6069 – Visual Arts, Modulo Design
Prof. Stefano Mirti

Design as manipulation (or, an introduction to contemporary design)


Goals of the course

The main goal of the course is to expose the students to a number of key case-studies, referring to some of the most interesting dynamics of transformation of contemporary design. To understand the obvious (and the invisible) connections, to show various projects from their final result going backward all the way to the “making of”, the “behind the scenes”.

In our world design is a commodity: to observe the transformation of the discipline, to understand its reasons and the tacit rules. We will also compare what is happening in different global cities where design is one of the main actors in the redefinition of the perception of reality


To know before the course

This class does not need previous knowledge on the topic.
Still, the habit of reading a newspaper on a daily base generally helps.
The students will be asked to keep an on-line blog during the course.
In the first class we will explain how to run and manage a blog for the ones who don’t know


Program of the course (abstract)

The title of this class is taken from a quote by the German artist Joseph Beuys:
Everything is manipulation. Sometimes this is good.

An introduction to contemporary design interpreted upon its multiple layers of meaning. To show to the students how this informal galaxy works, when “design” quit its “fancy object” status to infiltrate every possible area of our everyday life.

What are the most relevant transformations (from product to all kind of service-based system), and why these transformation happened and are happening.
Design and its narrative featurea. The nature of this contemporary “narrations” that are transforming and re-defining (in an analogue and digital way) what we intend for reality.

Introduction. Everything is manipulation sometimes this is good.

Japan: Form follows fiction (the walkman and the zen garden).

Tokyo or the city as a mirror. Tengu and other stories.

I always did a lot of architecture. Working with ceramic, making jewels: Ettore Sottsass.

Bangkok: my life with my tuk-tuk / Mumbay and the dabbawalla.

Los Angeles and the design version of California dreaming. From Charles Eeames to Ideo.

Realdoll and the design of fear. Play, rewind, stop.

East Coast. If I listen I forget, if I see I remember, if I have the MIT laptop…

London calling: Cedric Price, Critical Design and the Utility Pets.

Amsterdam and Doors of perceptions. Dutch!

Ivrea and Interaction Design Institute: Tecnophilia / Tecnophobia

Milano and the “fuori-salone”

Torino and Geodesign.


Books for the exam

The exam will be be based on the pdf, articles, essays, links given during each class.
The complete collection is available on this blog (see: materials page).


Description of the exam

The exam will not have any written part, and will refer to the on-line blog edited by each student during the course.
For the students not attending the class, they will refer to the collection of “materials” as listed in this same blog.

There won’t be any intermediate exam, but each class will have a part devoted to the on-line blogs of the students.


(image above: Charles and Ray Eames, House of Cards, 1952)

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