Design Theory

Module Leader:
Alexandra Karakas
2020-2021 Spring
Immersion 1
Arts and Humanities

This course is about ordinary things that are all around us: chairs, ceramics, cars, clothes. Focusing on the notion of objects, this course will explore issues surrounding modern design. While the emphasis is on providing a useful toolkit of how to think about everyday objects, the module also addresses questions such as what modern design is, concerns about technological progress, overconsumption, design and violence, and last but not least, major styles and movements in design history. The module provides a conceptual knowledge about objects that can be applied in many different fields. Let it be anthropology, cognitive science, sociology, art history, design history, visual culture studies, material culture studies, or philosophy of technology, objects play a crucial role in how we look at certain phenomena.
Central to the course is the text titled The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as process by Igor Kopytoff’s. According to this work, there is a type of biography of objects too, similar to a person’s biography that addresses various stages in the life of an object, i.e. consumption, life cycle, and singularization, to name but a few. By introducing ideas concerning the agency of objects, students get a glimpse of the current theoretical issues that emerged in the past decade in design, art, and science as well.