Tag Archives: design history

V&A/RCA History of Design Research Seminar Series

The V&A/RCA History of Design Research Seminar Series provides a forum for engaging with new thinking in the history of design and material culture, including cutting-edge research in related fields such as anthropology, economic history, the history of art and architecture, medical humanities and the history of science and technology.
Seminars are free and open to the public, but advance registration is requested.

Call for Papers: From De Stijl to Dutch Design: Canonising Design 2.0

Annual Dutch Design History Society Symposium

9 December 2016, De Tuinzaal, Centraal Museum Utrecht, 09:00 – 17:30 (with drinks afterwards)

Submission deadline: 15 October 2016

Tourism agencies, governments, museums, and design academies in the Netherlands and abroad are already busy preparing for the widespread celebrations of 100 Years of De Stijl – 25 Years of Dutch Design next year (2017). While De Stijl’s implied beginnings (1917) are relatively uncontroversial, the proposition that Dutch design originates from 1992 is much more so. This specific construction of ‘Dutch design’ as an avant-garde phenomenon that started in the 1990s with Droog design and is today centred around the Design Academy Eindhoven is a clear example of design canonisation at work. In this process, what comes to count as (good) design and the knowledge about it is selectively produced in line with specific (cultural, political, economic, etc.) agendas.

However, this case also shows how today, the process of design canonisation is no longer solely decided on by traditionally recognised authorities (museum curators, design historians, high-end retail venues, influential designers) but also by an unusually wide range of ‘non-expert’ actors (tourism agencies, politicians, funding agencies). This dispersion of design canonisation is boosted further by digital and participatory social media technologies and platforms, which allow individuals and communities to generate a multiplicity of alternative ‘mini-canons’ that operate alongside and relatively independently from official or accepted ones.

Yet – and paradoxically – this proliferation of actors and multiplicity of canons does not necessarily herald the end of established canons. Indeed, the Dutch design ‘brand’ seems to become ever more established and entrenched. In what different ways do contemporary processes of design canonisation work, and what are the outcomes? What are the implications of this contemporary condition of ever changing canonisation processes for design historical knowledge? What repercussions does it have for traditionally acknowledged actors on the one hand, and for non-professionals on the other? Does it contribute to bringing into view the material culture of otherwise underrepresented individuals and communities?


The one-day symposium From De Stijl to Dutch Design: Canonising Design 2.0 aims to reflect on questions relating to the workings and implications of canonisation processes – both traditional and contemporary, professional and amateur – to knowledge formation and transfer concerning design. To reflect the contemporary condition whereby design canons and knowledge are created through and by actors operating in widely diverse institutions with a variety of different agendas, the symposium is structured in two parts. The morning session is structured according to a typical academic conference format, comprising the presentations of four scholarly papers followed by a response and discussion. In the afternoon session, five keynote speakers will reflect on the contemporary processes of design canonisation from their respective perspectives: academia, politics/economics, the museum, and design practice. The day will conclude with a roundtable discussion, where the different perspectives will be confronted with each other so as to bridge highly compartmentalized discourses that otherwise remain largely unknown and irrelevant to each other. Ultimately, the aim of the symposium is to generate new academic knowledge about design canonisation that is relevant to all actors involved in the process. The event will be bi-lingual: speakers are welcome to present and respond in Dutch or English. 


The event is organised by the Dutch Design History Society in partnership with Centraal Museum Utrecht, where it will be held. Centraal Museum owns the largest Rietveld collection in the world, and was the first museum to acquire the entire Droog collection and a broad range of Dutch Modernism fashion in the 1990s. Since then, it has actively experimented with a range of digital and participatory platforms to share and co-create its design collection with diverse audiences. Being one of the initiators of 100 Years of De Stijl – 25 Years of Dutch Design, in which economic considerations of city branding and tourist marketing predetermined the definition of the event’s content, Centraal Museum is eager to reflect on questions concerning design canonisation in the past, present, and future, and its role in it. As such, it provides the ideal institutional setting to reflect upon the symposium’s theme.

Call for papers

For the morning session, the symposium welcomes contributions by academics (junior and established) of design and art history, media studies, museology, anthropology, and related fields. Potential themes to be elaborated by papers include but are not limited to:

–        The processes according to which design canons are formed, today and in the past;

–        The formation of alternative design canons and/or the breakdown of canonical thinking, i.e. the ‘undoing’ of canonisation;

–        The formation of design canons beyond the traditional national framework: local/regional/global;

–        The (different) roles that the media, museums, and governments/politics play in these processes;

–        The impact of contemporary online mediation and distributed participatory processes, such as digital platforms, in the canonisation of design;

–        New actors in the canonisation of design;

–        The role of museum exhibitions and (permanent) displays in canonisation processes;

–        The emergence (and the role) of new publics/new consumers of design canons;

–        The canonisation of De Stijl and/or Dutch design;

–        The futures of design canons.

Note that papers do not necessarily have to reflect on Dutch cases.

The presentations will be considered for an edited publication, while the results of the symposium and debate will become available from the website of the Dutch Design History Society.


Proposals for 20-minute papers must be submitted by 1 October 2016 as detailed below. Please email the document as a Word document to DesignGNL@gmail.com.

Page 1

  • Author(s) full name(s)
  • Institution, address for correspondence, telephone and e-mail
  • 50-word biography

Page 2

  • Title of the paper
  • Three keywords
  • 200-word abstract of the paper in Dutch or English

Beyond a Brief Encounter: Everyday Interactions Between Transport & Design

Call for Papers: Special Edition of the Journal of Design History. Deadline for submission 1st April 2016.

Design history and transport history are inexorably interwoven. From the sleek stream-lining of the Mallard to the unusual Moquette patterns that have welcomed bums to London Underground seats since the 1930s, designed elements have filled perceptions and experiences of transport. Design was, and still is, all around passengers, workers and travellers, and the goods they carried, in modern transport, encompassed by everything from locomotives down to monogrammed drinks coasters.

There is still, however, a significant gulf in our understandings of how everyday design affected transport users. Wolfgang Schivelbusch, in his 1989 The Railway Journey, spoke of how small design choices, such as seating arrangements, could have enormous consequences (both intended and accidental) on travellers. An intermeshing of transport and design histories, two disciplines with increasingly broad and innovative approaches to source material, research questions, and interdisciplinary theory, offers exciting new possibilities. Particularly, recent developments in transport history are poised to build upon the growing trend for histories of everyday design, with a focus on process and reflection rather than following big-name designers and brands.

Editor: Andrew McLean, Head Curator, National Railway Museum.

This special edition for the Journal of Design History invites papers that address this interaction surrounding the everyday in design and transport history.

Themes could include, but are by no means limited to:

  • Vehicle layout and design.
  • Architecture of stations, platforms, and termini.
  • “Scenic” routes and layouts.
  • Tickets, labels, signs, and other printed or typographic material.
  • The material culture of travel.
  • Presentation of transport in literature and modern media.
  • Passenger experiences.
  • Spaces of sociability, privacy, comfort or danger.
  • The senses and travelling, transport, and infrastructure.
  • Liveries, insignia and staff uniforms.
  • Children and the experience of travel.
  • Accessibility and disability in transport design.
  • Cycles of destruction and reconstruction in transport design.
  • The interplay between transport design and the landscape.
  • Engineering and design experts and expertise.
  • Advertising, promoting, and selling modern transport.
  • Safety, security, or hygiene and design.
  • Design differences between passenger and goods lines.
  • Briefs, consulting, and contracting of design work after privatisation.

Submissions covering other aspects of transport and design history are also encouraged.

Please email an abstract of c.300 words to oliver.betts@nrm.org.uk by 1st April 2016.