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School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Making Meaning: An Introduction to Designing Objects, Part I

School of the Art Institute of Chicago via Kadenze


Part 1 of Making Meaning: An Introduction to Designing Objects provides an overview of the theories and practices object designers are engaged in today, and how designers use signs, style and utility to generate substance. It also examines the design process in detail, revealing models to help us make sense of its complexity. Starting by illustrating the breadth of the field, the course goes on to explore the power relations and semiotic structures which lie behind object making. It covers how we use objects to express our identity and position ourselves within subcultures, and it analyzes the process of design as it unfolds in the designer’s mind, on paper, through model making, and via other generative “thinking tools”. Incorporating interviews with contemporary professionals the course offers rare insight into the way designers work, the thinking behind their projects, and the methods that lead to successful object-making.


Session 1: Mission Creep
Product design goes plural

Session 2: Style And Substance
The overt and covert politics of design

Session 3: Reading And Writing Form
The visual language of designed objects

Session 4: A Generative Process
Design in the mind, on the page, and in the hand

Session 5: Radical Objects
The challenging landscape of design's avant-garde

Session 6: The Aesthetics Of Progress
Capturing the Zeitgeist in object form

Session 7: Towards Socially Responsible Design
Ethical approaches to a dangerous profession

Session 8: Rules Of Engagement
Exploring the realities of design practice

Taught by

Tim Parsons


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