99 Cent by Andreas Gursky

An Exhibition of Everyday Objects


It seems almost too simple to state that we “read” the designed world around us – this is graphic design 101. There are many processes involved that allow us to make sense of graphic information and, as designers, to make meaningful contributions. Semiotics and psychology can both be called upon to define our interactions with design and this project supports theoretical learning within studio practice.

As designers we need to be able to articulate what is happening when we code and decode ideas and visual language. Studying visual language carefully opens up new possibilties in terms of our own visual expression. If we can identify conventions we can subvert them. We can appropriate elements from other systems and powerfully reposition them. Meaning is in constant flux and designs can miscommunicate or take on new sentiments years after conception. Some designed objects employ simple signs to communicate as directly as possible. Other designs involve hyper-referential language that is difficult to articulate or deliberately obscure. A design may or may not accurately reflect an underlying communication strategy.

In a mercantile society a significant volume of designed objects are consumer products, their presence ushered in by the Industrial Revolution and accelerated by the forces of capitalism and automation. Imbued with the ideas of our time these products can be studied as microcosms of visual language. Packaging and advertising are significant surfaces for transferring ideas about consumer products. These designs are read by broad populations which suggests here at least there is a relative consensus about meaning.

There are several phases to this project. They are as follows:

Semiotics workshop (10/10/17)

We have provided a variety of designed objects with corresponding questions for you to consider. Try to discuss any potential answers as a group. There are many tangled threads that can be commented on to varying degrees – some qualities might seem apparent or obvious but can you articulate them precisely? Semiotic observations quickly become complex. Elect a scribe and make a copy of the sheet for everyone in your group once the discussion ends.

Homework (for 17/10/17)

Buddy up! Following the semiotics workshop you and and a partner will need to purchase a consumer product that you feel warrants a high level of discussion. The object should be an “everyday object” in so far as being affordable and from a shop you feel is accessible. The maximum buget for your purchase is £8.60 per pair.* You will be working with your partner for the remainder of this project on both a text and a design. It might be that you have a mutual interest in some specific aesthetic and that may underpin your choice.

Writing workshop (17/10/17)

We will conduct a second workshop to examine some different approaches to writing about designed objects. This will build on the previous workshop. Be sure to bring your chosen product with you so that the end of the session can be given over to assessing this object specifically.

Homework (for 24/10/17)

Combining approaches from both the semiotics workshop and the writing workshop draft and edit a text with your partner that details your chosen object. You will need to write about 400 words. Once you are confident that your text is in good shape please email this text to Andrew:

Address: a.m.osman@uel.ac.uk
Subject: Your names + name of object

Andrew will work with you to edit your text.

Design phase (24/10/17 until finish)

Including your text, design an engaging infographic/poster that expands and presents all of the material you have developed about your chosen object. This may include image making techniques such as photography, 2d and 3d scanning, material studies, manufacturing diagrams etc. You may well appropriate the visual language of your chosen object or alternatively adopt
a “neutral” approach that prioritises the object itself.

Format: 823 x 1171 mm (A0 minus 9mm, allowing for margins and 3mm bleed)

Pin up of ideas and development (30/10/17)
After handing in the text you should have a clear direction of what you want to focus on. This focus should lead your design.

Exhibition (Date 4th - 8th December, Private View 6th December)

We hope to produce an exhibition of your work alongside your chosen objects in the gallery space downstairs. Working to the given size and arranging both the prints and objects uniformly should help bring the exhibition together.



  • In The Making, Barber Osgerby, Design Museum, May 2014 (now ended)
  • Martino Gamper: design is a state of mind, Serpentine, May 2014 (now ended)



  • iPhone 5c 2014


  • Reqiuem for Detroit


  • Own Label, Sainsbury’s Design Studio, 1962–1977, Fuel
  • Universal Principles of Design, William Lidwell