Monday, 16 April 2018

Research in the School of Creative Arts

The TVAD Research Group is just one of several research groups in the School of Creative Arts at the University of Hertfordshire. Staff move freely between groups examining Contemporary Arts Practice, Design Research, Media Research and the Digital Hack Lab as well as TVAD. Read more about the groups on our website here:

Some of our researchers were interviewed last year about their work and its significance for a film made by Freddie Gerrard-Abbott with Jak Kimsey and Antoine Proust. This film introduces the research of Dr Dan Goodbrey, Dr Pat Simpson, Dr Silvio Carta, Kim Akass, Prof Marty St James, Dr Steven Adams, Prof Simeon Nelson and Prof Grace Lees-Maffei. Hear them talking about their research in this film:

Research in the School of Creative Arts: An Overview from School of Creative Arts on Vimeo.

Find out more about TVAD's researchers, including Dan Goodbrey, Pat Simpson, Silvio Carta, Steven Adams and Grace Lees-Maffei on the TVAD researcher profile pages here: Link

Monday, 26 February 2018

DHeritage Professional Doctorate in Heritage Recruitment Now Open for September 2018!

DHeritage, the University of Hertfordshire's unique Professional Doctorate in Heritage, is now in its fourth year. Our programme enables heritage professionals working in the public and private sectors to reflect on the industry, broadly defined, and make an original contribution to knowledge and understanding in the field based on their professional practice.
Our students work across the heritage area, and are engaged in impactful heritage studies research on topics such as authenticity and authority, dark tourism, conservation and restitution, digital heritage and how museums serve and represent local communities, to name a few. Read about their research here: 

DHeritage is hosted by the Department of Humanities with contributions from world-leading staff working in History, Philosophy, Education, Creative Arts, Hertfordshire Business School and the University’s flagship Heritage Hub, among others, and including Prof Sarah Lloyd, Prof John StylesDr Susan Parham, Prof Jonathan Morris, Dr Nika Balomenou and Prof Grace Lees-Maffei. DHeritage is offered part-time and is delivered through campus-based workshops and online equivalents. This doctorate is available for home (UK and EU) and international students. The University of Hertfordshire is twenty minutes from London by train, and is served by national rail and Luton, Stansted and the other London airports.

**New for the 2018 entry is our distance-learning registration, which provides a complete suite of online workshops in addition to some campus participation.**   

We are now recruiting students for the 2018/19 academic year. Applications are invited by Monday 28th May for a September 2018 start:

  • Read more about DHeritage here: and on the Heritage Hub site here
  • Contact mail Programme Director Professor Grace Lees-Maffei for more information about DHeritage, a guide to preparing a research proposal and an application form: 
  • Apply direct:

  • We look forward to welcoming you to DHeritage at the University of Hertfordshire!

    Monday, 12 February 2018

    The Braun Identity: The Emergence and Development of Braun Design in the 1950s

    The transformation of West Germany from post-war-austerity to international design powerhouse remains one of the more remarkable events in the history of twentieth century design. In just a few short years, the relatively isolated realms of industrial design, consumer product manufacturing and the gute form (good design) movement coalesced into a potent force for change. At the centre of this change and in the larger historical narrative that situates and describes twentieth-century German design, the consumer product manufacturer Braun enjoys an almost mythical status. Following the company’s formulation of a new design program in the mid-1950s, Braun products have been showcased and celebrated at more exhibitions than any other comparable company. This achievement led the global media company Forbes to recognise the company as being responsible for one of the greatest demonstrations of design culture. For some scholars and critics alike, Braun’s products from this era reflect basic human values including authenticity, integrity and honesty. For others, they are the very incarnation of German perfectionism. Braun, according to Bernd Polster, “is not merely a trademark; it stands for an all-encompassing concept”.

    Revised logo - Wolfgang Schmittel 1952.

    The story of Braun’s meteoric rise in the early 1950s and 1960s has been reiterated so often by historians that it has seemingly become accepted in the popular consciousness. Undeniably, Braun’s pursuit of a particular set of ideals was so remarkable that in a single decade it transformed the German company from a small, though well-established, consumer product manufacturer, into the ultimate standard-bearer of West German modern design. During this period, Braun were unrelenting in their adoption and implementation of a global philosophy. Their ability to exhibit more than physical products — to link their design output to a lifestyle, world-view and even pseudo-philosophical system — made them synonymous with a type of design excellence that would become West Germany’s calling card for international and cultural acceptance during the 1950s and 1960s.

    Braun’s process of transformation began with the formulation of a new company philosophy in the mid-1950s. Under the direction of brothers Erwin and Artur Braun and Dr. Fritz Eichler, Braun’s cultural and structural realignment quickly expanded well beyond the design and manufacture of consumer products. Spurred forward by their creative relationship with the educational institution Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm (Ulm School of Design), Braun began to not only implement a holistic design pattern in their products, but they began to pay detailed attention to other elements of the industrial and consumer purchase process. Such elements include an almost unprecedented (for the era) fascination with graphic art, typeface, packaging, point of sale merchandising, exhibitions and visual communication in print advertising. Throughout the mid-1950s and 1960s, these processes were examined, refined and standardised, before finally becoming what graphic designer Wolfgang Schmittel describes as “the consolidation and realisation of a profusion of ideas and impulses to form a clear conception of the company”. This supposedly “clear conception” implemented through a modern lifestyle and communicated to the world through its visual communication (advertising), is the focus of my present dissertation.

    Braun Phonosuper SK4 (Snow White's Coffin) - 1956
    Designers: Dieter Rams and Hans Gugolet
    Images: HfG-Archi Ulm, Ulm.

    These ideas about morality and honesty in representation are close to the heart of the research question my dissertation seeks to answer. One of the very few academics to have critically evaluated Braun’s attempt to visually communicate a lifestyle in their advertising, is Erica Carter. In her article: The Aesthetics of Rationality - Braun in 1950s West Germany, Carter revaluates the widely-held view that Braun only played one role in post-war West Germany: that of the leader in consumer product design and technical innovation. She argues instead that the impact of the company on post-war modern design in general, should be revisited within the context of political, economic and social debates of the time. This requires acknowledging the power Braun wielded as a force for culture generation and transmission. In this way, Carter reaffirms that the company’s new direction presented the consumer with a lifestyle, one which she specifically terms a “Braun lifestyle”, marketed through a specific strategy in their advertising campaigns. Indeed, Carter even proposes that Braun’s approach to “lifestyle marketing” was so potent that it “paved the way for future generations of lifestyle promoters”. The argument illuminates the disparity between HfG’s guiding vision for design (honesty and morality), and Braun’s own corporate and design philosophy, which was distorted by the consumerist and capitalist framework in which they operated. The company’s efforts to promote a gute form lifestyle, however laudable, served to shape an entirely new set of social norms, pressures and burdens.

    Braun D 55 Stand and various products - 1955
    (mockup installation at the HfG)
    Image: HfG-Archiv Ulm, Ulm. 

    It remains to be argued if indeed Braun sought to perpetuate a specific consumer ideology, or if they reinforced any dominant political agenda in post-war West Germany through their advertising. Currently, the assessment is that Braun had made a deliberate move into the same philosophical space occupied by the HfG; a space in which honesty, integrity and functionality were essential, and incorporated into their advertisements at a foundational level. However, though this move was undoubtedly commendable, the new advertising direction exposes two conflicting dimensions. The first, and perhaps the most obvious break from the Max Braun era, is that from 1955 onwards, all Braun advertising material adhered to one reference concept –developed by Otl Aicher of the HfG in Ulm. Second, and an aspect which is central to the analysis of the main material of this thesis, is that the products are shown in their corresponding idealised environment, acting as document evidence of a modern lifestyle – a Braun Lifestyle. Thus, to pursue these issues, and uncover the layers of significance embedded in Braun’s advertising, they must first be conceptually transformed from physical objects into vessels of meaning. The introduction to my theoretical framework will be my task for the next blog…

    'High Fidelity: Information for Architects' - advertisement - 1962
    Image: Braun Archive, Kronberg.

    Carter, E. (1995). How German is She? Postwar West German Reconstruction and the Consuming Woman. University of Michigan Press.
    Polster, B. (2010). Braun: Fifty Years of Design and Innovation. Axel Menges.
    Schmittel, W. (1978). Visual Process: Development of a Corporate Identity. Konrad Baumann.

    Ian Owen is lecturer in Architecture at the School of Creative Arts, University of Hertfordshire.

    Tuesday, 30 January 2018

    What does migration mean in the UK today? – Poster project by University of Hertfordshire students

    What does it mean to leave everything behind to start again? What happens when the problems of victimisation, lack of work, or exploitation – the very reasons that compelled one to migrate in the first place – are experienced in a newly adopted country?

    Faced with the question of ‘What does migration mean in the UK today?’, second year University of Hertfordshire (UH) graphic design and illustration students were tasked with representing such issues in a single poster. Working individually, the project ran for two months and was part of a larger brief where the students also wrote essays addressing a range of ethical issues in design.

    The brief for this work was intentionally broad. And as can be seen from this selection, the outcome was a wide range of responses, from the personal and autobiographical, to news stories, to designs that touch on the aims and ambitions of the Migration Museum itself.

    Many UH students are either migrants themselves, or the children/grandchildren of migrants. As such, for some, the project opened a space to speak to family members about their migratory experiences. For others, it was a chance to respond to the dominant tabloid narratives of ‘othering’ that have been so prevalent in recent press coverage of the current ‘migration crisis’.

    In this digital age, one can often forget how the poster has long been a vehicle for the dissemination of (mis)information about the subject of migration. Whether as government propaganda, or grass-roots campaigns seeking to challenge the mistreatment of migrants, the poster has the ability to condense a complex range of issues into a single graphic space. As many of these student designs reveal, it still remains a powerful visual tool.

    Chosen by Curator Sue McAlpine, a selection of these posters are currently on display along the stairwell and entrance corridor to the Migration Museum at The Workshop, 26 Lambeth High Street, London, SE1 7LB.

    Monday, 8 January 2018

    'Hand in Hand: Design History and Victorian Studies'

    I'm delighted to have been invited as keynote speaker for the British Association for Victorian Studies annual conference at the Centre for Victorian Studies, at the University of Exeter, 29-31 August 2018. The conference theme is 'Victorian Patterns' which will no doubt be of interest to historians of all kinds, and especially my fellow design historians. My keynote talk is titled 'Hand in Hand: Design History and Victorian Studies'. 

    Although industrialisation had gained momentum during the 17th and 18th centuries, it was during the C19th that the effects of the industrial revolution were most apparent throughout British society and culture. The successes of mass production in equipping a massively expanding Victorian population were accompanied by far-reaching failures ranging from inhumane labour conditions, and social inequality to compromised aesthetics and quality. These failings were lamented by the design reformers of the C19th in a relay race of aesthetic guardianship from A.W.N. Pugin, to John Ruskin, William Morris and his followers in the Arts and Crafts and Aesthetic Movements. This period is therefore hugely significant for the history of design, and for design history. (Indeed, industrialisation has been so central to the design historical project that those nations to have industrialised late, or little, have been neglected by design historians, who have preferred to focus on the first industrial nations, chiefly the UK, the USA, and Germany. This Western bias has only recently been challenged and addressed through efforts to internationalise design history.)

    Design historians have much to learn from Victorian Studies, therefore, and vice versa. While Victorian Studies focuses on a period of study, and the various area studies explore geographical domains, design history is concerned with the history of design both as a practice and as a series of outputs. In using design to find out about the past, and in using various kinds of history to find out about design, design historians research inclusively across neighbouring fields including - in addition to Victorian Studies and area studies - heritage studies, material culture studies, cultural studies, the histories of technology, architecture, culture and craft, gender and women’s studies, and environmental humanities. Design history’s interface with some of these neighbouring fields has recently been considered, but the commonalities and distinctiveness of design history and Victorian Studies have yet to be comparatively explored.

    In this talk, I will reflect on the methodological and historiographic implications of a comparative, or collaborative, approach to and through these sister fields using the case study of hand making and machine manufacture in the Victorian age. This is drawn from my current research on the hand in design history, including discourses on craft and mechanization, the Victorian design reformers, and modes of displaying industrial heritage, for publication in my forthcoming monograph The Hand Book (The MIT Press 2019). 

    I am looking forward to the BAVS conference already. I hope to see you there. The call for papers is as follows:

    Poster Designed by Marc Ricard

    Tuesday, 19 December 2017

    New Approaches to Design History, volume 8 of Writing Visual Culture

    The TVAD Research Group hosts an online open access double-blind peer reviewed journal, Writing Visual Culture (WVC). We are proud to launch volume 8 of the journal today, entitled 'New Approaches to Design History'. It celebrates 40 years of the Design History Society, and the 30th annual volume of the Journal of Design History, both anniversaries being celebrated in 2017. The articles are developed from papers presented in a special anniversary strand convened by WVC Series Editor Prof Grace Lees-Maffei at the Design History Society annual conference, 'Making and Unmaking the Environment', hosted by TVAD Visiting Researcher Prof Kjetil Fallan at the University of Oslo in September this year. Another TVAD Visiting Researcher, Dr Javier Gimeno Martínez, is one of the article co-authors. Read the new issue here:

    Monday, 11 December 2017

    New Book Series: Cultural Histories of Design

    Bloomsbury Publishing UK and Professors Grace Lees-Maffei and Kjetil Fallan are delighted to announce the launch of a new book series, Cultural Histories of Design. Cultural Histories of Design presents rigorous and original research on the role and significance of design in society and culture, past and present. From a vantage point at the heart of the humanities, the series explores design as the most significant manifestation of modern and contemporary culture. This series will offer an interdisciplinary approach to design, including, but not limited to, design history, cultural studies, history, art history, business history, history of technology, anthropology, material culture studies, archaeology, geography, sociology, media studies and visual culture studies. There is more information about the series on our webpage:…/…/cultural-histories-of-design/

    TVAD blog readers are warmly invited to join the editors and publisher at Bloomsbury’s offices at 50 Bedford Square, London on Thursday 25th January 2018 from 6pm until 7.30pm to celebrate the first two books in the series: Modern Asian Design, by Daniel Huppatz and Norman Bel Geddes: American Design Visionary, by Nicolas P Maffei. The series editors and authors will briefly introduce the series and launch titles and will be available for questions and discussions. Drinks will be served. Please RSVP by 15th December to 

    Wednesday, 8 November 2017

    Research interests

    Hello all.
    I started with the University of Hertfordshire as a Research Fellow in the School of Creative Arts on 1st November so I'm taking this early opportunity to introduce myself and my research interests.

    My name is Alana Jelinek and I am a practicing artist. I also write about art, specifically the role and value of art, from the point of view of an artist. My first book, called This is Not Art: Activism and Other Not Art (IB Tauris 2013), revisited my PhD thesis on 'Art as a Democratic Act' in the light of later experience working with activist group, Platform London, and my post-doc with the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge. I was with the Museum from 2009-2017.

    My first post-doc role at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, was as AHRC Research Fellow in the Creative Arts. I worked on a 5 year project called 'The Collector's Desire', investigating the relationship between collections, collectors, the collected, where the collected is both people and things. My second 5-year postdoc at Cambridge was as senior researcher on a ERC-funded project, 'Pacific Presences', which investigated Oceanic art in European Museum, or in other words, the artefacts collected and amassed in Europe as a result of colonial contact.

    My current postdoc is also a 5 year post. This time the focus is on my writing, not my artwork. For more about my previous work, please see my website. My current post will start with a focus on writing my next monograph, The Discipline of Art. I use the word discipline in spite - and because - of its Foucauldian overtones. I have a long-standing interest in the question of knowledge, and I am specifically interested in the type of knowledge that art, visual art, produces. I might try to tackle that question in my next book... in addition to questions of inter- and multi-disciplinary working, ethics, and the definition of art.

    In the meantime, if you're interested, please visit soundcloud to hear my final artwork-as-podcasts for the Pacific Presences project (European Research Council funded 2013-2018).

    Wednesday, 18 October 2017

    International Open Access Week 2017

    Next week is International Open Access Week. Colleagues at the University of Hertfordshire have devised a full week of activities related to #openaccess #OAWeekUH #OAWeek. The theme of the week is #OpenInOrderTo and my answer to that prompt is #OpenInOrderTo reach more readers, more easily.

    Last week, I was interviewed by Jane Housham (Publisher, University of Hertfordshire Press), and filmed by Chris Dunkley, for a short film about Open Access publishing. The interview was based on the fact that my book, Designing Worlds: National Design Histories in an Age of Globalization was published as an open access book as well as in hardback in 2016 by Berghahn. The book is available as an entire pdf and the chapters are available as individual pdfs on the publishers' website. I co-edited this book with Professor Kjetil Fallan of the University of Oslo. Both of the editor's institutions - the University of Oslo and the University of Hertfordshire - contributed funds to Berghahn to support the open access book.

    You can watch the film on Youtube and hear more about my experience of open access publishing. Although the initial impact has not been as great as I had hoped, I remain convinced that there will be longer term benefits in terms of increased readership and use of the book, and I remain committed to the ethos of open access.

    Professor Grace Lees-Maffei
    TVAD Research Group Leader.

    Thursday, 12 October 2017

    Abi Spendlove: Fragments

    Abi Spendlove is one of three artists who have been invited to respond to the collection of the St. Albans Museum during its period of closure. Spendlove’s project, Fragments, sees the windows and fireplaces of the St. Albans Clock Tower adorned with fragments of coloured, etched glass. The glass has been positioned at the height of the windows so that refracted sunlight falls onto the plinths and the floor below, in a fleeting display of light and colour that changes as the sun and clouds move across the sky outside.

    Like Lydall Phelps, and Katy Gillam-Hull before her, Spendlove’s installation began its life as separate pieces scattered through the St. Albans Museum’s off-site store. Spendlove likens the store to an Aladdin’s cave, containing artefacts from the Roman period until the late modern period, and everything in between. She selected for her project a collection of Medieval stained glass fragments from local archeological digs, and used this glass as the model for her own work, on display in the clock tower alongside the originals.

    On her first encounter with the museum’s collection, Spendlove found herself drawn to damaged fragments. She tells me, “I was particularly interested in broken objects, and how the story is enriched by the brokenness”. The museum collection is one of few contexts in which a broken fragment is treasured, and subjected to scrutiny. “The material life-cycle of objects” always involves some kind of breaking down or degrading (Crisp, 2017), through wear and tear or deliberate destruction. For many manmade objects, this is a process of “trashing and disposal”, in which the complete object is transformed from possession to trash. Archeologists and curators intervene in this process, either reviving broken objects and restoring their original form or preserving the fragment so that the memory of its form and purpose remains. It is only in this museum setting that questions are asked about the value and significance of these fragments. Museum curators, notes Spendlove, no longer take for granted that a whole object is more valuable than broken pieces. They have to decide whether an artefact “is more valuable if it is fixed or broken”. They might make a curatorial decision to fix… or it might be valued in its broken state”.

    The selected fragments appeared to tell numerous stories, including stories contained within the patterns and images painted onto or etched into their surfaces, as well as the story of their fragmentation. In the museum setting, the process of breaking can form an important part of the narrative. The destruction of the object is a new chapter in its narrative, and the method of breaking can reveal a lot about the circumstances in which it was destroyed. Spendlove acknowledges her interest in the research of Lyndsay Poll Crisp (2017) who writes, “however meticulous the processes of dismantling and pulverisation… matter prevails”. The systematic destruction of cultural artefacts that took place during the Protestant Reformation left behind fragments that evidence the social and religious context of their fragmentation. The glass selected by Abi Spendlove originates from that era, having been buried underground for 400 years, preserved the memory of the Reformation until they were uncovered by archeologists in the 1970s and 80s.

    Spendlove is conscious that by selecting these fragments she may have rescued them from obscurity. Archeologists are obliged to submit their finds to museums, and as a result of the sheer volume of fragments that are uncovered, many are never considered. There is a risk that they will forever remain nothing more than a number in a register, and never seen or handled again. The theme of “lost and found” emerged in Spendlove’s project, as she became aware of the potential for these fragments – found after having been lost for so long – may become lost again.

    Having selected her glass fragments, Spendlove photographed them on a lightbox, traced them, and used a laser engraver to reproduce their shape and surface patterns. Her reproductions are more brightly coloured, and larger in size than the originals, so that the patterns and images are also scaled up, and details become visible that might go unnoticed in the original fragments. Separated from the rest of a complete window, these small parts of a larger pattern or image are elevated in significance. Viewers are invited to scrutinize tiny details that might have gone unnoticed in the original window, and inevitably, as the images have been disconnected from their original story, viewers can attach new fictions to these images.

    Spendlove draws my attention to one particularly serendipitously arranged fragment, at the centre of which is an eye. The eye’s gaze looks significant, but taken out of context, there is no information about the subject of that gaze. The audience is left to imagine a narrative that explains the gaze, and each viewer’s story will be different.

    The relationship between objects and stories was explored further in Spendlove’s workshop at the Verulamium. Participants were asked to contribute broken objects and ephemera to a “museum in a day”. Each participant was invited to complete a mock accession form, to record the story behind their object. While many of the objects were unassuming, their stories gave them great significance, and value as records of personal history. Spendlove recalls that one participant brought a sweet wrapper that had been saved since the liberation of Guernsey in 1945, when she, as a 5-year old girl, was given her first sweet. The story on the accompanying accession form describes how the girl needed to seek help to unwrap the sweet, having never seen one unwrapped before.

    In another workshop, participants were invited to cut their own fragments from coloured acetate, and arrange them onto surfaces to construct their own stained glass windows. Spendlove chose to display photographs of this activity in the Clock Tower alongside her own work, and in particular she selected images that show the hands of the participants as they arrange their coloured fragments. For Spendlove, the handling of these fragments, original and reproduced, is significant. During her time spent in the Museum’s store, she became acutely aware of the fragility of the artefacts, and the wear and tear that results from handling.

    The experience has taught Spendlove that “touch is a privileged thing”. To touch an object is to contribute to its destruction, particularly in a museum or archeological setting. Handling can erode the previous wear and tear that is evidence of historical interaction with the artefact. The role of the museum is conservation as well as restoration, and when they make the decision not to restore, they implicitly make the case for there being value in the evidence of damage that remains. Spendlove’s project has necessarily involved some handling of precious fragments, and the privileged position in which she has found herself, able to access and handle the museum’s artefacts, has added value to the broken pieces by adding another layer to their narrative.

    Crisp, L. P. (2017), “Michael Landy’s Break Down: Trashing and Transforming”, paper presented at TRASH, University of Vienna, 28-29 January.