Rob Walker writes about technology, design, business, the arts, and other subjects. His column The Workologist appears in The New York Times Sunday Business section. Previously he wrote the Consumed column for The New York Times Magazine, and has contributed to many publications. He is co-editor (with Joshua Glenn) of the book Significant Objects: 100 Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things, and author of Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are.    


My interests — in the context of writing about design, visual culture, or anything else — tend toward subjects that strike me as being overlooked, underrated, nearly invisible. And I don’t just mean overlooked in general; I mean (previously) overlooked by me.

I’m interested, then, in neglected objects and abandoned buildings, stealthy iconography and obscured infrastructure.  I try to see what nobody else is trying to make me see, to notice what’s forgotten in the corner, or hiding in plain sight — whether it’s something delightful, or something awful. And I try to notice the work of others who do all of this better than I can. 

I do not pretend this makes me unique: It may be a description that almost any design observer, as it were, would embrace. But to the extent that I can suggest a throughline connecting the specific subjects I feel compelled to investigate and consider — security cameras, the yellow penalty card, the Google Maps pin, defaced Neighborhood Watch signage, worn-out gizmos, oddball Tumblrs, cigarette packaging, 3D-printed weapons — this is what I can offer. 

Maybe all I’m really doing is trying to have a good time as I strive to see the world more  clearly. So I write about what I believe I will enjoy writing about. And of course I hope that results in something that you, perhaps, will enjoy reading.

Rob Walker
A Designer Runs For Office

Matt Tomasulo was a successful tactical urbanist. Then he ran for public office.

Rob Walker
Human-Scale Intervention

How Rotten Apple’s human-scale design interventions use built-environment cast-offs to enhance the built environment

Rob Walker
Violence Against Design

Rob Walker
Defending The Standpipe

Rob Walker
Scalies in the Spotlight

Rob Walker
The Craft of the Fake

A crafty art forger’s work inspires an idea: authorized forgeries.

Rob Walker
The Music Video, Rebooted

How digital-era aesthetics are making music videos worth watching again

Rob Walker
Resolutions, Vibrantly Illustrated

Rob Walker
Holiday Movies in Print: Santa Claus (vs. the devil)

On the promotional materials for Santa Claus, a curious holiday movie I thought I might have hallucinated.

Rob Walker
Watch Where You Walk

Everybody is pro-walking these days. But here’s a project that reveals the value of stopping and looking.

Rob Walker
Spawn of Gerrymander: Jennifer Daniel’s Texas 35th

Illustrator Jennifer Daniel reimagines Texas’ 35th congressional district: If you can read this, you’re in range.

Rob Walker
Spawn of Gerrymander: Steve Brodner’s Pennsylvania 7th

Steve Brodner reimagines Pennsyvlania’s Seventh Congressional District three (frightening) ways.

Rob Walker
Spawn of Gerrymander: Oliver Munday’s Florida 5th

Illustrator Oliver Munday revisualizes Florida’s Fifth Congressional District

Rob Walker
Spawn of Gerrymander: Lisa Congdon’s North Carolina 4th

Rob Walker
Spawn of Gerrymander: Leif Parsons’ Illinois 4th

Illustrator Leif Parsons reimagines Illinois’ Fourth Congressional District, giving a visual message to voters.

Rob Walker
Spawn of Gerrymander: Joe Alterio’s Maryland 3rd

Rob Walker
Spawn of Gerrymander: A Series

A week-long project in which six top illustrators visualize some of the most contorted congressional districts in the country.

Rob Walker
Jony Ive: The Supercut

Finally! Someone made a supercut video of Jony Ive’s years of describing the awesomeness of Apple product design.

Rob Walker
Assignments for Yourself

Rob Walker
“Kern Your Enthusiasm”

HiLobrow's "Kern Your Enthusiasim" is a smart, insightful series about lettering and typography

Rob Walker
The Art of Redaction

Rob Walker
An End of Things

The life of a thing, the death of an object — and maybe a new life to follow? At Liberty Auction in Pembroke, Georgia.

Rob Walker
Object of Interest: The Yellow Card

An appreciation of a great World Cup object: the yellow card.

Rob Walker
Danger, Nostalgia, and Playgrounds

Rob Walker
Infrastructure Field Trips

Rob Walker
Object Vs. Object

Rob Walker
Object in the News: The Face Privatizer

Tabloid-press subject Vanessa Stiviano makes fascinating (mis)use of a sun visor as media-age privatizer.

Rob Walker
Boris, Subverted

The Neighborhood Watch symbol Boris The Burglar is powerfully familiar; what does that mean when it's subverted?

Rob Walker
A Security Camera Worth Looking At

Rob Walker
Personal Packaging

Rob Walker
Hale County Revisited

Rob Walker
Mona Lisa Selfies

Rob Walker
Is Design Benign?

Why taking a 3D-printed gun seriously is helpful way to shake the design-is-benign paradigm.

Rob Walker
Seeing The Problem

How a graphic communication campaign could help us address a real electoral map crisis: Gerrymandering 2.0.

Rob Walker
Scenes from the Crowdcrit Revolution

Rob Walker
Rob Walker on Seeing

This Insight Per Minute features Rob Walker on seeing.

Rob Walker
No. 1 Object

A brief appreciation of a perfectly absurd object: The Number One Hand

Rob Walker
An Accidental Time Capsule

Snapshots of late-September 2001 signage reveal a tentative American moment.

Rob Walker
Looking Better, All The Time

Rob Walker
Staring Back at Security Cameras

Why the ubiquitous security deserves as much scrutiny as it gives.

Rob Walker
Street Life

In praise of street art that draws attention to more than just itself.

Rob Walker
The Mighty Shirt Kings

Back in the 1980s, a group of artists calling themselves The Mighty Shirt Kings set up shop at the Jamaica Coliseum, in Queens, offering “custom air-brushed and original artwork,” which could be had on canvas, but also pants, jackets, and of course T-shirts. They are the subject of a new book: The Shirt Kings.

Rob Walker
Object Lessons

Object Lessons is a new project that concerns itself with “the hidden lives of ordinary things.”

Rob Walker
The Hyperdocumented Sunset Strip

Using Google Street View Hyperlapse to revisit Ruscha’ Sunset Strip.

Rob Walker
Finding The Story

Rob Walker
The Medium Is The Mail

Jill Stoll combines artistic ritual, creative reuse, and the postal service as connector.

Rob Walker
Cover Story

A book vs. its cover: Why Colubmia GSAPP students treated this year's architecture annual like garbage.

Rob Walker
Bill for a Bowl

Considering dollar value as one of many things a bowl might contain.

Rob Walker
Google Image Search Results, Abstracted and Animated

Rob Walker has created a video of his image abstraction Tumblr.

Rob Walker
The Panic Option

A rental car's key fob design emphasizes "Panic" over all other options. Is that really a good idea?

Rob Walker

Evernote's introvert focus raises a question: Has digital design become overly obsessed with extroverted behavior?

Rob Walker
Let’s Make A Mark

Ellen Susan proposes a new punctuation mark, the ElRey, for the digital-text era.

Rob Walker
Branding By Numbers

Emblemetric backs its assessment of the American Airlines logo with "the data." Of course, that's open to interpretation.

Rob Walker
What Are You Looking At?

Rob Walker
13 Striking Landscape Fictions

Rob Walker
What Does ‘The Cover of Time’ Mean?

Rob Walker
Why We Buy, Why We Brand

Rob Walker recommends Debbie Millman's talk "Why We Buy, Why We Brand".

Rob Walker
Tracking War Drones

Online projects that seek to make the drone war comprehensible.

Rob Walker
The Latest In Journo-Comics

Rob Walker
Real Space, Imaginary Stuff

Some lessons from organizing a show about the marketplace as medium

Rob Walker
Lulz and Pedagogy

On using funny videos to start serious classroom discussions

Rob Walker
On Dapper Dan

A look at the spectacular logo-remix aesthetic of rap-culture style pioneer Dapper Dan.

Rob Walker
System As Photographer

System as photographer, and photographer as system.

Rob Walker
Killing for Beautiful Objects

A report on the ivory trade reminds us of the uniquely human willingness to kill for beautiful objects.

Rob Walker
Listening to Retail

Rob Walker
Crowdcrit vs. Apple Maps

Rob Walker
Card Tricks

The digital doesn't annihilate the analog, and business card creativity proves it.

Rob Walker
Making "Making" Mass

Rob Walker
Focusing On ‘Optics’

Rob Walker
The City In Your Dreams

Rob Walker
High Caliber Expression

Reading Richard Ford's response to a critic (by shooting her book) as an expressive act.

Rob Walker
Secret Lives Of Things

Rob Walker
De-weaponization by Design

Riffing on their weird resonance of a violent object: brass knuckles.

Rob Walker
Interface Runes

Revisiting the Palm Pilot's uncanny interaction-design alphabet.

Rob Walker
Selling Stories With Stuff

What Significant Objects suggests about the relationship between stories and stuff.

Rob Walker
Observational Instruments, Observed

Peeping at the Venue project's delightful gear, and Google's Seussian Trekker

Rob Walker
The Built Villain

Rob Walker
The Bizarro Storytelling Exercise

Rob Walker
The Infrastructure of the Cloud

On the material structures we depend on to deliver us the immaterial digital world.

Rob Walker
The Theater of Making

What videos depicting the story of stuff-being-made are really about.

Rob Walker
Managing Digital Durability

Rob Walker
Assignment Creativity

Rob Walker
Dancing About Ruins

Rob Walker
Where We Work

The computer-screen desktop, considered as a category of work space.

Rob Walker
What To Make Of It? A Contest.

Inventing meaning for junk, through a Studio360 and Significant Objects story competition.

Rob Walker
"Screenshots of Despair"

Rob Walker
Stealth Iconography: Pinwheel of Death

Rob Walker
The Ekphrasis-y Critique

Further thoughts on "dancing about architecture."

Rob Walker
Dance About Architecture (Please)

Rob Walker
A Place Called "Space Available"

Rob Walker
Beautified Words

Further thoughts on the romance of the hand.

Rob Walker
Santorum’s Tragic Sweater Vest

Rob Walker
Package It Black

Marlboro Black cigarettes: Connotating dangerous allure with graphic design jujitsu.

Rob Walker
Swoosh. Repeat.

The enduring success of the Nike Swoosh, and the mysterious power of repetition.

Rob Walker
Anonymous Identity (Seen and Heard)

Rob Walker
Image of the Year

Rob Walker
Postcards from Portfoliopolis

Nobody likes to move, but I’d pack my bags tomorrow if I could figure out how to become a citizen of Portfoliopolis.

Rob Walker
Shower Head As Moral Crossroad

A hotel presents travelers a moral crossroads in the form of a dual shower head.

Rob Walker
A New Kind of Capture

The Lytro camera creates a new form of photographic object, one that fits with and exploits picture-consumption in the digital era.

Rob Walker
Questions About ‘The New Aesthetic’

Rob Walker
Imagine To Me

Creative writers respond to MoMA's "Talk To Me," imaginatively.

Rob Walker
More Google Image Fun

Rob Walker
An Interview with Kevin Slavin

A conversation between Rob Walker and co-founder of the game development company Area/Code, Kevin Slavin.

Rob Walker
Pictures of the Familiar

Why do we photograph extensively documented icons and monuments?

Rob Walker
Quirky and "Design" as Entertainment

Rob Walker
Styles of Likeness

The meaningful photograph as object — and non-object.

Rob Walker
Stealth Iconography: The Waveform

The rise of the waveform as a visual signifier of music.

Rob Walker
Monkey or Drone?

Rob Walker
Graphic Design, Valued

Rob Walker
Wear And Tear

Rob Walker
Ruscha Vs. Street View

Rob Walker
A Simple Tool, or the Value of "Oh yeah"

In its not-noisy way, the simple Flickr tool Time Capsule pushes back against a problematic side-effect of digital culture.

Rob Walker
The Work of Art in the Age of Googled Reproduction

Ask Google for an image of "Mona Lisa," and what do you get? Maybe the answer is an artwork unto itself.

Rob Walker
Rarified Air

Rob Walker
On Slate: Branding with badges

Foursquare's badges as a stealthy form of graphic branding: subconsciously familiar, without being overtly advertised or highlighted.

Rob Walker
Order, chaos, order: Jennifer Shaw’s ‘Hurricane Story’

Rob Walker
The Right Stuff

Tumblrs The Burning House and Everyday Carry aim to tell personal stories with objects.

Rob Walker
Stealth Iconography: The Google Maps Pin

Asssessing the stealth icon status of the Google Maps pin.

Rob Walker

“Digital goods” are increasingly seen as having real value. Increasingly, though, things from the digital world are crossing over into physical manifestations that can be bought and sold.

Rob Walker
On Radiolab: the Sound of Science

“Radiolab,” a public radio show that breaks from public radio sensibilities, not least in its striking sound.

Rob Walker
Fun Stuff

A result of the wrenching economic downturn is that we just don’t care about stuff anymore.

Rob Walker
Go Figure

A recurring feature in architectural renderings: the little human figures who inhabit the rendered world.

Rob Walker
Ghosts in the Machine

Everyday we are busy producing fresh masses of life-affirming digital stuff. What happens to this “stuff” when we die?

Rob Walker
Global Entertainment

Entertainment via web-based geography.

Rob Walker
Rob Walker’s Collection of Bicentennial Quarters

Rob Walker shares his collection of bicentennial quarters.

Rob Walker
Inside the Wild, Wacky, Profitable World of Boing Boing

How four people who do exactly what they want run one of the most popular blogs on the planet.

Rob Walker
Hearing Things

I have seen the future of rock and roll, and it’s merch. Of course, band-branded merchandise has been a major part of the music business, big and small, for years.

Rob Walker
When Funny Goes Viral

Taking Lulz (Sort of) Seriously.

Rob Walker
The Song Decoders

Pandora, is convinced it can guide you, to music that you like. The premise is that your favorite songs can be stripped to parts and reverse-engineered.

Rob Walker
Hitting Rewind on the Cassette Tape

The romance associated with vinyl seems to apply to its longtime analog rival, the cassette.

Rob Walker
Slightly Used

A line of axes from the Best Made Company. These are lovely objects, remarkable for the colorful painted patterns on the handles.

Rob Walker
Valuing $0

Lewis Hyde wrote The Gift decades ago for an audience of artists, writers and other people who create. Chris Anderson, cited Hyde’s work in his book Free, published last year.

Rob Walker
The End of the 00s: Noted, Without Noteworthiness

An event that embodies so many 21st-century events: Something is happening, somewhere, and it has no particular effect on you whatsoever. The latest details in a moment.

Rob Walker

The scariest reading of the A&E reality show Hoarders, is that these freakish piles of stuff it documents simply reflect what plenty of us consume as a matter of course.

Rob Walker
Ad Nauseam: A Survivor’s Guide To American Consumer Culture

Ad Nauseam: A Survivor’s Guide to American Consumer Culture, is a book that I can recommend without hesitation — because after all, I was asked to write a forward for it.

Rob Walker
If You Follow Me, I Will Follow You Back

“If You Follow Me, I Will Follow You Back” a talk revisited from the NYU “Blowing Up The Brand” conference.

Rob Walker
A Successful Failure

Yiying Lu is an artist and designer in Sydney, Australia. One image in her portfolio is of a peaceful whale held aloft by a small flock of birds, aka as the “Fail Whale” of Twitter.

Rob Walker
Dumb and Dumber 2.0

American consumers have long shown an “exceptional willingness” to buy, for instance, technology products before their utility is clear.

Rob Walker
Talk is Cheap

As the financial crisis snowballed this year, retail sales fell sharply. Curiously, many assessments of this development treated it as an exciting new trend.

Rob Walker
Subconscious Warm-Up

The Speedo LZR Racer suits worn by
Michael Phelps and other world-class swimmers. Promoted as a design breakthrough and worn by the most victorious Olympian in history, it offers a potent blend of functional promise and emotional aspiration.

Rob Walker
Shared Memories

Many of the images reproduced in Scrapbooks: An American History, by Jessica Helfand, date back 50, 80, even 100 years. Reproduced in color and spread across wide pages, the anonymous scrapbook creators could hardly have imagined such a fate for their work.

Rob Walker
This Joke’s for You

In the movie Idiocracy, an average and unambitious guy played by Luke Wilson hibernates as part of a military experiment and wakes up 500 years later. The America he wakes up to has devolved radically.

Rob Walker
Can a Dead Brand Live Again?

Is it possible to revive a dead brand?

Rob Walker
Imitation of Life

Spend enough time looking at design and new-product Web sites and it’s easy to spot recurring themes. One of the most interesting is things that look like other things.

Rob Walker
Handmade 2.0

The Handmade Consortium, Etsy and the DIY moment.

Rob Walker
Tobias Wong on Consuming Consumer Consumption

Tobias Wong on Consuming Consumer Consumption.

Rob Walker
False Endorsement

There is no shortage of logos in the world, no dearth of brands striving for consumer allegiance and no chance that the creation of new brands and logos will cease.

Rob Walker
Timeless Object

What makes a useless-seeming watch potentially more valuable — in identity terms — than, say, regular jewelry?

Rob Walker
Back to Basics Egg & Muffin Toaster

In a recent issue of The 
M.I.T. Sloan Management Review, Michael Schrage, a business writer and an M.I.T. researcher, challenged what Bruce Greenwald, has said about the fate of all innovative technologies: “In the long run, everything is a toaster.”

Rob Walker
TV Land

Buying, selling, updating, restoring and “flipping” for quick profits — it all ran together, but I watched even when I couldn’t remember if the title of a certain show was “Flip This House” or “Flip That House.”

Rob Walker

Getting new stuff can feel really good. Most everybody knows that. Most everybody also knows — that utility can fade, pleasure can be fleeting and the whole thought-that-counts thing is especially ephemeral.

Rob Walker
Animal Pragmatism

A critter label is any label that features an animal. According to ACNielsen, 438 table-wine brands have been introduced in the past three years, and 18 percent — feature an animal on the label.

Rob Walker
Original Tastemaker

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia announced a 650-home community near Raleigh, N.C., designed and built in a collaboration between Stewart and KB Home, a builder of residential houses.

Rob Walker
The Story of O's

More than 60 years ago, CheeriOats were introduced to a cereal aisle far less abundant with choices than the one we know today. Cheerios — the shortened name, as of 1945 — remains a powerhouse.

Rob Walker
For Kicks

A look at one facet of the sneaker phenomenon — that is, the way that fashion and brand loyalty can come together in what might be considered the folk art of a consumer culture.

Rob Walker
Hyperreality Hobbying

“Reborning'” is the name that has emerged for a curious process of altering and enhancing a baby doll to look and even to feel as much like a human baby as possible.

Rob Walker
Surface Effects (re: Shepard Fairey)

When Shepard Fairey was a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, a friend wanted to know how to make stencils. Fairey offered to show him, using picture of the wrestler Andre the Giant.

Rob Walker
The Good, the Plaid and the Ugly

Reborn dolls, is the name that has emerged for a curious process of altering and enhancing a baby doll to look and even to feel as much like a human baby as possible.

Rob Walker
Pattern Recognition

Realtree High Definition Camouflage.

Rob Walker
The Filth Epiphany (Dyson Vacuums)

The Dyson vacuum cleaner, a hit product in England and elsewhere in Europe, was introduced to the American market in 2002 by way of a commercial featuring its inventor, James Dyson.

Rob Walker
The Lives They Lived: Making Us Laugh

Consider the machine that a television engineer named Charles Douglass, invented in the 1950's. It was called the Laff Box.

Rob Walker
The Guts of a New Machine

The iPod, a digital music player, it weighing just 6.5 ounces and holding about 1,000 songs.

Rob Walker
Digital Tools for Making Brilliant Mistakes

The many options for digitally antiquing your 21st-century self-expression.

Rob Walker
The Lives They Lived: Let There Be Lite

Rob Walker
The Way We Live Now: Me, My Brand And I

About a year and a half ago, a colleague of mine whom I'll call Steve Theory walked into my office, shut the door behind him and asked my advice about some recent job offers. Without a hint of sarcasm, he explained, ''I just want to do what's best for the brand Steve Theory.''

Rob Walker
The Way We Live Now: Fauxhemian Rhapsody

Pastis, the Parisian-style bistro that recently opened in New York's meatpacking district, is a restaurant with an idea. The menu is unpretentious, ''simple,'' the owner has explained, and ''there will be no reservations.''


Alma Guillermoprieto
PJ Harvey
Lynda Barry
Wahneema Lubiano
Laurie Anderson

Articles + Essays by Rob Walker

Etsy Goes Pro
Wired, October 2012

Tumblr Follows Its ♥
The New York Times Magazine, July 12, 2012

What It Takes To Be A 'Tuber
The New York Times Magazine, June 28, 2012


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