Decorating Diversions: Industrial Design, Consumerism and the Production of Spaces

The history and practice of Decorative Arts, Industrial Design and the Design of Interiors are intrinsically intertwined and at times indistinguishable. The more recent rubric of \”Design\” has tended to ignore the differences between these fields, while historians and critics have exaggerated their disparities in the search of defining areas of academic study. This course will study the vicissitudes of each discipline simultaneously as a means of analyzing how the consumption of objects in modern society has come to materialize, anticipate or resist societal changes in Europe and America. The course will thrive on the contradictions and coincidences between theory and practice. \”Designer\” movements and stylistic fashions will be tested against cultural, economic and political trends. We will study specific manufacturing techniques and technological developments together with their impact on social ideals. In addition, the course will use marketing and advertising as a means of understanding how objects were conceived, manufactured and ultimately grouped in space.Methodology The semester is divided into three parts: The first four weeks we will deal with issues that came to the forefront before World War II. The second group of lectures will look at themes, spaces and/or groups of objects across the twentieth century. And in the final four weeks we will concentrate on subjects that dominate the second half of the twentieth century as well as current design thinking. However, the chronological boundaries between topics will be not strictly defined, and most lectures will expand beyond the confines of a particular period. Most weeks will be divided into two halves (Tuesday and Thursday). The core lecture will be given during the first class meeting; on some occasions the second class will be dedicated to outside lecturers or student presentations. Student WorkloadStudents are expected to submit a final twenty-page paper (min.) on a topic of their choice. A list of topics will be provided to aid students on their selections. In addition, students are expected to make a five-minute Power Point presentation on their paper topic during one of the assigned presentation sessions. Please note that while the papers are due on January 15th, thesis students are expected to turn in their papers on December 12th. Thesis students who wish to turn their papers in at an earlier or later date should see me (deadline for thesis students is negotiable as long as it is dealt with in advance).Due to the slim requirements for the course, attendance is mandatory and will be taken into consideration at the time of grading.BibliographyThe following books are available at the coop for purchasing:The Theory of Decorative Art, Isabelle Frank Ed. (Yale University Press, 2000)Twentieth Century Design, Jonathan M. Woodham (Oxford University Press,1997)Objects of Desire, Adrian Forty (Thames and Hudson, 2000)All additional material recommended or required for reading will be available at the reserve desk at least a week in advance of each lecture.After each lecture I will provide a list of readings, which I encourage students to complete in preparation for the next lecture. The reading list is divided into three categories: \”Must\”, \”Recommended\” and \”Only for the hard core.\” The \”must\” category encompasses materials without which the meaning of the lecture might be lost, so you MUST read them before class. These tend to be short and to the point. \”Only for the hard core\” will include an essay that substantially expands on a topic covered in class. The \”recommended\” category usually includes topics covered during the lecture, and thus is only intended as additional information and/or refresher and/or different point of reference. Students are only expected to read the \”must\” category during