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The Language of Things: Understanding the World of Desirable Objects
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The Language of Things: Understanding the World of Desirable Objects

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  696 ratings  ·  62 reviews
A brilliant exposé of the interaction between art, design, and commerce.

What is it that persuades us to camp outside Apple stores to be the first to buy an iPhone? Why is it that a generation ago a typewriter might have lasted someone a lifetime, but now we write on computers that we upgrade every couple of years to shinier, faster, sleeker models? Why do the clicks of so
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published June 1st 2009 by W. W. Norton Company (first published October 2nd 2008)
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3.63  · 
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 ·  696 ratings  ·  62 reviews

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Feb 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art, non-fiction, uk
Barely 3stars. Preferred Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster by Dana Thomas to this book, which never really takes off. The essay consists of two kinds od paragraphs: those without transitions (which feel like an expanded PowerPoint presentation) and those between which some transitions are visible - which feel prewritten, but it may be my negative bias, since I hate stacked unconnected paras.
Emma Sea
my rating reflects only that I didn't find Sudjic had anything new to say.
May 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am somewhat confused that a review quote on the back of ‘The Language of Things’ refers to it being part of a ‘backlash against mindless consumerism’. It didn’t strike me that way at all. This is no systematic critique of consumerism, rather a succinct analysis of consumer goods manufacture on the basis of various topics. I hadn’t previously read much analysis of design, so found this very interesting. It strikes me as pretty introductory and light on theory, but the wide use of illustrative e ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Margaret Sankey
Jul 23, 2011 rated it liked it
What does a Tizio lamp have in common with the safety catch of a Walther PPK (the red dot)? Why do cell phone cameras click even though they no longer have a shutter? How does currency design convey the image of the country it represents? Is the bakelite rotary phone the most perfect functional design ever? Why does Ikea serve meatballs everywhere in the world? Deyan Sudjic explains the subtleties of design in this clever and insightful essay using everyday examples that provoke a very satisfyin ...more
Feb 15, 2009 rated it liked it
The most memorable part about this book to me was the last chapter - which focused on how objects that have no utility are worth more than any object that does have utility. Interesting to see their is tension between either being a designer, or an artist; but you cant be both. Personally, I think design can be blended with art.

It's interesting to explore the design of some objects mentioned in the book, and learn some history, but overall I wasn't grasped by anything in the book.
Interesting read but at times not really relevant to me and my practice.
Oct 18, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I felt disappointed, since my friends’ recommendations were very strong and made the book seem like the ultimate answer to all the questions I could have about design :-). Well, that’s quite obviously expectations far too favourable to live up to, so perhaps I should cyt it some slack. Anyhow, I loved the beginning, it’s strong and convincing, and relates to objects I know and use so I can compare my view’s to authors. But as the book progresses – I think somewhere in the middle of the ‘Luxury’ ...more
Jul 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Starts well but peters out towards the end, much like my interest during the chapters on Fashion and Art, and finishes with a whimper in a single concluding paragraph. But worth it for the first two or three chapters, which offer some insight into the process of design and a number of interesting examples.
Sam Berner
Aug 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own
If you are interested to learn how design became the marketing thing for the rich (and the aspiring), but can't stand post-modernist cultural theory mumbo-jumbo, this is the book for you! Elegantly written, well argued and very interesting.
Brian Kovesci
Oct 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: design
We need more books like this which help to explain where in the creative world industrial design fits.

Sudjic writes interesting arguments for why design is different yet similar to art.

At one point he clearly explains why the Wiener Werkstätte was so important. The return to craft as a response to the Industrial Revolution wasn't an opportunity to create new products and develop new markets, it was a revolt against the threat of dying craftsmanship. It was political, not opportunistic. Ultimat
Jackie Carreira
Jan 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sudjic has been director of the Design Museum in London since 2006. Here he takes his experience, knowledge and naked enthusiasm for design to make a slick little package that sets out to prove the disproportionate selling power of slick little packages! This is a masterclass in what design means and the influence that objects - from chairs to helicopters, from the anglepoise to the iPod - have in moulding us, on a personal and a global scale. The West's virtually bulimic consumption of material ...more
Sep 07, 2019 rated it liked it
I was doubting between giving it 3 or 4 stars, but in the end I don't think it deserves 4 stars from me. It's not a bad book about design, and I have learned a few things from it, but on the overall I think it lacks substance.
Jul 21, 2019 rated it liked it
not anti-consumerist enough for me.
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really interesting book, it reads like a cross between John Berger and Don Norman.
Andrew Choptiany
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Nice survey but lacks much meat as it is mainly introductory.
Apr 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written and insightful. I'd love to own it just for the pleasure of rereading it.
Jan 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: art
The two stars are solely for the last chapter of this book. I picked it up out of curiosity to see what a design expert has to say about the ever-futile convergence of art and design

His notes about how Duchamp and Warhol both changed the limits between art and design were interesting, as well as the segment about how the "design is not art" (or vice versa) stigma is stamped into people in design schools as much as among artists.

But beyond that the central argument in this chapter is very black a
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: design
It was an interesting book, until the last couple of chapters. I am finding that experts who write these sort of books can't help but put the spotlight on either a favorite artist or genre, whether or not if fits the book and this one was no different.

I enjoyed the look at the development and rise of design and it's place in our society. Where he started to loose me was when he tried to point out how undervalued design was compared to "high" art. I'm not sure how you can compare the monetary val
Boy Blue
Jan 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Great in parts. The sections on Luxury and Fashion are particularly good. The section on art is not great and actually deals more with design. Although many people find the comment that art is valued for it's lack of utility. The less usable something is the more valuable it becomes and this applies to design too. The opening section about design is interesting but not mind blowing.

You may want to hover near a computer while you read because he is always referring to things that you may never h
Nov 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: design
Mass consumption is something that many of us have grown to detest, yet paradoxically, we continue to engage in it on a daily basis. Sudjic's book, among other things, attempts to explain why we continue along the path set out for us by manufacturers, designers and bankers--to consume as much as possible as frequently as possible--in a world that must deal with shrinking natural resources, a global economic crunch and a spiritual/intellectual void that has been filled with objects of desire. It ...more
Aug 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
It feels like whatever Sudjic is writing about and for, he is actually writing about and for himself. I was fascinated by his Sottsass biography -even there there was an overwhelming passage about Sottsass' war adventures in the Balkans-, but other than that, as much as I like his authoring style, I am having difficulties to grasp certain parts or be captured by the theme -which keeps changing swiftly-. So I have The 100 Mile City and The Edifice Complex: How the Rich and Powerful--and Their Arc ...more
Nov 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Like Sudjic's later book The Ediface Complex, The Language of Things reads like a series of musings on fairly loosely collected subjects. But although, also like TEC, The Language of Things is very readable, unlike TEC it isn't all that funny or scathing.

It makes a few interesting points - such as that the greater the utility of an object, the less its monetary value to the art world – and I'm grateful to it for introducing me to Gerrit Rietveld's Red and Blue Chair, but I'll remember little els
Chris Blaydes
Apr 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
A really clear and direct way of writing. Perfect even if you know nothing about design. For someone who is really interested in knowing more about the subject they practice it fills in a lot of gaps. Recommended.
May 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
The book itself is an example of fine publishing, even the dust jacket is bound in clear plastic..

Indexed and interesting stories from the Anglepoise to the Beetle or Frank Zappa! See Richard's review below...
"The fetish for objects, their provenance and their associations, exemplified by Steve McQueen's sunglasses, is the starting point for the drooling pornography of collecting."

It thrills me beyond belief that my collection of 150 floaty pens makes me a 'drooling pornographer'. YEAAH!!!
Sep 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
"I have been both transfixed and fascinated by the glossy sheen of consumption while at the same time becoming nauseous with self0disgust at the volume of what we all consume, and the shallow but sharp emotional tug that the manufacture of what has on us."
Emily Simnitt
Jun 26, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book with an entire chapter devoted to what fashion design says about culture? I'm so there! (And I learned other stuff, too, like how camo looks in different countries). A good break from all the summer thrillers I've been readin.
Anna Pen
Dec 16, 2014 rated it liked it
an easy to read essay on selected aspects of design. not necessarily ground breaking but a nice read simply
David Gan
Apr 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thought-provoking survey of design.
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Deyan Sudjic is Director of the Design Museum. He was born in London, and studied architecture in Edinburgh. He has worked as a critic for the Observer and The Sunday Times, as the editor of Domus in Milan, as the director of the Venice Architecture Biennale, and as a curator in Glasgow, Istanbul and Copenhagen. He is the author of B is for Bauhaus, The Language of Things and The Edifice Complex.