The Language of Things: Understanding the World of Desirable Objects - Deyan Sudjic

Packaging is an inevitable prelude to our experience of an object. ... A pair of expensive socks comes with a strip of tissue paper slipped inside one of them, providing a three-second never-to-be-repeated rustle the first time that you put them on.

So, this is the last book I finished in 2009 (and, depending on your view of the calendar, the last book of the decade). It took me a long time, though; it's well-written but a little denser and not something I could read while half-distracted by other things.

The Language of Things is about design, and the way it's related to luxury, fashion, art, architecture. It's also about why we value certain things over others, and what makes an object command a higher price. I was particularly interested in his explanation of luxury, which has shifted in meaning since the industrial age. When things were hand-crafted, ornamentation went with luxury, since it took a lot more time and effort to add decorations to, say, a chair. But once chairs (even with ornamentation) could be manufactured cheaply, the scarcity was lost. Ironically, manufactured items often now have imperfections to make them look more hand-crafted. Often the signifiers of luxury turn out to be less-optimal products.

And art, in a similar fashion, is valued for its uselessness. The less practical or useful an object is, the more it is considered "art." A chair, no matter how artistic or what its historical links, will never command the same price as a painting which has no practical use. So then often designers try to be artists by introducing impractical designs. I think Sudjic is trying to argue against this mentality, but it does feel like something that is hard to escape when it comes to the art world.

It's certainly not a book for everyone, but if you like design and have an interest in the language of design, this might be worth your while.

Fed to jonathan's brain | December 31, 2009 | Comments (0)


Post a comment

Remember Me?