Design at Play: Immaterial Forms of Consumption

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


By engaging with culture at large, designed objects function as mediators of social relationships and as translators of lived culture. The mediatory role of objects stands for the relationships between people and culture and translates into various individual and social experiences.In many design theories objects are assumed to be the passive end-results of the design process. Yet, people’s engagement with products evidence how everyday interactions reveal details about the ways in which they relate to an already designed world. Different types of interactions between users and products show how objects influence human action, behaviour and everyday activities. Under the production-consumption pair, there can be distinguished a series of designed objects that extend their everyday function beyond the field of the practical to that of the poetical. This paper looks at the circulation of this kind of objects; it considers a theory of play to describe and comment user interaction (and participation) with types of objects that cannot be ‘consumed’. Play and performance are used as analytical and evaluative concepts to observe both objects and the act of involvement of the user. Play is an interactional activity interwoven into social relationships, and many kinds of artefacts /designs are reinterpreted to articulate this physical, embodied experience. It can be argued that play can be viewed as a creative process embodying uncommon forms of use that regenerate the poetics of everyday life.The objects designed by Noam Toran, Marije Vogelzang, Ingrid Hora, KesselsKramer, or Rachel Wingfield, to mention but a few, engage the user in the subtle narrative of play scenarios. Subverting the idea of pure functionality - in fact extending it further - their products invite consumers to stage a world of their own. What is, in this case, the end-product of the user-object interaction?; can it be assumed that such designs evolve into unconventional forms of living and consumption?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnknown Host Publication
PublisherOslo School of Architecture and Design
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 30 Aug 2009
EventNORDES 2009 3rd Nordic Design Research International Conference, Engaging Artefacts, Designing Artefacts for Performability and Sustainability - The Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO) in collaboration with University of Oslo
Duration: 30 Aug 2009 → …;


ConferenceNORDES 2009 3rd Nordic Design Research International Conference, Engaging Artefacts, Designing Artefacts for Performability and Sustainability
Period30/08/09 → …
Internet address

Bibliographical note

Reference text: Adorno, T. 1997. ‘Minima Moralia’. London: Verso
Appadurai, A. 1988. ‘The Social Life of Things’. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Baudrillard, J. 1986. ‘The System of Objects’. London: Verso. Pp 96.
De Certeau, M. 1984. ‘The Practice of Everyday Life’. London: University of California Press. Pp. 29-34


  • user-product interactions
  • play
  • emotional valuation
  • production-consumption
  • design poetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Design at Play: Immaterial Forms of Consumption'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this