Making Meaning: An Introduction to Designing Objects

Making Meaning: An Introduction to Designing Objects

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

This program 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 diffuse 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 program 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. The program 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.

Learning Outcomes

  • Understanding the breadth of the object design field, its many sub-disciplines and specialisms.
  • Understanding the political connotations of designed objects and how designers express a position through their work.
  • Understanding the working contexts of designers - how designers work in the world and what the different models of practice entail.


2 Courses
8 Sessions / 8.0 hours of work per session
75 Lesson videos
Course 1: Making Meaning: An Introduction to Designing Objects, Part I Starts in 7 days
  • 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
Course 2: Making Meaning: An Introduction to Designing Objects, Part II * Starts in 7 days
  • Session 1: Radical Objects: The Challenging Landscape of Design’s Avant-Garde
  • Session 2: The Aesthetics of Progress: Capturing the Zeitgeist in Object Form
  • Session 3: Towards Socially Responsible Design: Ethical Approaches to a “Dangerous” Profession
  • Session 4: Rules of Engagement: Exploring the Realities of Design Practice
* Program exclusive course

Featured Coursework


Upon completion you'll earn
  • A verified Specialist Certificate that prove you completed the Program and mastered the subject.*
  • A verified course Certificate for each individual course you complete in the program.*
  • 2.0 transferable academic college credit(s) (additional fees apply)

* Each certificate earned is endorsed by Kadenze and the offering institution(s).

Price: $200 USD *

Add college credit at checkout or later for just $600

Specialist Certificate

Receive a Specialist Certificate by earning a Certificate of Accomplishment in each course within a Program.
Students earn a Certificate of Accomplishment for any course they complete with a grade of 65% or higher.
Using its unique link, you can share your certificate with everyone from future employers and schools to friends, family, and colleagues.

Credit Eligible

2.0 units
Kadenze has partnered with School of the Art Institute of Chicago to offer this course for college credit.*
*If enrolled for credit, this rigorous college-level Program will provide credits that are recognized and transferable from the partnering institution upon completion. Credit as workload and transferability is defined by the granting institution. Participation in this Program does not represent an acceptance decision or admission from the institution that offers them.

*In order to receive college credit, learners must complete all courses within the Program. Credit is not given for partial completion.

Why join a Program?

Becoming a specialist in a subject requires a highly tuned learning experience connecting multiple related courses. Programs unlock exclusive content that helps you develop a deep understanding of your subject. From your first course to your final summative assessment, our thoughtfully curated curriculum enables you to demonstrate your newly acquired skills.

Program Benefits
Access an exclusive curriculum taught by expert instructors and industry leaders
Earn a verified Specialist Certificate with a unique shareable link
Submit and share coursework
Enroll in credit-eligible Programs and receive college credit (when applicable)
Receive grades and feedback
Build a portfolio to showcase your work
Participate in forum discussions
Receive exclusive discounts on select Program materials
Test your new specialty with a summative assessment
Collaborate with peers