The Politics of the Artificial Essays on Design and Design Studies
by Victor Margolin
University of Chicago Press, 2002
Cloth: 978-0-226-50503-9 | Paper: 978-0-226-50504-6 | Electronic: 978-0-226-51837-4
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226518374.001.0001


Emerging from the world of commercial art and product styling, design has now become completely integrated into human life. Its marks are all around us, from the chairs we sit on to the Web sites on our computer screens.

One of the pioneers of design studies and still one of its most distinguished practitioners, Victor Margolin here offers a timely meditation on design and its study at the turn of the millennium and charts new directions for the future development of both fields. Divided into sections on the practice and study of design, the essays in The Politics of the Artificial cover such topics as design history, design research, design as a political tool, sustainable design, and the problems of design's relation to advanced technologies. Margolin also examines the work of key practitioners such as the matrix designer Ken Isaacs. Throughout the book Margolin demonstrates the underlying connections between the many ways of reflecting on and practicing design. He argues for the creation of an international, interdisciplinary field of design research and proposes a new ethical agenda for designers and researchers that encompasses the responsibility to users, the problems of sustainability, and the complicated questions of how to set boundaries for applying advanced technology to solve the problems of human life.

Opinionated and erudite, Victor Margolin's The Politics of the Artificial breaks fresh ground in its call for a new approach to design research and practice. Designers, engineers, architects, anthropologists, sociologists, and historians will all benefit from its insights.


Victor Margolin is a professor of art and design history at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the author, editor, or coeditor of a number of book, including The Struggle for Utopia, Discovering Design, and Design Discourse, all published by the University of Chicago Press.



1: Design

Thinking about Design at the End of the Millennium

Design at the Crossroads

The Experience of Products

Ken Isaacs: Matrix Designer

Expansion or Sustainability: Two Models of Development

Design for a Sustainable World

The Politics of the Artificial

2: Design Studies

Design History in the United States, 1977–2000

Narrative Problems of Graphic Design History

Micky Wolfson’s Cabinet of Wonders

Design History and Design Studies

The Two Herberts

The Multiple Tasks of Design Studies


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