"If good design tells the truth," writes Robert Grudin in this path-breaking book on esthetics and authority, "poor design tells a lie, a lie usually related . . . to the getting or abusing of power."
From the ornate cathedrals of Renaissance Europe to the much-maligned Ford Edsel of the late 1950s, all products of human design communicate much more than their mere intended functions. Design holds both psychological and moral power over us, and these forces may be manipulated, however subtly, to surprising effect. In an argument that touches upon subjects as seemingly unrelated as the Japanese tea ceremony, Italian mannerist painting, and Thomas Jefferson's Monticello plantation, Grudin turns his attention to the role of design in our daily lives, focusing especially on how political and economic powers impress themselves on us through the built environment.
Although architects and designers will find valuable insights here, Grudin's intended audience is not exclusively the trained expert but all those who use designs and live within them every day.
Robert Grudin is professor emeritus in the English Department at the University of Oregon. His Book: A Novel was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize in Literature. He lives in Berkeley, CA.