Book Review: Plastic Dreams by Charlotte and Peter Fiell

So I got my copy and basically the Core 77 review accurately depicts what this book is, but maybe not what this book isn’t

What it is:
This book is a very nice historical retrospective of plastics in product design. It gives the reader an opportunity to understand the context of how these materials were first applied to product design and how they transformed the design process. The pictures are lovely and it makes for a very nice coffee table book for industrial design enthusiasts.

I’m not sure I’d keep the orange plastic “slipcase” designed by Edson Matsuo and manufactured by Melissa. As described in the book, the specially developed Melflex flexible PVC has a strong “tutti-frutti” scent (which I can only imagine is meant to mask the smell of the plasticizer–think “new car smell”), but it’s too strong and I had to get rid of it… Yuck.

What it isn’t:
In any event, this book is a good reference for those looking for inspiration, but it’s not terribly useful for those looking for more instructive information on how the different plastic forming processes work or how to design for them. There’s a short glossary in the back with just text and no illustrations, again confirming that this book is intended as a historical review, but not much more. I’d prefer to see more detailed images and illustrations of how these products came to be (there are the occasional concept sketches, which I like), but how ’bout chopping some of these part in half and letting us see what’s inside? I’m a big fan of product autopsies as a way to learn about materials and processes… But that’s not really what this book is about.

All in all, I think this book would be a useful addition to the libraries of design schools and those of us who just like well-photographed beauty shots of plastic products. And for $30, that’s not such a bad thing.

[Order it on Amazon]

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