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The Language of Things: Understanding the World of Desirable Objects Hardcover – June 1, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0393070811 ISBN-10: 0393070816 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (June 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393070816
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393070811
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #267,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Like geese force-fed grain until their livers explode, to make foie gras, we are a generation born to consume, says this witty commentary on rampant consumerism enabled by design innovation. Indeed, Sudjic (director of LondonÖs Design Museum and author of The Edifice Complex) says, consumer snobbery and design obsession can border on high-functioning autism. Writing almost conversationally, he explores how consumer engineering expanded the design process, inspiring the world to consume [its] way out of the Great Depressionand becoming the present marketing ideal. Luxury, fashion and art, says Sudjic,are the highlights of modern design, with fashion as the most developed form of built-in obsolescence—and consumers are willing to pay dearly for the impermanence. Brimming throughout with primarily British examples, pricing and language, SudjicÖs appreciation of first-rate design shows through his vivid descriptions of universally classic functional or aesthetically pleasing archetypes. Especially appealing to marketers and design connoisseurs, this is easily digestible for the average consumers interested in knowingly purchasing quality design for the senses—if they can still afford it in todayÖs economy. 71 b&w illus, 5 color illus. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


A deep, penetrating look at the ever-perilous battle among the competing forces of art, fashion, and practicality.... Difficult to read because I was laughing so much, I kept losing my place.

” (Donald Norman, author of Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things)

[Sudjic] views the world of objects that surrounds us with both unabashed passion and supreme skepticism.... We could ask for no better guide.

” (Michael Bierut, author of Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design)

A mind-broadening look at how designers of all kinds make our material world what it is.... Full of eye-opening examples of design at its most daring—and most successful.

” (Henry Petrosky, author of Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Design)

[Sudjic] writes beautifully, communicating an expert knowledge of design in words so well crafted that you look forward to every sentence.

” (Bill Moggridge, cofounder of IDEO and author of Designing Interactions)

An evocative, sometimes disturbing, always intelligent book about the poetry of material things.

” (Richard Sennett, author of The Culture of the New Capitalism)

The Language of Things reads like a good conversation with someone who has a deep understanding of his subject matter.... A provocative and effective way of looking at our world through the lens of objects.

” (John Dunningan, Dean of Architecture and Design, Rhode Island School of Design)

More About the Author

Deyan Sudjic is director of the Design Museum, London. He is the author of The Language of Things," "100-Mile City," and "The Edifice Complex." and the co-author of "The Architecture Pack."

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John McSwain on August 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is one of the most comprehensible, intelligent, and clever books I've read in a long time.

Deyan Sudjic has an non-American perspective which is refreshing and presents a style devoid of capitalistic or consumerist undertones. Sudjic's statements are often quick and to the point and his citations from the works of prestigious designers and architects reinforce his perspectives. Sudjic cites John Berger's Ways of Seeing: Based on the BBC Television Series to support his assessments frequently and often. Sudjic identifies several attributes of design that seem to be overlooked or forgotten in modern products such as consistency, redundancy, and a lack of durability while proving that the product cycle of each new version of a device is too quick to ever foster a meaningful and lasting owner/object relationship. Overall, Sudjic does a great job of transposing design into commonly available forms and communicates what design is not.

I finished this in one day because I was enamored with it's brevity and precise thoughts. Sudjic's thoughts are clear and once you've completed this book, perhaps your thinking of what design is and isn't will be clear too....
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Format: Hardcover
I searched this book for some sort of social value or usefulness. Unfortunately with the exception of a few buzz words and concepts that are secondary to what he's trying to say, there is nothing of any meaning in this book.

The author Deyan Sudjic starts his dissertation with the complaint; he bought an Apple Computer because it was cute and fruity. Later he finds that the cute and fruity is not functional. So he buys an Apple because it's black and flat. Later he finds that the black and flat doesn't mean it's functional.

Throughout the book he cites other people that buy things because they're fruity or black and flat. He makes the point that people are duped into things because they're fruity or black and flat such as money, cars, lamps, clothing, and whatnot that they are usable. He suggests that people collect things because they're either kitsch or have nostalgic value or have some other elusive quality that is irrelevant to the function.

He wraps up the book written in late 2008 with "what depression?" Everything seems as though it costs just the same, everybody still buys just the same stuff, and who would ever dream of a car company shutting down for 30 days over Christmas. This goes to show that he is still living and a fruity, flat black world.

We learn nothing of any value from this book. Even his speculation that the red around the radiator a black car is based on the red dot on a Walther PP K is stretching it a bit.

Helvetica [Blu-ray] ~ Gary Hustwit
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael S. Sutera on October 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book is not perfect. That is not the point. The joy of reading the English language and the connection between thought, reason, and a simple appreciation for things of beauty provides the reader with a simply gorgeous journey. Kudos to the author for taking a particularly ethereal topic and giving it flesh and bones. To the gentleman from Texas, I am sorry you were looking for something to easily grasp and understand. I think you missed the point. The attempt to explain challenging topics with humility and tact should be applauded. Kind regards to one and all. M
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Babalis Athanassios on August 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It tries to define a lot of the moral and other issues each designer is struggling with. A very good book for all industrial designers. No straight answers but something to make everyone think harder before they put pencil on paper...
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