Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Design and the Humanities: A New Collaboration

Dr. Mark Breitenberg, Yasmin Khan.

The growth of the power and influence of design and the increased "design literacy" of consumers marks one of the most important cultural transformations of the last decade. One of the emerging arguments about design is that it no longer produces just things but now creates narratives that inform our identities, experiences that give our lives meaning, and sign systems that structure our world. In other words, there is more to design than meets the eye, and designers have greater cultural responsibility than ever before. As a result, corporations and design companies require new forms of knowledge and new fields of expertise. Although such traditional allied fields such as engineering and technology are still important to design, there is a growing appreciation among designers of the humanities. For example, anthropological methods are employed for demographic studies of potential markets; literary studies can offer insights into creating the essential narratives that are attached to products and brands; semiotics analyzes design as sign systems that create our visual landscape; philosophy engages in the ethical questions that design grapples with more than ever before. Our paper will survey and analyze these emerging collaborations. It will also consider "the substance of style" (to borrow the title of Virginia Postrel's new book) in terms of how design has come to shape what it means to be human in the 21st century.


Dr. Mark Breitenberg  (United States)
Liberal Arts & Sciences
Art Center College of Design

Mark Breitenberg holds a PhD in Literature and Critical Theory from the University of California with a specialty in Shakespeare and Renaissance culture. He is the author of Anxious Masculinity (Cambridge University Press) and many articles on early modern literature and culture. He has also written screenplays, educational tapes for Time/Warner, as well as articles and catalogue essays on design education and contemporary art. He is currently the Chair of Liberal Arts & Sciences at Art Center College of Design, where he has designed a new liberal arts and sciences curriculum for the College in the past two years. That curriculum is based on interdisciplinary education that fosters a novel and very postmodern understanding of creativity. He is a frequent speaker at conferences on design education and the place of design in contemporary culture.

Yasmin Khan  (United States)

California College of the Arts

  • Design
  • Humanities
  • Collaborations

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)