Skip to main content
  • Book
  • © 2011

Design Anthropology

Object Culture in the 21st Century

  • First ever volume to address this hot topic Contributions by leading innovators across design, corporate research and anthropology Appeals to every designer, corporation, media concern and academy dealing with users and contemporary interdisciplinary approaches

Part of the book series: Edition Angewandte (EDITION)

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Table of contents (17 chapters)

  1. Front Matter

    Pages 1-7
  2. Introduction

    1. Introduction

      • Alison J. Clarke
      Pages 9-13
  3. Designers Go Native

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 15-15
    2. The ethnography in design

      • Jo-Anne Bichard, Rama Gheerawo
      Pages 45-55
  4. People, Objects and Entanglements

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 73-73
    2. Designing Ourselves

      • Daniel Miller
      Pages 88-99
    3. Objects in Sociology

      • Harvey Molotch
      Pages 100-116
  5. Mutating Forms, Shifting Materialities

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 129-129
    2. Materials and Design

      • Susanne Küchler
      Pages 130-141
    3. Consuming IKEA: Inspiration as Material Form

      • Pauline Garvey
      Pages 142-153
    4. Functioning Forms / Anti-Design

      • Vladimir Arkhipov
      Pages 169-181
  6. Future Trajectories: Future Users

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 183-183
    2. Valuable to Values: How ‘User Research’ Ought to Change

      • Maria Bezaitis, Rick E. Robinson
      Pages 184-201

About this book

What makes a product iconic? How did IKEA really conquer the home-furnishings market from Sweden to China? Why do design innovators spend more time observing consumers than making new things? Design Anthropology charts the radical turn to ‘the user’ that has transformed our contemporary object culture. Featuring leading design thinkers, Design Anthropology offers a provocative insight into how different groups, from South London urbanites to Australian aborigines, use designed objects to make sense of their everyday lives. As design corporations ‘go native’ they now look to us – our homes, our spiritual worlds and our intimate rituals, for their inspiration. Design Anthropology is a must-have read for everyone in design, creative industries, sociology, anthropology, marketing and cultural studies – and for anyone interested in what is really at stake in our material world.

"These timely, thoughtful and well-written essays are essential reading as we explore the changing tasks of design in these new times"
John Thackara, Doors of Perception

"Alison Clarke's anthology is a must-read for anyone interested in the growing links between design and anthropology. Featuring essays by leading writers working at the intersection of both fields, it is a well-constructed foray into a world where material culture meets design research, where practice and theory intertwine. As designers add social science theory to their box of tricks and theorists seek relevance and impact for their ideas, Design Anthropology is where it all comes together."
Jeremy Myerson, Director and Helen Hamlyn Professor of Design, Royal College of Art


  • Anthropology
  • Architecture
  • Art
  • Creativity
  • Culture
  • Design


From the reviews:

“Alison J. Clarke has edited a wonderful set of articles in her work Design Anthropology: Object Culture in the 21st Century (2011). … I can truly recommend Design Anthropology to all designers and anthropologists—from students to professionals—as basic reading that provides inspiration for current and future projects. … The articles comprise a discussion which entwines both academic and non-academic cases in a fabric that both amuses and inspires the reader, which is exactly what a good book is expected to do.” (Anna Haverinen, Suomen Antropologi, Issue 4, 2012)

"This is a book that successfully explores this burgeoning field and will interest designers, anthropologists´, marketers and sociologists." Artichoke, April 2011

Editors and Affiliations

  • Institute of Design, Department Design History and Theory, University of Applied Arts Vienna, Austria

    Alison J. Clarke

About the editor

Alison J. Clarke  is professor and chair of Design History and Theory, University of Applied Arts Vienna and research director of the Victor J. Papanek Foundation promoting socially aware design. Formerly a senior academic at the Royal College of Art, London, Clarke has a MA with Distinction in Design History (RCA/V&A), and a PhD in Social Anthropology from University College London. She is a former Smithsonian Fellow of History and author of Tupperware: the Promise of Plastic in 1950s America (Smithsonian Press), optioned for the making of an Emmy-nominated USA documentary. She is a regular contributor to media (most recently the ground-breaking The Genius of Design, BBC TV), and has authored numerous articles on the ethnography of everyday design.

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: Design Anthropology

  • Book Subtitle: Object Culture in the 21st Century

  • Editors: Alison J. Clarke

  • Series Title: Edition Angewandte

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Springer Vienna

  • eBook Packages: Engineering, Engineering (R0)

  • Copyright Information: Springer-Verlag Vienna 2011

  • Series ISSN: 1866-248X

  • Series E-ISSN: 2196-4858

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: 256

  • Number of Illustrations: 20 b/w illustrations, 80 illustrations in colour

  • Topics: Design