Having already worked as a journalist and editor of Icon magazine, in 2006 Marcus Fairs was looking for a new challenge. He decided to launch his own design and architecture website called Dezeen and nine years later the site has grown into one of the go-to places for architecture news and innovative design and interiors projects.
Still at the helm as editor-in-chief, we were curious to find out which books have made it onto Marcus’ shelves. “Moving from print to the internet as a journalist changed my reading habits and I now have the attention span of a teenager,” he explains. “The books that mean the most to me – and which I will keep forever – are those that have been personalised in one way or another.” As a result, the stories behind Marcus’ selections are just as fascinating as the books themselves.
Deyan Sudjic: Ron Arad
The first book that was inscribed with more than just a signature was this monograph about Ron Arad, published in 1999. I went to Ron’s studio for the first time as a rookie journalist and we hit it off immediately. He gave me a copy of the book – written by his friend Deyan Sudjic, now the director of the Design Museum – as a parting gift. As is Ron’s style he turned the dedication into a spontaneous joke, signing the book “Peje Voj” because the font used to write his name on both the cover and the flyleaf seems to be the wrong way round.
The scrawl reminds me of Ron’s impish nature and the pranks he’s played on me over the years, including the time he ran across St Mark’s Square in Venice to steal the olives from my table, and the time he turned up for a video interview with Dezeen wearing button badges promoting our rival Designboom prominently on his spectacle frames.
Dominic Wilcox: Variations on Normal
We’ve done a couple of collaborations with Dominic Wilcox over the years. In 2011 we commissioned him to create a range of watch sculptures and in 2014 he created a stained-glass car as part of a project Dezeen did with Mini to explore transportation in the future. Dominic launched Variations on Normal, a book full of his crazy cartoon design ideas, around the same time we launched our Dezeen Book of Interviews and we did a joint book signing where we signed books for each other.
Dominic dedicated his book to me and Rup, my partner, and drew a little picture of the glass car, which went on to become the most published project at the 2014 London Design Festival. I gave him my book for free but he made me pay for his!
Thomas Heatherwick: Making
People have long thought that Thomas and I look very similar and people are always confusing me for him. Once at the Design Indaba conference in Cape Town we played a joke on the audience, appearing on stage together dressed exactly the same, as part of the presentation by celebrity doppelganger artist Alison Jackson (there is no doubt who is the celebrity and who is the impersonator when it comes to Thomas and I). It confused everyone so much that even people who knew us began to doubt who was who. To acknowledge this, Thomas sent me a copy of his self-penned book in 2012 addressed to “my body double”.
Claesson Kovisto Rune: Claesson Koivisto Rune in Marfa
I have an ambivalent relationship with books: I read them and I pass them on. I try to avoid being given them when I’m travelling because they’re so heavy and take up so much space back home. So it’s always embarrassing when people I know and like try to give me a book.
Swedish architects Claesson Koivisto Rune were at the ICFF furniture fair in New York last May promoting a new gallery they’d built in Marfa, Texas, and were giving away copies of a book about the project to select friends. I told them I didn’t want one and they seemed so hurt that I relented. I was glad I did when I read their lovely dedication and later when I read the book, which is beautiful.
Ronan Bouroullec and Erwan Bouroullec: Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec
This is the most special dedication of any book. I’d met the Bouroullec brothers when I was editor of Icon magazine, travelling to Paris to interview them in the early days of their career. Later that year – it must have been 2004 – I visited Tokyo for the first time, and came across them doing a book signing in a design store in Harajuku. I bought one and joined the queue to get it signed, when I got to where they were sitting, Ronan looked up and smiled and started drawing an elaborate tree on the flyleaf. Then he added a mobile phone with a charging cable that plugged into the tree. I have no idea why.
I wasn’t the only person to get a drawing – there were doing unique drawings for every person in the store. It was impressive because as the author of several books myself, I can never think of anything more creative to write in them than “Enjoy!”