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Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Designby Henry Petroski
Synopses & Reviews
Henry Petroski, "America's poet laureate of technology" (Kirkus Reviews) author of The Pencil and The Evolution of Useful Things — now gives us an entertaining and perceptive study of design in everyday life, while revealing the checkered pasts, and some possible futures, of familiar objects.
Chairs, lightbulbs, cup holders, toothbrushes, doorknobs, light switches, potato peelers, paper bags, duct tape — as ubiquitous as these may be, they are still works in progress. The design of such ordinary items demonstrates the simple brilliance of human creativity, while at the same time showing the frustration of getting anything completely right. Nothing's perfect, and so the quest for perfection continues to continue.
In this engrossing and insightful book, Petroski takes us inside the creative process by which common objects are invented and improved upon in pursuit of the ever-elusive perfect thing. He shows us, for instance, how the disposable paper cup became a popular commercial success only after the public learned that shared water glasses could carry germs; how it took years, an abundance of business panache, and many discarded models — from cups that opened like paper bags to those that came with pleats — for the inventor of the paper cup to arrive at what we now use and toss away without so much as a thought for its fascinating history.
A trenchant, surprising evaluation of why some designs succeed and others don't, Small Things Considered is also an utterly delightful study of human nature.
"The writing is engaging and approachable, and reading the book feels like sitting down for a long chat with that favorite uncle who seems to know a bit about everything." Publishers Weekly
"Small Things Considered provides all sorts of penetrating and broadly interesting insights." Scientific American
"[W]ho'd have thought the genesis of those imperfect things would be so fascinating?" Kirkus Reviews
Book News Annotation:
Even everyday objects that most people never think of as having been designed, says Petroski (civil engineering and history, Duke U.), remain works in progress. He points out that objects change with age and use, people change in their needs and wants, and the environment changes, so no design is more than an approximation for a particular time, place, and purpose. Annotation (c)2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
"America's poet laureate of technology" (Kirkus Reviews) — author of The Pencil and The Evolution of Useful Things — now offers an entertaining and perceptive study of the checkered design pasts, and futures, of everyday objects. 22 illustrations.
About the Author
Henry Petroski, the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and a professor of history at Duke University, lives in Durham, North Carolina. He is the author of ten previous books.
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