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Say Wa?

The Japanese concept of "wa" is one of harmony, gentleness, and peace: qualities embodied in the country's distinctive design aesthetic. In a book of the same name, out later this month from Phaidon, authors Rossella Menegazzo and Stefania Piotti explore the way in which Japanese design harnesses materials ranging from bamboo to polymer-coated membranes in an elegant balance of tradition and cutting-edge experimentation.

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Favelization

Is the exotic Brazil that we see referenced and traded upon in contemporary film, fashion, and design real or imaginary? Or perhaps a little of both? These are among the questions addressed by author Adriana Kertzer in Favelization, a new ebook that is part of the DesignFile series launched last year by the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. Kertzer, a curatorial assistant at the Museum of Arts & Design, sets out to understand the ways in which specific producers of contemporary Brazilian culture capitalized on misappropriations of the favela (informal squatter settlements that grow along the hillsides and lowlands of many Brazilian cities) in order to brand luxury items as “Brazilian.”

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Dinner for Architects

The opening of a new exhibition space at the Munich Technical University's Architecture Museum was the occasion for an imaginary dinner party. Leading architects were invited to "attend" by sending a sketch on a dinner napkin, and the likes of Tadao Ando, Steven Holl, Robert Venturi, and Denise Scott Brown did just that. Their sketches are collected in Dinner for Architects (Norton). "The responses are a kind of Rorschach test," writes Philip K. Howard in the book's foreword. "The idea that emerges on the napkin as the victor from an inner struggle of self-identification, while hardly a definitive portrait, reveals something about the values and goals of the creator."

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On the Road

New York's Hudson Valley is studded with artists and craftspeople, and Nick Hand met a bunch of them--by hopping on a bicycle. Conversations on the Hudson (Princeton Architectural Press) chronicles the British graphic designer's 500-mile, two-wheeled journey between Brooklyn and the Adirondacks. The new book is a charming mix of photographs and interviews with the likes of glassware designer Deborah Ehrlich, ceramicist Michele O'Hana, and stone carver Ted Ludwiczak. "On a bicycle you take everything in," writes Hand in the book's introduction. "You can stop anywhere, you don't miss a thing, and it's easy to strike up a conversation."

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Super Graphic

The Venn diagram of comic book fans and graphic designers consists of circles that are nearly overlapping. Both circles include Tim Leong, who can instantly transform (perhaps in a phone booth?) from design director of Fortune magazine into an intrepid explorer of the comic book universe. In Graphic World (Chronicle Books), he has created a visual guide to the comic book universe through pie charts, bar graphs, timelines, and scatter plots that offer a fresh perspective on all things superheroic.

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Viva La Pizza!

As you prepare to delight that special someone with a heart-shaped pie, savor the art of the pizza box in the pepperoni-studded pages of Viva La Pizza! (Melville House). The freshly baked book is the product of author Scott Wiener's decade-long hobby of collecting and cataloging pizza boxes, a pastime that is rarely parlayed into much beyond a starring role in Hoarders. Wiener draws upon his trove of 550 boxes to trace the evolution of pizza megabrands (did you know that Hungry Howie was long depicted with a slurping tongue and a maniacal gleam in his eye?), serve up exotic international pizza box designs, and showcase the homespun logos of mom-and-pop shops.

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Design History

Ready to take a deep dive into the history of decorative arts and design? Treat yourself to History of Design, new from Yale University Press. The doorstop of a volume spans six centuries of design (1400-2000) across Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Indian subcontinent, and the Islamic world. In addition to the usual suspects--interiors, furniture, textiles, product design--the book tackles graphics, exhibitions, landscape design, even theater and film design. It's an essential addition to any design library.

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The Design Book

Discover and reacquaint yourself with 500 inspirational designs that span a half century in the pages of The Design Book, a handy and affordable ($19.95) new publication from Phaidon. We guarantee that many of the items featured are in your home already, and everything in the book is still in production. "It doesn't matter if it dates from the 17th or 21st century; if it's in The Design Book it has stood the test of time," says Phaidon editor Joe Pickard. "Read the whole thing and you'll understand the whole history of design."

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Pretty Pictures

Typography meets illustration in the extraordinary work of Marian Bantjes. The Canadian designer-craftsman's first complete monograph, Pretty Pictures (Metropolis Books), is an inspiring thicket of some 800 images, including sketches and rejected concepts, with descriptions of each project supplemented by Bantjes's candid thoughts. "I wanted to create a book that answered many of the questions people ask me about my work, and showed both the process of some of the pieces and the progress and development of my career over the past ten years," she says. "This book is full-on intense. It's not the type of thing you flip through and absorb at a sitting."

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PIN-UP Interviews

Peek inside creative minds such as Zaha Hadid, Ettore Sottsass, Rick Owens, and Richard Meier in the pages of PIN-UP Interviews (powerHouse). The book is a sort of greatest hits collection for PIN–UP, launched in 2006 as "the magazine for architectural entertainment" and known for its refreshingly playful take on rare architectural gems, amazing interiors, and smart design. Editor and creative director Felix Burrichter describes the thought-provoking tome as "448 pages of unadulterated architectural entertainment."

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