Monthly Archives: January 2016


Our first day, the instructor will discuss the overall shape of the class, and introduce the first readings —

  1. Vilém Flusser’s essay “On the word design,” in his The Shape of Things : A Philosophy of Design (1999)
  2. the OED definitions of the word “design” (noun)
  3. the first (introductory) chapter of Karl T. Ulrich’s Design : Creation of Artifacts in Society (2011).
  4. Jules David Prown, “Mind in Matter: An Introduction to Material Culture Theory and Method,” Winterthur Portfolio 17:1 (Spring 1982): 1-19 (may be skimmed)

Our first exercise will be to select a designed object, research it — its intended purpose, its function (what it does), dimensions, material qualities, and perhaps precursors, patents, designer, uses, misuses, where found, its current condition (and what that might suggest about its use, value), etc., etc. — and then develop a way to present this information. In recent years, we have used The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design as our model; this time, the design will be up to you. We will look at some examples (Jenny Odell her Bureau of Suspended Objects, Phaidon Archive), but these are not intended to limit you.

We are interested in the stories the object tells or can be learned about it, but also how it comes to be in the world and in our personal lives — those connections (probably impressionistic, subjective) that extend beyond the object itself.

Bring in the item, and what you’ve learned about it and its being situated in the world, on Monday 22 January.
Also, write — and bring in (or post to the course blog) — a one-page response to at least one of the readings.

some examples from previous semesters and, regarding postcards —
Louise J. Boscacci. The Trace of An Affective Object Encounter: a picture postcard, its provocations, and processual becomings. PhD thesis, University of Wollongong (2016)
dissertation here
see also

this ancient (2013) assignment by Clive Dilnot is highly relevant to our project —
writing about things, well