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8 Sessions
Audit (Free)
Certificate (Incl. w/ Premium)
Credit Eligible ($600 USD)
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Visual Arts, Design
Skill Level
Architecture, Object Design, Generative Process
Course Description

This course provides a broad overview and substantial introduction to the theories and practices of current object design. Illustrated using recent work from established and emerging designers, this course provides a journey through the "meaning-making" processes that lead to iconic products, and a glimpse into the world of the designers who create them. During the second half of the Twentieth Century, the clearly defined profession of industrial design broadened and fragmented into a defuse array of specialized practices. Rather than confining their activity to shaping objects for everyday use, object designers have expanded their practice by borrowing from fields such as sociology, anthropology, art, film, and management consultancy, thereby uncovering new ways in which design can affect our lives.

Beginning with a tour through design’s pluralism, this course delves into the power relations and semiotic structures which lie behind object making. It analyzes the process of design as it unfolds in the designer’s mind, on paper, through model making, and via other generative “thinking tools”. Examining the motivation of designers today, it reveals radical, avant-garde positions, as well as progressive, ethical, and sustainable practices that question the profession’s quiet complicity in unchecked mass consumption. This course concludes by examining the working contexts of today’s object designers, discussing the often "slippery" nature of client relationships, as well as the joys and perils of independent practice. Making Meaning: Designing Objects offers insight into the way today’s object designers operate, the theories that guide their decision-making, and the tools and processes they use to get results.


This course is in Scheduled mode, and starts Dec 13, 2017. Learn more about Scheduled courses here.

Session 1: Mission Creep
Product design goes plural
Session 2: Style and Substance
The overt and covert politics of design
Session 3: Reading and Writing Form
The visual language of designed objects
Session 4: A Generative Process
Design in the mind, on the page, and in the hand
Session 5: Radical Objects
The challenging landscape of design's avant-garde
Session 6: The Aesthetics of Progress
Capturing the Zeitgeist in object form
Session 7: Towards Socially Responsible Design
Ethical approaches to a dangerous profession
Session 8: Rules of Engagement
Exploring the realities of design practice
Enroll for College Credit

Credit Eligible

Kadenze has partnered with School of the Art Institute of Chicago to offer this course for college credits.*

How much does it cost?

This course costs $600 USD to take for college credit.

*Upon completion, this rigorous college-level course will provide credits that are recognized and transferable from the partnering institution. Credit as workload and transferability is defined by the granting institution. Participation in these courses does not represent an acceptance decision or admission from the institution that offers them.

Grading Policy

Coursework Grading Policy: The most important objective is for students to gain an understanding of the concepts taught, and to be able to apply those ideas in their own work. With this in mind, it is our hope that the coursework is seen as an opportunity to further the understanding of the concepts taught in class.

More on assignments and grading:

  • For quizzes, you are allowed one (1) attempt each. Make sure to study before you take each test.
  • You are permitted up to three chances at submitting the right answer in every in-video quiz question. Note results of in-video quizzes do not count towards your course grade.
  • For Premium members: To receive a verified Certificate of Accomplishment, you must score at least 70% overall in the class.

Plagiarism: We learn by doing our own work, and by collaborating with other students. Discussing course content and assignments with your peers is an important and helpful way to deepen your learning. However, encouraging others to copy your homework and submit it as their own is a form of cheating. So please don't post your completed assignments or correct answers to quizzes, tests, or other assessments to the discussion forums or in repositories outside of Kadenze.

Instructors & Guests
What You Need to Take This Course
  • Materials:
    • Thinking: Objects - Contemporary Approaches to Product Design by Tim Parsons
Additional Information

Please note: Taking part in a Kadenze course For-Credit or as a Premium Member, does not affirm that a student has been enrolled or accepted for enrollment by School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Taking part in this course For-Credit offers credit that is recognized by School of the Art Institute of Chicago, should the Kadenze student be accepted for enrollment in the future.

Students who are currently enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago are not eligible to receive credit for this course.

Peer Assessment Code of Conduct: Part of what makes Kadenze a great place to learn is our community of students. While you are completing your Peer Assessments, we ask that you help us maintain the quality of our community. Please:

  • Be Polite. Show your fellow students courtesy. No one wants to feel attacked - ever. For this reason, insults, condescension, or abuse will not be tolerated.
  • Show Respect. Kadenze is a global community. Our students are from many different cultures and backgrounds. Please be patient, kind, and open-minded when discussing topics such as race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or other potentially controversial subjects.
  • Post Appropriate Content. We believe that expression is a human right and we would never censor our students. With that in mind, please be sensitive of what you post in a Peer Assessment. Only post content where and when it is appropriate to do so.

Please understand that posts which violate this Code of Conduct harm our community and may be deleted or made invisible to other students by course moderators. Students who repeatedly break these rules may be removed from the course and/or may lose access to Kadenze.

Students with Disabilities: Students who have documented disabilities and who want to request accommodations should refer to the student help article via the Kadenze support center. Kadenze is committed to making sure that our site is accessible to everyone. Configure your accessibility settings in your Kadenze Account Settings.