Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Design Things

Design Things

A. Telier
Thomas Binder
Giorgio De Michelis
Pelle Ehn
Giulio Jacucci
Per Linde
Ina Wagner
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 256
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Design Things
    Book Description:

    Design Things offers an innovative view of design thinking and design practice, envisioning ways to combine creative design with a participatory approach encompassing aesthetic and democratic practices and values. The authors of Design Things look at design practice as a mode of inquiry that involves people, space, artifacts, materials, and aesthetic experience, following the process of transformation from a design concept to a thing. Design Things, which grew out of the Atelier (Architecture and Technology for Inspirational Living) research project, goes beyond the making of a single object to view design projects as sociomaterial assemblies of humans and artifacts--"design things." The book offers both theoretical and practical perspectives, providing empirical support for the authors' conceptual framework with field projects, case studies, and examples from professional practice. The authors examine the dynamics of the design process; the multiple transformations of the object of design; metamorphing, performing, and taking place as design strategies; the concept of the design space as "emerging landscapes"; the relation between design and use; and the design of controversial things.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-29825-4
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Series Foreword
    (pp. vii-xii)
    Ken Friedman and Erik Stolterman

    As professions go, design is relatively young. The practice of design predates professions. In fact, the practice of design—making things to serve a useful goal, making tools—predates the human race. Making tools is one of the attributes that made us human in the first place.

    Design, in the most generic sense of the word, began over 2.5 million years ago whenHomo habilismanufactured the first tools. Human beings were designing well before we began to walk upright. Four hundred thousand years ago, we began to manufacture spears. By forty thousand years ago, we had moved up to...

  4. Author Biography
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    The etymology of the English word “thing” reveals a journey from meaning anassembly, which was decided on beforehand to take place at a certain time and at a certain place to deal with certain “matters of concern” to the community, to meaning anobject, “an entity of matter.” So, the termthinggoes back originally to the governing assemblies in ancient Nordic and Germanic societies. These pre-Christian things were assemblies, rituals, and places where disputes were solved and political decisions made. It is a prerequisite for understanding this journey that if we live in total agreement, we do not...

  7. 2 Design at Work
    (pp. 9-26)

    We start our conceptual journey by reflecting on our common theoretical groundings. Our approach to studying design is guided by an interest in design as involvement in practical action in the world, in “design practice” (in contrast to, e.g., “cognition”) and is grounded in theories of situated activity. Instead of focusing on the individual designer, we focus on the collective dimension, paying attention to the material aspect of design practice in its ability to engage all our senses, to designers’ interactions with the physical environment, and to the collective emergence of creativity in design. Apart from revisiting our own intellectual...

  8. 3 Qualities of an Inspirational Design Environment
    (pp. 27-50)

    We have introduced the term “inspirational learning” as a metaphor for talking about creative design work and inspirational environments—environments that support aesthetic experiences. Dewey saw aesthetic experience as a human faculty that can be trained and acquired. He looked at thinking as a process of inquiry, or of investigating, and he saw a strong connection between learning and aesthetic experience. Aesthetic experiences are embodied, and they are shaped by the “objective conditions” in which learning takes place. These conditions include “equipment, books, apparatus, toys, games played. It includes the materials with which an individual interacts, and, most important of...

  9. 4 On the Objects of Design
    (pp. 51-78)

    The previous chapters have introduced, on the one hand, relevant aspects of the practice of design, and on the other, the qualities that characterize it. Where does that practice take place, and how are those qualities grounded? These questions become unavoidable with respect to our purpose of understanding design as a creative, participatory process, going beyond the different views of design that emerge from various design cultures.

    To provide some order to our discourse, let us first pay attention to the artifact that is the outcome of the design process. With respect to this artifact, there are two main perspectives...

  10. 5 Designing as Metamorphing
    (pp. 79-104)

    Design work is characterized by gathering and mobilizing a great quantity of materials in different formats, both material and digital. As expressed in chapter 3, this diversity of material being present in the design process is highly inspirational, but its importance goes beyond mere inspiration. Design proceeds by the expression of ideas, needs, and opportunities. What we can expect from the discussion in chapter 4 is that there is such a thing as an object of design, and it emerges and evolves through the successive becomings of constituents in a web of design. The web in itself constructs the design...

  11. 6 Designing as Performing
    (pp. 105-130)

    As we have seen, designing is about bringing forth something that does not exist through material transformations and communicative acts involving design artifacts. Artifacts can be seen as “multimodal texts,” as they address different senses and modalities of communication. However, these do not operate as isolated texts or as artifacts in a passive exhibition. The role of these multimodal texts in experiencing design objects involves a processual activity, an action rooted in a social situation and discourse. According to the perspective of anthropology of experience and performance, “a ritual must be enacted, a myth recited, a narrative told, a novel...

  12. 7 Emerging Landscapes of Design
    (pp. 131-156)

    In this chapter, we examine the context in which design unfolds. Some scholars talk about design as “navigating” a design space. In their view a search for generic opportunities in a space abstracted from the particular circumstances of the design problem represents an ideal worth pursuing. In this perspective, the practical environment is at best a general resource, providing the designer with the broadest possible array of designer options. We have already shown in previous chapters how the design environment has much more specific inspirational qualities than such a view would indicate. Here, we will further explore how design takes...

  13. 8 Participation in Design Things
    (pp. 157-182)

    A thread throughout this book has been the nature ofthings—not least, the origin ofthingsgoing back to the ancient governing assemblies and places in Nordic and Germanic societies, where disputes were solved and political decisions made. This is also the case in this chapter, where we will continue to explore the object of design and its constituents, the design ofthingsas matters of concern and possibilities of experiences, and as well as how design takes place. But where the former chapters focused on the ontology of the object of design and its constituents, on artifacts as...

  14. 9 Outside the Box
    (pp. 183-194)

    We opened this book by quoting Nussbaum’s call for a reorientation of designers and design. Nussbaum sees a demand for design thinking applied to a broad array of societal challenges and a responsibility for designers to take up these challenges in a more open and egalitarian exchange with other societal stakeholders. Designers are necessary according to Nussbaum to ensure quality in our environment, but designers also have to let go of any elitist attitude that would make them hostile to the inclusion of other voices in the design process.

    But it is not just the old-style designer who is being...

  15. Appendix: Atelier Experiments and Prototypes
    (pp. 195-214)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 215-216)
  17. References
    (pp. 217-230)
  18. Index
    (pp. 231-240)