|writing design ¦ Dr Grace Lees-Maffei|
university of hertfordshire
Writing Design is concerned with how designed objects and design practices are communicated through word and image. It therefore engages with design historical methodology and historiography to examine design is written about effectively. Funding for a symposium and a conference has been awarded by the Design History Society. The Writing Design project forms part of the work of the tVAD Research Group in its work on Relationships between Text, Narrative and Image.
Writing Design asks: how can we best communicate about and analyse objects using words, and what is at stake in the translation from objects and practices to texts and images? Writing Design asks participants to reflect on their methodology in these acts of translation. Writing Design selects, collects and disseminates examples of successful methods of word-based analysis of design practices and outcomes.
The project derives from the lead researcher's interest in analysing designed objects and design cultures through textual and visual sources. Writing Design has two phases. The project was initiated in phase one with two exploratory case studies, on the use of corporate literature for understanding Italian design and on what analysis of advertising directed at women reveals about car culture. Phase one is completed. Phase two, ongoing, invites participation from a wide constituency of scholars in order to consider the project's wider significance and move to more generally applicable findings.
Phase II projected outcomes:
Phase II completed outcomes:
Phase I - Case Study A: Alessi
This case study uses Alessi household goods, the context of Italian design and corporate literature to analyse the extent to which the meaning of goods is itself designed, the role of corporate literature in the reception of designed goods, and the utility of national identity as a category through which designed goods might be understood. In particular, it considers the role of corporate literature in presenting Alessi as both quintessentially Italian and international. An article appeared in an international refereed journal of area studies founded by the Association for the Study of Modern Italy, for which articles are published in English with summaries in Italian. National identity as discursive theme through which to analyse Italian product design was further analysed in a presentation at the Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture, Middlesex University, 2005. The starting point for the case study was an exploration of the ways in which designers for Alessi use visual motifs to imbue their goods with the added value that narrative brings, published as a journal article, 'Balancing the Object; the reinvention of Alessi', (1997). A conference presentation, at the conference Design Innovation: Conception to Consumption at the University of Huddersfield (1998) examined the role of general manager Alberto Alessi in changing the approach to design within a family company. The work on Alessi has been cited extensively in Guy Julier, The Culture of Design, London: Sage, 2000, pp. 71-75.
'Italianita and Internationalism: the design, production and marketing of Alessi s.p.a.', Modern Italy, vol. 7 no.1 (2002), pp. 37-57. ISSN 1353-2944. Abstract (and full-text to subscribers) at http://taylorandfrancis.metapress.com/openurl.asp?genre=article&issn=1353-2944&volume=7&issue=1&spage=37
Balancing the Object; the reinvention of Alessi', things, no. 6 (1997), pp. 74-91. ISSN 1356-921X.
'Home from Home? National Identities in the Production and Consumption of Italian Design: Alessi spa.', Exploring National Identity: Italian Design in the Twentieth Century Symposium, Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture, http://www.moda.mdx.ac.uk Middlesex University, 5 February 2005.
'Reinventing Alessi 1980-1998', Design Innovation: Conception to Consumption, Design History Society Annual Conference, University of Huddersfield, September 1998.
Phase I - Case Study B: The Gender of Car Culture
This case study derives from a continuing concern for the way cars are mediated to women consumers within a masculine, and patriarchal, car culture. This concern was first articulated in a review of the Earl's Court Motor Show ('The Case for Carnography' things, no. 3, 1995, pp. 98-99) which led to an invitation to address the Gender and Technology Study Group at the Open University, Milton Keynes ('Contemporary Car Culture: Questions of Gender', Faculty of Mathematics and Computing, Open University, March 1997). The core outcome was a book chapter, 'Men, Motors, Markets and Women' for a definitive volume on car culture. The influence of the article is shown in citations including Jeanne Van Eeden (University of Pretoria, South Africa), 'Land Rover and colonial-style adventure: The 'Himba' advertisement, International Feminist Journal of Politics, volume 8, no. 3 (2006), pp. 343 369 and Alan Latham and Derek P. McCormack, 'Moving cities: rethinking the materialities of urban geographies', Progress in Human Geography, vol. 28 no. 6 (2004), pp. 701-724, p. 718, 720. Favourable reviews include Ralph Harrington (The Journal of Transport History, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 276-292). Subsequent outputs include invited papers under the title '"See 500 Sexy Models Reveal All": Eroticism and the Advertising of Cars to Women', to the Research Workshops in the History of Transport, Traffic and Mobility (T2M), Institute of Railway Studies & Transport History, York University, 4 May 2005 (http://www.york.ac.uk/inst/irs/) and to Sex Object: Desire and Design in a Gendered World, the Design History Society Annual Conference, Norwich School of Art & Design, 11-13 September 2003 (http://www.nsad.ac.uk/news/news_article.php?id=42). The chapter has been reproduced in Carl's Cars, no. 16 (Summer 2006), pp. 112-114. ISSN 1502-8348.
'Men, Motors, Markets and Women', Autopia, ed. Joe Kerr and Peter Wollen, London: Reaktion, 2002, pp. 363-370. ISBN 1-86189-132-6. 'Reproduced with permission in Carl's Cars, no. 16 (Summer 2006), pp. 112-114. ISSN 1502-8348.'
'See 500 Sexy Models Reveal All: Advertising Cars to Women', Research Workshops in the History of Transport, Traffic and Mobility (T2M), Institute of Railway Studies & Transport History, http://www.york.ac.uk/inst/irs/ York University, 4 May 2005.
"See 500 Sexy Models Reveal All": Eroticism and the Advertising of Cars to Women', Sex Object: Desire and Design in a Gendered World, http://www.nsad.ac.uk/news/news_article.php?id=42, Design History Society Annual Conference, Norwich School of Art & Design, 11-13 September 2003. Also, invited Chair of Gender at Home panel.
'Contemporary Car Culture: Questions of Gender', Invited Research Seminar, Gender & Technology Study Group, Faculty of Mathematics and Computing, Open University, March 1997
The Design History Society
Show/Tell Conference http://sitem.herts.ac.uk/artdes_research/tvad/event160905.html
Relationships between Text, Narrative and Image symposium http://sitem.herts.ac.uk/artdes_research/tvad/event160704.html
Show/Tell: Relationships between Text, Narrative and Image, Working Papers on Design http://sitem.herts.ac.uk/artdes_research/papers/wpdesign/wpdvol2/vol2.html
2004 Design History Society Event Award for an invited symposium, Relationships between Text, Narrative and Image, University of Hertfordshire, 8 July 2004.
2005 Design History Society Event Award for a conference, Show/Tell: Relationships between Text, Narrative and Image, University of Hertfordshire, 12 September 2005.