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Designing things book cover
May 2010

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Designing Things

A Critical Introduction to the Culture of Objects
Prasad Boradkar
Illustrated by: 
Amethyst Saludo

"Designing Things" is a book about the cultural significance of objects. It draws on a diverse range of theories and methodologies — from philosophy and design studies, to anthropology and material culture, to media and cultural studies — in order to develop a more holistic understanding of the meanings of things. This book offers clear explanations of such key concepts as design language, planned obsolescence, object fetishism, product semantics, consumer value and need, along with case studies of historical and contemporary objects. When and why did the turntable morph from playback device to musical instrument? Why is BlingH2O bottled water compared to the Rolls Royce Phantom and marketed as "pop-culture in a bottle"? What are the critical, ethical issues involved in the manufacturing of soccer balls? In raising such questions, this book examines the role that design plays in the production and consumption of things. "Designing Things" is an approachable text written for designers and nondesigners alike; it provides access to critical issues about the cultural import of design not only to design aficionados, but also to all curious minds who possess an anthropological interest in our material world.


Prasad Boradkar, an industrial design professor in ASU's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, is the director of InnovationSpace, a transdisciplinary laboratory where faculty and students develop sustainable product designs. He is also co-director of the Biomimicry Center, which is dedicated to the exploration of biologically inspired solutions to problems of sustainability.

Praise for this book

“A lucid introduction to many of the theoretical perspectives that exist around objects and their design. For students it provides a deep understanding of the social meanings of design in both its production and consumption and the ethical issues that these raise.”

Guy Julier
Leeds Metropolitan University