Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)



First Advisor

Pete Oyler

Second Advisor

Jennifer Liese

Third Advisor

Glenn Adamson


History is constructed out of the narratives by which we organize the substance of all that has ever happened. Our understanding of the contemporary moment is determined by how we shape our history. The future is a promise that emerges from how we contextualize our place in time.

This thesis starts by acknowledging that the futurity promised by enlightenment liberalism is inconceivable in the face of contemporary horrors and climate catastrophe. Given this reality, what are we doing as designers? With a Benjaminian understanding of and a Foucauldian approach to history, this thesis constructs a history of design that follows from my starting point and helps us to better understand the present moment and design’s role in creating it. Ultimately, I argue that design can help us make sense of, and cope with, this present.

This project is broken into three chapters, each loosely interpreting three categories of time. First, I work to construct a genealogy of design. Second, I analyze the contemporary condition both as it relates to design and to culture at large. Third, I theorize possible futurity, or the lack thereof. If there is no future, what do we do tomorrow? Interspersed throughout the chapters are images and descriptions of my thesis studio work, which attempts to make sense of design history as I am narrating it, or at least disrupt how the discipline operates.

This project culminates in a manifesto. Just as artists of the early twentieth century attempted to contend with a rapidly changing world by strongly proclaiming new positions on culture and history, I argue strongly for an arrest in how we understand and operate within design.

The future is over. All we have is what we have.



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