From the Library: No Waste

Revisiting Pentagram's gorgeously photographed collection of repurposed Cuban objects

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Design isn’t always about showrooms and industry idols. Beautiful objects show up wherever there’s ingenuity and an appreciation of aesthetics. High or low, you either get it or you don’t. Of all the books on the always-relevant topic, “Pentagram Papers #32: No Waste” perhaps gets closest to the heart of what good design on a dime means. The monograph explores a Cuban world of objects on their second life as people repurpose materials to suit their needs, all from the perspective of an industry-leading design firm.


Pentagram has been producing the “Papers” series of gorgeous volumes since 1975, filling signature black covers with page after page of provocative content. This 32nd volume, originally published in 2003, makes an astonishing case for the prevailing influence of its subject, not to mention the publication.


As an object, this book proves print’s enduring place as a medium too with austere photographs printed on richly textured matte paper folded into double-leaf pages. Details like a die-cut jacket cover that slips off to reveal a cardboard shell held together with copper staples embody the underlying concept it takes up. Part of the cooperative Laboratorio de Creación Maldeojo, the work is a result of efforts by Ernesto Oroza, Fabián Martínez and Nelson Rossel.


Featured in the book are a number of ingenious devices: slingshots made from PVC and discarded condoms, taxi signs of old gas canisters, modified guillotine-style mouse traps, antennas constructed from public lunch trays. All of the items reflect the importance of objects in times of scarcity. Seeing discarded plastics melted and reshaped by hand into nicely marbled drinking cups, it becomes hard to return to the world of disposable design.

A limited number ($20 each) are available from Pentagram by contacting info [at] pentagram [dot] com.