towards the end of the book), which makes it hard to gain any reading momentum. I concede that there are bits and pieces of insightful information here and there, such as ...more
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. ...more
Dec 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Bruno Munari is a genius and everything created by him should be enjoyed (or studied, as you prefer...)!
I find it rather interesting that in the 21st century I would much rather have a dead Italian genius 'talk' to me about design than any other contemporary desing-thinking-expert-guy.
Bryce Buttrey
Nov 10, 2022 rated it really liked it
Really good and applicable ideas. The growth and explosions chapter and the chapter reviewing the design of fruits were lovely. He gets carried away on poor tangents sometimes but it doesn’t detract too much.

I also don’t know what I feel about the rejection of style in favor of “pure” design. I agree that stylizing products in the way of trends is bad practice, but it also in some ways implies some type of finality to design, and when one design functions equally to another, the second becomes p
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 is tough fo
Su Ülkenli
Jun 01, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Pleasant read that feels like a conversation with the author more than anything else. Design is one of those things I never really take the time to think about, and sitting down to read this book was like sitting down to have a chat with someone who knows and has thought a lot about it. Munari is also very funny, and it's interesting to basically watch him move through the technological and scientific advances of the 20th century and try to make sense of them (or utilize them) from a design pers ...more
Jul 28, 2020 rated it it was ok
As a graphic design student, I found the mini thought pieces at times useful, often common knowledge, but mostly redundant. Some of his observations, were just literal descriptions of how certain of his installations were positioned or a summing-up of all the different objects (to only conclude with his opinion that minimalism reigns over excess).

In no sense were they thought provoking or philosophical or cohesive. It just read like a random compiling of small anecdotes that his friends would en
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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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  As dedicated readers already know, some of the best and most innovative stories on the shelves come from the constantly evolving realm of...
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“A designer is a planner with an aesthetic sense.” 14 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.” 6 likes
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