Past Design Experiences and Contemporary Design Practices


Strands & Topics

1. Politics and Design: Past, Present, Future

Co-chairs: Barbara Predan (Academy of Fine Arts, University of Ljubljana) and Tevfik Balcıoğlu (ARUCAD University, Northern Cyprus)

With or without reference to Althusser, design is directly connected to economics, politics and ideology. Stefano Marzano once emphasised: Design is a political act in itself. Each completed design is an indicative representation of the world we will live in, and instrumental for further research on design history, theory and practice. This session focuses on history of ideas, concepts and projects in the context of design and its political and ideological legacy within different social and economic systems. What lessons have been learnt from past political and design ideologies and what ideology (if any) do we need for the future?

This strand welcomes contributions that reveal case studies (both positive and negative) from a variety of different angles and explores issues such as:

  • 1.1.      Politics of Design and Design for Politics
  • 1.2.      Totalitarian Social Systems and Design
  • 1.3.      Mass Production and Consumption Ideology in Design
  • 1.4.      The problematique of Culture Industry (Adorno)
  • 1.5.      Critique of Commodity Aesthetics (Haug)
  • 1.6.      Design and Ideological Transition
  • 1.7.      Design Promotion as Political Agenda
  • 1.8.      Designing Futures Within or Without the Ideology?


2. The Social Impact of Design

Co-chairs: Fredie Floré (KU Leuven, Belgium) and Daniel Huppatz (Swinburne University, Australia)

Research in design history and studies has focused a great deal of attention on the production and processes of design, with less debate on design’s subsequent social impact. Design’s social benefits are varied, as are its target populations – from families and small communities to nations and global communities – and its inclusive or exclusive effects upon these various social groups may be immediate or manifest more slowly.

This strand brings together papers that focus on the social impact of design and design projects aimed at utopian social visions or social inclusion. The type of questions we are interested in addressing are:

  • How have particular design practices or artefacts shaped our social relations or interactions?
  • Have utopian or social design projects of the past lived up to their initial promises?
  • How do design projects contribute to reducing or increasing economic inequality?

We also welcome historical or contemporary case studies of design artefacts that have been or might yet be improved for social inclusion, design innovation driven by social needs rather than professional or commercial agendas, or design projects specifically aimed at solving social problems.

This strand deals with topics such as:

  • 2.1. Social Impact on Design
  • 2.2. Social Impact by Design
  • 2.3. Retrofitting Design: Could it Have Been Done Better?
  • 2.4. Design as Utopian Construct
  • 2.5. Design for Social Inclusion
  • 2.6. Economic Inequality and Design


3. Technology-Focused Design

Co-chairs: Paul Atkinson (Sheffield Hallam University) and Tingyi S. Lin (National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, Taiwan)

Design and Technology are both constantly changing, interrelated fields. Developments in technology persistently raise new challenges for design. How will emerging technologies be received by users? How and in what forms can new technologies best be presented to society? The relationship is a two-way street, with design ever proposing societal and experiential changes that require improvements in technology to realise.

What lessons can design take from the past in order to help build a better future? What can design learn from other disciplines to help it work with new technologies? With recent rapid developments in a number of technological areas, including Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Big Data, Internet of Things, Remote Surveillance and Facial Recognition, huge advances in medical science, and increased access to direct digital manufacturing technologies, the challenges are legion and varied.

Topics within this strand may include, but not be limited to papers exploring:

  • 3.1. Artificial Intelligence and its Impact on Design
  • 3.2. Digital Humanities and its Impact on Design Research
  • 3.3. Technologies that bring the Digital Factory to Life
  • 3.4. Technology and the Body, Prosthetics and Enhancement
  • 3.5. Design and Digital Networks
  • 3.6. Living with Technology


4. Cultural Roles of Design Practice

Co-chairs: Javier Gimeno Martinez (VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands) and Priscila Lena Farias (University of São Paulo, Brazil)

This strand explores the interconnection between design and culture, between objects and context. Culture expands from the realm of the individual to the collective. One of the clearest examples is how gender is shaped by design artefacts and how gender visions, at the same time, inform design practices. Another take is how design can generate symbolic values for artefacts that can navigate in the realm of economy and social values. Furthermore, culture influences how we see the past and predict the future. Design can define both cultural heritage or modernity. Finally, design can create cultural borders with other practices such as art and architecture. These borders are fluid and change over time. Cultural conditions affect the position of design in different periods.

Design practices contribute to redefine these borders, too. We welcome papers that interrogate how design can both condition culture and be conditioned by the surrounding cultural context.

Proposals may explore (but are not restricted to) the following topics:

  • 4.1. Culture by Design or Design for Culture?
  • 4.2. Gender Biased Design Concepts
  • 4.3. Design and Production of Symbolic Value
  • 4.4. Cultural Heritage Interpretation by Design
  • 4.5. Art and Design: Crossroads and Differences
  • 4.6. Architecture and Design: The Experience of Synthesis


5. Challenging Orthodoxies: Design History and Design Studies

Co-chairs: Jonathan Woodham (University of Brighton, UK) and Helena Barbosa (University of Aveiro, Portugal)

ZAGREB 2020 ICDHS 12 is being held in an age of pluralism, multiculturalism, and climate change, an age also characterized by the rise of nationalism, the reinforcement of national borders and the international resurgence of the political right. It follows a year in which a powerful tsunami of events, exhibitions, publications and conferences celebrating the centenary of the foundation of the Bauhaus in 1919 has done much to reinforce a dominant model of design history already widely reflected internationally in museum collections and displays, design school and university curricula, and publications from the 1930s onwards. Over the past two decades the ICDHS has made important strides in enhancing understandings of difference rather than conformity and the significance of the local, the regional and the peripheral in an age of globalization. A number of issues touched upon above have featured in design histories and activism relating to other periods of crisis, whether design for need and the oil crisis of the 1970s, the rise (and marketing) of green design in the 1990s or design for ageing populations and extending product lifecycles in the 2000s. Should such considerations should be more central to the ways in which design histories have been – and will be - constructed, whether in academic, museological or other contexts?

We invite contributors to present papers that challenge design historical and design studies orthodoxies and limitations such as those listed below, as well as other alternatives.

  • 5.1 Design History Re-Considered
  • 5.2. Re-Writing Design History
  • 5.3. Design Studies as Theory
  • 5.4. Discourse on Methods of Design History and Design Studies
  • 5.5. Theory and Practice in the Design Education Curriculum
  • 5.6. Augmented Knowledge by Design


Open strand

Co-chairs: Katharina Pfuetzner (National College of Art and Design, Dublin) and Karolina Jakaite (Vilnius Academy of Arts, Lithuania)

This strand brings together a more diverse set of papers that address the general conference theme, but fall outside the other main strands. We are particularly interested in papers that consider what lessons for the future we might be able to learn from design activity in recently industrialized territories and in socialist or formerly socialist societies. Questions that might be considered include:

  • Are there lessons to be learned for contemporary design activity that aims to respond to environmental or social challenges?
  • Are there overlooked experiences of women designers and makers that we can draw on?
  • Are there vernacular design identities and design history stories which developed in different ways in specific countries?
  • Would design students benefit from learning about design experiences in ‘other’ contexts?

This strand also explicitly welcomes research in newly emerging directions, experimental approaches, reports of interesting work in progress and preliminary findings.