Design Design Assignment #1

Design Design #1

Due: Wed. 4/15

This assignment asks you to create a design about design history. You will design a visual lay-out of cultural forces — related to a form of 19th century design from 1850-1900.

You will also turn in 5 page (typed, double-spaced) paper, in which you explain relevant background information on the object and your design choices.

Fundamental steps:

  1. Choose one object, image, or structure that relates to 19th century design. Choose something that piques your interest in lecture or elsewhere.
  2. Do a bit of reading/research on your chosen object. Which 19th century forces, ideas, consumer practices, or technological developments led to and away from this object?
  3. Create a visual that illustrates the cause and effect relationships that surround, or are evident in, your chosen object, image, or structure. In other words, how will you show the relationships among these forces and your object/image?
  4. Write a paper about those cause and effect relationships and your design choices.


More specific guidelines:

As you select information and create your design, consider these questions:

  • Which economic, cultural, gender or class-related forces, behaviors, or beliefs led to the creation of your item?
  • Which technological, industrial, or production-related developments played a role?
  • How did it affect other forces, behaviors, or beliefs?
  • Who affected the creation of this object?
  • Who was affected by this object?
  • Who needed it/wanted it? (Why did they need it? Or why were people told they needed it/wanted it?)
  • Who designed it? Who used it? Who was inspired by it or critical of it? Who changed its design?
  • Which other areas of design did it co-exist with or influence?
  • Any other causes and effects?

Requirements for the visual form:

  • This is a VISUAL EXPLORATION of the RELATIONSHIPS among these forces.

This should NOT look like a science fair poster with lots of little paragraphs of information. You may use single words or simple phrases. The composition, font, color, and other design choices must be the primary means of communicating the relationships among these forces.

Your diagram should NOT look like a simple timeline, but, instead, should be visually explore the complex cultural matrix in which this object existed.

  • You must include at least 5 historical factors/forces/influences in your design and in your paper.
  • Include an image of your chosen item or a clear visual indication of the original object/image/structure.
  • Be creative! Really look at the formal aspects of your object/image – what can you play with in your design? Consider using appropriate 19th century lettertypes/fonts, color combinations, or patterns for your design.
  • You may go high-tech or low-tech with this assignment. Creating a hand-drawn diagram on a sheet of paper is fine, particularly if you are exploring forms that involved drawing: e.g. design sketches, book illustrations, fashion trading cards, or catalogue entries.

Requirements for the paper:

  • You must include at least 5 historical factors/forces/influences in your design and in your paper.
  • In addition to using your lecture notes, consult 2 additional sources. I am picky about sources – see suggestions below.


  • You must indicate which sources you’ve used throughout the paper through footnotes, endnotes, or parenthetical citations (I don’t care which style you use — Chicago Style, MLA, etc. — just pick one and be consistent.)
  • You must also include a bibliography or list of works cited.
  • Researching design history is tricky! Be careful of commercial sites; some companies provide a veneer of academic material while trying to sell their products. Consumerism is fine, but their historical information is not always accurate!
  • Museum websites are excellent resources for the kinds of images and information you might need. See, for example, the sites below:

Victoria and Albert Museum

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Museum of Modern Art         

Vitra Design Museum            



  • The presentations will take the form of an informal critique session, however, this is not a studio course and grading will not be on aesthetic quality but on the effective/engaging communication of an historical matrix.
  • All designs will be on display simultaneously.
  • You must bring in a poster, hand-drawn diagram, or other physical form of some kind.
  • Alternatively, you could bring in your own laptop on which to display your design. (If you choose this option, please also email it to me so that I have a record of it.)
  • We will go around the room, observing and analyzing the designs in terms of how they communicate the different historical forces.
  • Be prepared to discuss your design.  As with the overall assignment, the goal here is NOT to become an expert on the history of a given object, but to communicate how cultural and aesthetic/formal choices are inter-related. In other words, you will not stand in front of the class and give a report on the history of an object. Instead, be prepared to give an overview of your design choices. HOW did you present the forces that led to, and stem from, your chosen object?
  • Still, do inform yourself about the basics of the object. What is it? Why did it look the way it did? Select several items of historical significance that you might point out to the class.
  • Be prepared to briefly state why you chose what the original object/image/structure. What drew you to it? What piqued your interest?