News from Nowhere: Design and Utopia


What is the purpose of design? At some level, all design aspires to change the world in which we live, and with it, our experience of living. Design is, by nature, utopian. Framing its questions around the fundamental ambivalence of “utopia”­—implied first in Thomas More’s 1516 socio-political fiction, Utopia, and much later in William Morris’s post-Revolutionary novel, News from Nowhere: An Epoch of Rest of 1890—this course explores a variety of ways in which design not only engages with but actually defines the term’s ambivalently paired Greek roots: eutopia (“the good place”) and utopia (“no place”). Class sessions will address material ranging roughly from 1750 to today, and will unfold around thematic topics, including: The Utopian Body / Design and Disability; The Tiny House; The Total Environment; The Garden City and Eco-Design; Designing Feminism; Speculative Design and Visionary Technology; Design and Dystopia. Students will be encouraged to pursue original research projects that problematize the relation of design and utopia within their own fields of interest. 3 credits. Depending on final research project, this course can satisfy the pre-1800 requirement.