Design Narratives: Design Histories

Faculty: Paula Antonelli




This course examines the past 20 years of design history, focusing on some of the objects, personalities, and forces that have come to define contemporary design practice and discourse. Over the past two decades, we have seen the emergence of design metaphor, design irony, discursive design, and design interactions. We have grappled with authorship, the design personality, the role of the media, the interdisciplinary expansion of design exhibitions, and the emergence of social media.

Additionally, the growing popularity of design-for-luxury and design art has provided a provocative dichotomy for humanitarian design and design for social change. DIY design, hacking, modding, rapid prototyping, and an explosion of craft have accompanied a revolution in designers empowered by the internet, and science and technology have become design drivers alongside design thinking-influencing business culture and policy making alike.

What do we make of these developments, and what do they portend for the future?



The objective of this course is to cultivate a critical eye toward where contemporary design has been and where it might lead. Through historical investigation and divergent thinking, students will gain inspiration from a wide variety of creative individuals and groups, understanding their stories and helping to plan their own.



This course is part lecture, part seminar. The instructor will present weekly talks on various people, movements, and phenomena in recent design history, and students will present individual and group assignments. 



Students in this course will come away with a set of tools to:

  • Gain a greater appreciation for contemporary design history
  • Understand the motivations and context for design agents
  • Sharpen research and documentation skills