Anna Bates and Elizabeth Glickfeld

Studio 7: Dirty Furniture

Studio brief

Dirty Furniture, an independent design magazine, approaches the artefacts and objects of design as a lens through which to understand the wider world and bigger picture. The first issue, Couch, for example, explored the sofa’s role in sitcoms, the history of ‘comfort’, Tony Blair’s so-called ‘sofa politics’, the role of Freud’s couch in psychoanalysis, foam, and the popularity of TV hit Gogglebox.

The magazine’s editors will run this dissertation module with the aim of exploring the possibilities for writing about design and the material world. Through considering different methods of research and reading different examples, students will be asked to consider their own approach to writing about design.

Over summer:

Think of one object that interests you (it could be a material, a household gadget, a film). Bring it to the first lesson, and be prepared to tell the group the reasons for your choice. We’ll then brainstorm different angles and approaches to critiquing this object.

Outline the first seven weeks of study

Weeks 1-7: As a group we will workshop different ways of researching a single artefact including excursions and interviews. The next issue of Dirty Furniture takes the Closet as its theme, and we will look at this artefact from a number of perspectives – such as history, film, politics, psychology and technology – and use this methodology to encourage students to develop insightful, rigorous ways to flesh out their own dissertation topic. The weeks will be divided as follows:

  • Week 1: Introduction to Dirty Furniture and workshop
  • Week 2: Research methods
  • Week 3: Relevant excursion
  • Week 4: Reading different examples of design writing
  • Week 5: The interview
  • Week 6: Bibliography and analysis tasks
  • Week 7: Student presentations of dissertation project

Reading list

  1. Reyner Banham, A Critic Writes: Selected Essays (Oakland: University of California Press, 1999)
  2. Roland Barthes, Mythologies (London: Vintage Classics, 2009)
  3. Dave Hickey, Air Guitar (Los Angeles: Art Issues Press, 1997)
  4. Ben Highmore, ed., The Design Culture Reader (Oxford: Routledge, 2008)
  5. Ellen Lupton, Skin: Surface, Substance and Design (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2007)
  6. Rick Poynor, Obey the Giant: Life in the Image World (Berlin: Birkhäuser GmbH, 2007)
  7. Deyan Sudjic, The Language of Things: Design, Luxury, Fashion, Art: how we are seduced by the objects around us (London: Penguin, 2009)
  8. Tom Wolfe, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby (London: Vintage, 2005)

Tutor biography

Tutor biography

Dissertation Studios

Studio 7: Dirty Furniture

Anna Bates and Elizabeth Glickfeld

Studio 13: Making in London

Headlined by Jane Clossick (main tutor), with special guest appearances from head of Cass Cities, Professor Mark Brearley

Cass Studios archive by year