Meaningful Stuff

From Design Thinking, Design Theory

Meaningful Stuff

Design That Lasts

By Jonathan Chapman

An argument for a design philosophy of better, not more.





An argument for a design philosophy of better, not more.

Never have we wanted, owned, and wasted so much stuff. Our consumptive path through modern life leaves a wake of social and ecological destruction—sneakers worn only once, bicycles barely even ridden, and forgotten smartphones languishing in drawers. By what perverse alchemy do our newest, coolest things so readily transform into meaningless junk? In Meaningful Stuff, Jonathan Chapman investigates why we throw away things that still work, and shows how we can design products, services, and systems that last.

Obsolescence is an economically driven design decision—a plan to hasten a product's functional or psychological undesirability. Many electronic devices, for example, are intentionally impossible to dismantle for repair or recycling, their brief use-career proceeding inexorably to a landfill. A sustainable design specialist who serves as a consultant to global businesses and governmental organizations, Chapman calls for the decoupling of economic activity from mindless material consumption and shows how to do it.

Chapman shares his vision for an “experience heavy, material light” design sensibility. This vital and timely new design philosophy reveals how meaning emerges from designed encounters between people and things, explores ways to increase the quality and longevity of our relationships with objects and the systems behind them, and ultimately demonstrates why design can—and must—lead the transition to a sustainable future.


$24.95 T ISBN: 9780262045728 240 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 0


  • “What does it mean to ensure that products last over time when, as happens today, they have to be seen as hybrid, complex, and dynamic entities? Jonathan Chapman tells us everything we need to know both to answer this question and to give products a longer life.”

    Ezio Manzini

    author of Politics of the Everyday and Design, When Everybody Designs

  • “In a world of too much, too fast, and too big, Chapman's book offers an essential collective pause to reflect on the cultivation of a deeper and more meaningful relationship with our stuff.”

    Laura Forlano

    Associate Professor, Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology

  • “This splendid book is a necessary and essential counter to the profit-driven short-termism of professional design.”

    Clive Dilnot