CATEGORY   Decorative Arts, Architecture, Design

Paperback, 256 pages, 248 x 168 mm, 272 black-and-white illustrations
First edition 1986; second edition 2005

UK and USA Thames & Hudson ISBN 978-0-500-27412-5

Also published in Brazil (CosacNaify), Russia (Lebedev) and China (Yilin)

Design and Society since 1750
Adrian Forty

This seminal publication on industrial design, now a standard text for students of design, has been continuously in print for over 30 years.

Whether at home, in the street, or at work, we are surrounded by objects that we take for granted, yet which are more significant in our daily lives than perhaps we realise. When we shop, how do we choose between items with different appearances but with the same function – and why? Do we decide on purely aesthetic grounds, or because one offers a feature that another doesn’t, or because our choice has been influenced by a successful marketing campaign?

In this radical and highly original examination of design and its place in society, Adrian Forty challenges premises that have usually passed unquestioned. He argues that design is used by societies to express their values. Its norms are shaped by economic and social conditions; it can confirm a role or status or be manipulated to overcome resistance to innovations that seem threatening.

Objects of Desire looks at the appearance of consumer goods in the 200 years since the introduction of mechanised production, whether in Josiah Wedgwood’s use of neo-classicism for his industrially manufactured pottery or the development of appropriate forms for wirelesses. The argument is illustrated with examples ranging from penknives to computers and from sewing machines to railway carriages.

In opening up new ways of appraising the man-made world around us, Objects of Desire is more than just required reading for anyone who has involvement with design: it is a revealing document about our society.

Adrian Forty is a lecturer in the History of Architecture at the Bartlett School of Architecture and Planning, University College, London. He studied at the universities of Oxford and London, and has published widely on the history of architecture and design, including his recent, highly acclaimed book Words and Buildings.