This book is an excellent source of information and inspiration for anyone interested in design - not only industrial design, though the book covers the topic very well, but design in general, as a form of art. Filled with short biographies of famous designers and quick historical overviews of firms that made impact on design, this books gives an excellent overview of the development of functional design in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Aside from this, it has two very interesting sections - "Themes and Materials" and "Case Studies." "Themes and Materials" focuses just on that - the main directions and trends of design in the past two centuries, as well as revolutionary materials that changed the way people worked, played and consumed. "Case Studies" presents several case studies of ordinary (in our view) products, such as the iron, the typewriter, the telephone, etc., and the way the design of these products has changed to reflect their times. The book also includes a design timeline with most important industrial design milestones.
The only negative things I can say about this book is that it focuses mainly on US, European (German, Italian and Scandinavian, more specifically) and Japanese firms and inventors, and very little, if anything at all, is said about designers and firms from Canada, South America, Eastern Europe, the countries of the former Soviet Union and Asia.
Overall, it is an excellent reference and guide for anyone interested in design and creative thinking. Like all Taschen books, this book is well written, concise yet articulate; beautifully illustrated and printed.