News from Nowhere: Design and Utopia

What is the purpose of design? All design aspires, at some level, 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 (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 (“good place”) and utopia (“no place”). Class sessions will address European and North American material ranging from 1750 to today, and will unfold thematically around utopian and dystopian topics. 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.