Shipping Container (Object Lessons)
Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things.
The shipping container is all around: whizzing by on the highway, trundling past on rails, unloading behind a big box store even as you shop there, clanking on the docks just out of sight…. 90% of the goods and materials that move around the globe do so in shipping containers. It is an absolutely ubiquitous object, even if most of us have no direct contact with it. But what is this thing? Where has it been, and where is it going? Craig Martin's book illuminates the “development of containerization”-including design history, standardization, aesthetics, and a surprising speculative discussion of the futurity of shipping containers.
Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in the The Atlantic.
“Craig Martin has brought real love and insight to the logistical life of the shipping container. He reveals its role in the distributive space of extensive global networks and other dark places and their knotty politics, without ever losing track of our personal attachment and alienation to this box of ubiquity, this vessel of choreographed capitalism. Shipping Container is an efficient little package, calculating, brisk, economical, and yet, it is anything but a standardized account; it just sings.” – Peter Adey, Professor of Human Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK
“Object Lessons' describes themselves as 'short, beautiful books,' and to that, I'll say, amen. … [I]t is in this simplicity that we find insight and even beauty. Shipping Container by Craig Martin asks us to contemplate an object on which we depend to move 90 percent of what goes from point A to points B through Z on the globe, but also with which very few of us have had direct contact. If you read enough 'Object Lessons' books, you'll fill your head with plenty of trivia to amaze and annoy your friends and loved ones - caution recommended on pontificating on the objects surrounding you. More importantly, though, in the tradition of McPhee's Oranges, they inspire us to take a second look at parts of the everyday that we've taken for granted. These are not so much lessons about the objects themselves, but opportunities for self-reflection and storytelling. They remind us that we are surrounded by a wondrous world, as long as we care to look.” – Chicago Tribune
“Shipping Container discusses in detail the mechanics of this object. It broadens this out to reflect on the significance of design and the efficiencies of standardization. Verdict: Borrow. Shipping Container is impressive in the way it manages to spin an apparently dull object into intelligent and interesting explanations of design and commerce.” – Book Riot