Originally educated as a fine artist, Dilnot later began studying social philosophy and the sociology of culture with Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman. Dilnot has worked on the history, theory, and criticism of the visual arts in their broadest terms. Although his teaching and writing has focused on design history, criticism, and theory, Dilnot’s scholarship includes the study of ethics—a subject he addressed in his book Ethics? Design? published in 2005—and the role of design capabilities in creating a humane world.
Apart from design topics, Dilnot has also written and taught in fields ranging from aesthetics and art theory to photography, the decorative arts, museums and their framing of objects, architecture and architectural theory, the economics of the current crisis and the question of how we can contend, culturally, with the world we have made.