R1B - 001 | CCN: 51802

The Craft of Writing

Is Design Evil?

Instructor: Kevin Block

TuWTh 230-5P, 104 DWINELLE

4 Units

Have objects taken control of your life? How do advertisements for ugly or useless things compel you to buy them? What makes a tattooed body “dangerous” and an organic piece of fruit “safe”? As an ethical and political introduction to design theory in the 20th and 21st centuries, “Is Design Evil?” will provide a framework for addressing both the skepticism and the fear often associated with design. The course begins by trying to define design and its physical and psychological effects on people. We will try to determine what constitutes a human artifact and how philosophical notions like idea, materiality, and productive intention inform the discourse of design. This will prepare us to question design in relation to its power and control of thinking and behavior. We then turn to the practice of critique. Designed objects surround us. With what attitude, critical methodologies, and concepts should we engage them and evaluate their supposed malevolence? We spend each of the next four weeks considering different design disciplines through which we will practice design criticism. In order, these disciplines include graphic design, product design and advertising, game design, and urban design. The syllabus will consist of essays, a novel, and films. Since this is not a studio course, no individual design ability is required. We will, however, occasionally complete in­class design exercises for the purposes of improving our critical analysis. Also note that this course will not seriously investigate the “problem of evil,” as formulated in the philosophy of religion.