A special look at new and notable releases on technology and design

Open Design Now: Why Design Cannot Remain Exclusive
EDITED BY Bas Van Abel, Lucas Evers, Roel Klaassen, and Peter Troxler
DESIGNED BY Hendrik-Jan Grievink
BIS PUBLISHERS, 320 pp., $39

Imagine a world where you could download the design for anything you wanted and manufacture it for yourself on a 3-D printer connected to your laptop. The essayists and designers represented here not only believe in such a future, they’re creating it. That project is utopian enough, but the book also aims to be the comprehensive reference work for a design movement still in its infancy. The authors have no doubt that the days of proprietary designs are numbered. Their copyright sums up this philosophy: Open Design Now was published under a Creative Commons license, so “you are free to share—to copy, distribute and transmit the work, and to remix—to adapt the work.”

A Touch of Code: Interactive Installations and Experiences
EDITED BY Robert Klanten, Sven Ehmann, and Verena Hanschke
DESIGNED BY Verena Hanschke
GESTALTEN, 256pp., $68

Computer code was once the exclusive purview of programmers. Not anymore. Many of today’s cutting-edge designers look to algorithms and code as much as aesthetics. This survey of innovative interactive projects where the virtual realm meets the real world demonstrates how technology is expanding the disciplines of art, communication, and design. Organized into five themes, the book includes a range of visually tantalizing projects, from the Düsseldorf multimedia firm Congaz’s unforgettable opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, to more esoteric efforts, like Paul Notzold’s TXTual Healing—a machine gun that allows users to fire text-based messages onto a wall.

Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information
WRITTEN BY Manuel Lima

A kind of twenty-first-century mash-up of Christopher Alexander and Edward Tufte, this dense, intellectually ambitious book looks at the ways scientists, researchers, and designers are using technology to organize, define, and depict complex networks. The author, a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a senior user-experience design lead at Microsoft’s Bing, calls this phenomenon “network visualization,” and argues, quite persuasively, that it represents a new language. Lima goes deep into the historical precedents (for example, the tree of life), and even deeper into information design and network theory. Still, the author engages this heady material with a surprisingly sharp and lucid eye.

Prototyping and Low-Volume Production
WRITTEN BY Rob Thompson
DESIGNED BY Chris Perkins
THAMES & HUDSON, 192pp., $30

In 2007, Thompson published Manufacturing Processes for Design Professionals, a 528-page encyclopedia for industrial designers, engineers, and architects looking to understand the basic workings—and the pros and cons—of 70 common production techniques. Now the author is releasing a series of smaller reference books that delve into certain processes in more depth. This volume describes 34 prototyping, batch-production, and low-volume manufacturing methods, ranging from the traditional (sand casting, glassblowing) to the high tech (rapid prototyping, laser cutting). Each one gets a succinct description, an easy-to-read diagram, an illustrated case study, and useful notes on applications, cost, and environmental impact.

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