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One of the best design books in the world a UC creation

Elly Mackay

8 July 2020: Designers and design educators worldwide are turning to University of Canberra Emeritus Professor Livio Bonollo’s book Product Design: A course in first principles after it was ranked number 30 in the BookAuthority’s list of the 100 best product design books of all time.

The list  ranks the top 100 design books in circulation. BookAuthority is a global website that recommends nonfiction books to build skills in readers.

Dr Bonollo says his nomination was “humbling and a pleasant surprise”.

“The first I heard of the ranking was through a LinkedIn message,” Dr Bonollo said.

“It never really occurred to me that it would make the BookAuthority’s list – it’s testament to all those whose advice I received while I was writing it.”

“It truly was a team effort between my colleagues, myself, and my students.”

Since beginning his tenure at the University of Canberra in 1997 as Dean of the Faculty of Environmental Design, Dr Bonollo has made a footprint on the industrial design courses that he helped shape at RMIT, Monash University and the University of Canberra.

It was as part of his teaching work at the University, and the work he did as part of a visiting Professorship role at the National University of Singapore that Product Design: A course in first principles was conceptualised.

“The design students I taught in Singapore were very enthusiastic and were the ones that suggested I write the book,” Dr Bonollo said.

Dr Bonollo initially self-published the book in 2010, before signing a deal with London publisher UpFront Publishing in 2016. Soon after, an eBook edition was published in 2018. Since then, the book has maintained good sales and reviews.

It’s even a prescribed textbook in industrial design courses around the world.

“It has been a popular teaching resource, there are a number of courses at American universities where the book has been prescribed as a textbook,” Dr Bonollo said.

Dr Bonollo says he intended for the book to the used as a learning tool, and while there isn’t one specific audience that he wrote it for, he hopes that any budding designers could find it useful.

“The whole purpose of the book is to help someone – whether it’s a design student, or someone taking an engineering course, or even graphic design students – it will take them step-by-step through an experiential program that helps them learn how to design based on their own creativity and imagination,” he said.

Dr Bonollo believes that while his book can provide guidance, design is largely a self-taught profession, and it is the creativity and motivation of the individual that will see them succeed.

“You can’t really teach people to be a brilliant designer, that’s something that comes from your own creativity and talent,” he said.

“The book sets a framework they can follow, but that doesn’t interfere with their own creative ability and can give motivation, which is one of the biggest things in design.”

Although officially retired, Dr Bonollo remains at the University of Canberra in an Emeritus Professor role, in part of which he supervises PhD students.