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Five good design books of 2015

If you have an impossible-to-buy-for designer type lurking in your household/office – or you are one yourself, here are a selection of books we’d recommend for Christmas.

Small House Living: New Zealand trails only Australia and the US in terms of the size of our houses. But as land becomes increasingly unaffordable, that’s beginning to change. Small House Living, by Catherine Foster (Penguin Random House, $50), profiles 20 design-conscious Kiwi houses, baches and studios with a footprint of 90 square metres or less.

Maori Patterns: Adult colouring books are de rigueur these days, and this one, Maori Patterns (New Holland Publishers) is a particularly Kiwi adaptation of the theme. It was created by Levin-based graphic artist Mitchell Manual, after he looked unsuccessfully for material to engage with his late mother, who had dementia.  Four months after release, the book is on its third print run, with 5000 sold. There’s also with a mini-colouring book version and a sequel – Shapes and Symbols.

Secret Power: Simon Denny’s Secret Power (Mousse Publishing & Koenig Books, $85) is the book version of his exhibition as New Zealand’s representative at this year’s Venice Biennale.

Secret Power, named after Nicky Hager’s book of the same name, explores the way visual information is used within the Five Eyes intelligence community and the way those agencies communicate with the general public, including an investigation into David Dashicourt, the creative director of the NSA from 2001-2012. The book features essays by curator Robert Leonard, critic Chris Kraus and design researcher David Bennewith, photos of Denny’s works, source material from Hager’s book, and an interview with Denny. It ’s scary, funny, and weirdly beautiful.

Marcus King: Marcus King (1891–1983) was a prolific artist; his 50-year career saw him doing everything from New Zealand landscapes to portraits, still life to historical tableaux to a mass of tourism advertising posters. But hardly anyone’s ever heard of him. Marcus King: Painting New Zealand for the World (Potton & Burton, $79.99) gives us a view of how New Zealand portrayed itself before Lord of the Rings and “100% Pure” – as an “alluring tourism utopia and productive agricultural and industrial paradise”. Plus ça change.

Typography: With Kris Sowersby from Klim Type Foundry proving that print is not only not dead, but able to sweep the floor in terms of design awards, we wondered if there was a book du jour for aspiring typographers. It’s not new, but Sowersby’s bible is Detail in Typography by Jost Hochuli (first published 1987), a book which provides “excellent professional practical advice without any of the bullshit that often surrounds typography”, Sowersby says. There’s also a video of some hands turning the pages. Kinda odd.

B42 | Jost Hochuli — Detail in typography from B42 on Vimeo.

Chief editor at Idealog, Nikki's a veteran in the journalism industry. A former lecturer at AUT University, she was the chief reporter at NZ weekly business publication The Independent and was deputy editor of Canadian publication Unlimited magazine.

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