Past Design Experiences and Contemporary Design Practices



ICDHS is the acronym of the International Committee for Design History and Design Studies. It is formed by scholars from Spain, Cuba, Turkey, México, Finland, Estonia, Japan, Belgium, the Netherlands, Brazil, Portugal, the USA, Taiwan, Canada, Croatia, and the UK.


Since 1999, when the Design & Art History Departments of the University of Barcelona organized the first edition of the ICDHS, a conference has – with one exception – been organized every two years, moving to new venues across the world with two distinct aims: firstly, to discover original research activities, achievements and agendas in the fields of Design History and Design Studies; and, secondly, to include contributions coming from non-hegemonic countries active in these fields, thereby offering a speaking platform to many scientific communities that could be already active or in the process of being formed and maturing. For that reason, the ICDHS conferences are structured combining many parallel strands, including the presentation of posters, and keynote speakers drawn from a range of relevant disciplines and related fields who will lecture in response to the Conference main theme.


From Barcelona, the biennial conference has travelled across Latin America (Havana, Guadalajara, São Paulo), Asia (Osaka, Taipei) and Europe (Istanbul, Helsinki & Tallinn, Brussels, Aveiro, Barcelona again, and now Zagreb). By the time of the opening of the ICDHS 12th Conference, conference proceedings will be available <http://www.ub.edu/icdhs/>. At every venue Conference themes are as varied as the proposed strands and are always seen as important for the furthering of the discipline globally, whilst simultaneously embracing the underlying and specific thematic outlook adopted by the ICDHS, the pluralism of history.

Adopted as the title for the Istanbul Conference of 2002, the slogan “Mind the Map!” clearly summarizes the ICDHS’s field of enquiry, to redraw and enlarge the world map of design history in appropriate ways that embrace current thinking. It also includes the various territories involved in the building up of a common and easy to share design culture. Furthermore, conferences have explored the relationship between the global and the local, between local histories, thus becoming a worldwide referent. Every conference chooses a theme that informs tracks and strands that organise the presentation of papers. It is chosen by the ICDHS board together with local organisers. These conferences have also served to discover the various scientific communities already active in the places where the conference is held and give them an international projection. The event is an international one whose performing has been to further the globalisation of the discipline.


In 2018 the ICDHS organised its 11th Conference in Barcelona on the theme of BACK TO THE FUTURE: THE FUTURE IN THE PAST. This was an important landmark in the history of the ICDHS, returning to Barcelona for the first time since its inauguration in 1999 and marking its maturation from modest yet highly important beginnings to a significant biennial event firmly written in to the international design history and design studies calendar. Initially conceived as laying down and encouraging a powerful alternative perspective to that of the then largely Anglo-American dominance of research and publication in the fields of design history and design studies it initially sought to bring together research, scholarship and publication from across the Spanish-speaking world. This alternative and more inclusive outlook was boosted by the 2002 ICDHS Istanbul Conference entitled ‘Mind the Map!’ where the international reach of the Conference extended to include contributions from many countries that were previously ‘hidden’ from view. The 2018 Barcelona ICDHS Conference was a planned stock-taking and review of the achievements of the previous 10 conferences and the exploration of what had been these conferences’ real legacy. Anna Calvera, who had originated the ICDHS concept at the 1999 Barcelona conference and continued to influence its agenda for most of the succeeding two decades, had been very concerned about the nature of this legacy. In the later months and weeks of her life she had been preoccupied with the future of the ICDHS and so it was entirely fitting that in 2018 Barcelona once again provided an intellectual and creative design hub for a refocus, reflection and springboard for forging an agenda appropriate for a third and purposeful decade of ICDHS activity.


This opportunity for review, reflection and revision involved consideration of the continuity of these conferences in the immediate future and was seen to represent a promise for the future with some thoughts about appropriate themes, issues and potential locations for the next venues. ICDHS 12 will be organized ONLINE from Zagreb, Croatia, marking the beginning of a new phase of ICDHS Conferences at the beginning of the third decade of the organization’s life.