The Genius of Design

In May BBC 2 and BBC HD will be showing a 5 part series entitled “The Genius of Design”.

The series examines the history of design, focusing on inventions – such as the ring pull and the fitted kitchen – that have transformed modern life.

To accompany the series a companion book, “Genius of Design” by Penny Sparke, has been published and is available on Amazon et al.

About the book

This landmark book takes a unique, original and engrossing approach to design. Whether or not we are consciously interested in it, design is omnipresent; it affects and influences us all in every aspect of our lives. The Genius of Design illuminates what design is, how it works, and how it has shaped the world we live in.

Taking a broadly chronological approach, the book shows how the story of design has developed and explores major themes, with chapters including the birth of mass-produced design, domestic design and the contemporary home and the legacy of wartime design. The book shows how design reflects the political, cultural and economic themes of our times, how it connects both to the macro forces of history (industrialisation, consumerism, technology) and the micro forces (taste, money, desire) and how it manifests itself everywhere, from battlefield and boardroom to supermarket and schoolroom. More than anything, though, the book tells the stories that lie behind the iconic designs of our times.

It tells how the first fitted kitchen was based on the principles behind the Ford production line, how wartime research ultimately led to the biro, latex condoms and aviator sunglasses. It celebrates the heroes of design and the lesser know people responsible for some of the everyday objects we take for granted. And it examines the role of the consumer and the issues of taste – what really is good or bad design? Provocative, absorbing and packed with images, this enthralling book reveals what design means to us – the trivial and the mundane, the life-saving and the world-changing.

About the Author, Penny Spark

Penny Sparke (born 1948, London) is a British writer and academic specialising in the history of design.

She studied French Literature at Sussex University between 1967 and 1971 and completed her PhD in Design History in 1975. She taught Design History at Brighton Polytechnic (now The University of Brighton) until 1982 and at the Royal College of Art in London between 1982 and 1999.[1]

Sparke has written 15 books about Twentieth-Century Design. She has also curated a number of exhibitions, including The Plastics Age at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 1990. Since 1999 she has also been a Professor of Design History at Kingston University, London. In 2007 Penny Sparke worked as a consultant for Pyrex helping with the communication project for their new cookware range designed by George Sowden.

From Wikipedia

I would imagine for anyone who enjoyed Don Norman’s Design of Everyday Things I’m sure both the book and the series will be fascinating.


A DVD of the series is already listed on – so you might not have to wait until May.

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