"Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Design"
Reading history and reviews
Finished in 2007I think that I got this after reading the Donald Norman book The Design of Everyday Things, but whereas Norman's book is about design generalities, in this book Petroski is concerned with the specifics of how the design of various objects (paper cups, plastic bags, duct tape, WD-40, even houses) comes about. What is the original need that inspires the creation of a new object? What are the constraints on the design? How do things change over time that influence how designs evolve or even how they become obsolete? It's quite meandering but also quite fascinating, if you like that kind of thing (in fact it reminded me a little of Nicholson Baker's musings on shoelaces and plastic drinks straws in The Mezzanine, if the footnotes had been expanded to a whole book) which I do, and an interesting compliment to Donald Norman's book.