When we reflect on the impact design has had in the last century, we find that it is far more destructive than productive. Our purchasing behavior has encouraged designers to constantly re-mask and re-present old products for the new conditions of our modern lives and the market rewards these changes. Product life cycles are decreasing and resource consumption is increasing, but our human needs are not fundamentally changing. We know surprisingly little about where our products come from and how they are made. There have been few critical voices representing these and related concerns in the world of design. Self-assembly highlights publications by these voices and others that help inspire critical thought on design and consumption in the Library.

Recognizing their responsibility to inspire a new way of thinking about design, some designers have proposed a different way forward. Victor Papanek wrote Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change in 1971, one of the first major criticisms of the role of the designer. Enzo Mari published Autoprogettazione in 1974, proposing a new type of self-built furniture that encouraged critical thought on production. Economists and researchers have also weighed in. David Harvey published The Condition of Postmodernity in 1989, critically evaluating the socio-economic motivations of the postmodernist movement and how the influences of that movement permeate our way of living and thinking today. There have been countless other critical inquiries into our cultural habits and there will be more to come.

Self-assembly is both a platform for designers and a resource for everyone else, inspired by the concerns of a few designers and cultural critics regarding the social and ecological issues we face. It encourages self-production of all kinds and critical thought on design, consumption, and production.