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4 Books to Inspire Your Inner Designer

  • May 31, 2020

This article is part of our latest Design special report, which is about crossing the borders of space, time and media.

Fresh ways of seeing can end up joyously shared planetwide, sometimes even in eras more terrible than the spring of 2020, as these design books reveal. Readers in confinement may be able to feel swept away to Soviet hydroplane interiors, Danish doll makers’ workshops, nightclub back rooms and well-disinfected hotels.

Could we ever need more insight than we do now about how to dry our hands in washrooms while touching almost nothing? Samuel Ryde, a British photographer, pays homage to air blowers mounted near sinks that can help us, in “Hand Dryers” (Unicorn Publishing Group, $15, 80 pp.).

His text explores the evolution of the technology; inventors and corporations have been vying to improve the equipment’s wind speed since the 1920s. (Sir James Dyson, the Airblade king, provides the volume’s foreword.) In slight variations on the standard white, black or steel rectangles, the machines are “sentenced to a life of servitude,” Mr. Ryde writes. He adds that they symbolize “progress and social order” while serving as “an object of intrigue.” He chose 255 images for this pocketbook-size book, juxtaposing soullessly pristine machines with battered examples bearing scrawled love messages or out-of-order warnings.

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