Editions: First and second Third

Objects of Desire by Adrian Forty, third edition

Task: to republish an important book on design and its meaning in people's lives.

Adrian Forty’s Objects of Desire provides a retrospective insight into design and its impact on society. The author uses a variety of fascinating examples to show that the way things look can’t be deemed simply a result of a designer’s creative effort—design encompasses all kinds of complex social processes and is inseparably linked to the economics of manufacturing and, at times, even politics.

objects of desire portraits

The book is a great read for everyone, though it is primarily aimed at designers and those involved in the design industry.

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Most of the literature from the last fifty years would have us suppose that the main function o design is to make things beautiful. A few studies suggest that it is a special method of solving problems, but only occasionally has design been shown to have something to do with profit, and even more rarely has it been seen as being concerned with the transmission of ideas. This book developed out of my realisation that, especially in its economic and ideological aspects, design is a more significant activity than has usually been acknowledged.


Just as little attention has been given to design’s influence on how we think. Those who complain about the effects of television, journalism, advertising and fiction on our minds remain oblivious to the similar influence of design. Far from being a neutral, inoffensive artistic activity, design, by its very nature, has much more enduring effects than the ephemeral products of the media because it can cast ideas about who we are and how we should behave into permanent and tangible forms.


From the introduction

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Adrian Forty is Professor of Architectural History at the Bartlett, the Faculty of the Built Environment at University College London. In 2003 he was awarded the Sir Misha Black Award for Innovation in Design Education.

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chief typesetter

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  • Hardcover
  • 454 pages
  • Dimensions: 144×216 mm (5,7″×8,5″)
  • Press run: 3000
  • ISBN 978-5-98062-124-7
See also