Introduction: A design encounter with thing theory

Leslie Atzmon, Prasad Boradkar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Bill Brown's seminal essay "Thing Theory" in the special issue of Critical Inquiry (2001) spurred a new fascination with materiality across the academy and served as an explicit invitation to examine things themselves, "before ideas, before theory, before the word" (2001: 16). Brown's essay pushed things to the fore, emphasizing their role in shaping human subjects while being shaped by them. Building on the underlying premise that things are of value, and therefore it is essential for design to wrestle with thing theory, this special issue of Design and Culture sets out to explore the significance of such a theory for the disciplines of design. Can thing theory help shape new research horizons for design studies, and in turn, if the primary task of design is shaping things, can design help (re)shape thing theory?.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-152
Number of pages12
JournalDesign and Culture
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014



  • Agency
  • Materiality
  • Object-subject relations
  • The material turn
  • Thing theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Cultural Studies

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