Thursday, 1 December 2011

Now published by Berg, Writing Design: Words and Objects, edited by Grace Lees-Maffei

How do we learn about the objects that surround us? As well as gathering sensory information by viewing and using objects, we also learn about objects through the written and spoken word - from shop labels to friends' recommendations and from magazines to patents. But, even as design commentators have become increasingly preoccupied with issues of mediation, the intersection of design and language remains under-explored. Writing Design provides a unique examination of what is at stake when we convert the material properties of designed goods into verbal or textual description. Issues discussed include the role of text in informing design consumption, designing with and through language, and the challenges and opportunities raised by design without language. Bringing together a wide range of scholars and practitioners, Writing Design: Words and Objects reveals the difficulties, ethics and politics of writing about design.

TVAD is proud to announce the publication of this book as a product of our Research Group. The editor of Writing Design: Words and Objects is TVAD Coordinator Grace Lees-Maffei, and the book includes an chapter from TVAD's Barbara Brownie, and another by Prof Michael Biggs and Dr Daniela Büchler from the School of Creative Arts at UH. The book is developed from the conference 'Writing Design: Object, Process, Discourse, Translation', hosted by TVAD at UH in September 2009, as the Design History Society Annual Conference. Writing Design: Words and Objects was published with the assistance of the Design History Society's research award.



General Introduction, Grace Lees-Maffei

1. 'Writing about Stuff': The Peril and Promise of Design History and Criticism, Jeffrey L. Meikle, University of Texas at Austin, USA
2. Design Criticism and Social Responsibility: The Flemish Design Critic K.-N. Elno (1920-1993), Fredie Floré, Ghent University, Belgium
3. The Metamorphosis of a Norwegian Design Magazine: Nye Bonytt, 1968-1971, Kjetil Fallan, University of Oslo, Norway
4. Writing Contemporary Design into History, Stephen Hayward, University of the Arts London, UK

5. Thinking in Metaphor: Figurative Conceptualising in John Evelyn's Diary and John Ruskin's Stones of Venice, Anne Hultzsch, University College London, UK
6. Regulating the Body in Army Manuals and Trade Guides: The Design of the First World War Khaki Service Dress, Jane Tynan, University of the Arts London, UK
7. Vitaglass and the Discourse of Modern Culture, John Stanislav Sadar, Monash University, Australia
8. Lewis Mumford's Lever House: Writing a House of Glass, Ann Sobiech Munson, Iowa State University, USA

9. Judging a Book by its Cover: or Does Modernist Form Follow Function?, Polly Cantlon and Alice Lo, both University of Waikato, New Zealand
10. Reading Details: Caruso St John and the Poetic Intent of Construction Documents, Mhairi McVicar, Welsh School of Architecture, UK
11. Applying Oral Sources: Design Historian, Practitioner and Participant:, Chae Ho Lee, University of Hawai'i at Mânoa, USA
12. Fluid Typography: Construction, Metamorphosis and Revelation, Barbara Brownie, University of Hertfordshire, UK

13. Showing Architecture Through Exhibitions: A Taxonomical Analysis Applied to the Case of the First Venice Architecture Biennale (1980), Léa-Catherine Szacka, University College London, UK
14. Design as Language without Words: AG Fronzoni, Gabriele Oropallo, University College London, UK
15. On the Legal Protection of Design: Things and Words about Them, Stina Teilmann-Lock, Danish Design School, Denmark
16. Text-led and Object-led Research Paradigms: Doing Without Words, Michael Biggs and Daniela Büchler, both University of Hertfordshire, UK

List of Illustrations
Select Bibliography

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Dr Ivan Phillips exploring the undead interface

Dr Ivan J. Phillips 
'The Vampire in the Machine: exploring the undead interface'
Wednesday 8th November,  3.30pm in R336, De Havilland campus, University of Hertfordshire

TVAD researcher Dr Ivan J. Phillips will give a Humanities research seminar based on a paper he delivered at the Open Graves, Open Minds conference at UH last year (16-17 April 2010)  which has since been expanded to a chapter for the forthcoming anthology Open Graves, Open Minds: Vampires and the Undead in Modern Culture, ed. Sam George (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2012).

The 50 minute presentation will be followed by questions. It is aimed primarily at MA students and research staff in Humanities, but all are welcome.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Dr David Brody TVAD Visiting Researcher 2011

Dr David Brody is an Associate Professor of Design Studies at Parsons The New School for Design, New York. He directs the Masters Program in the History of Decorative Arts and Design as well as the Masters of Design Studies (launching Fall 2012). He is the author of Visualizing American Empire (University of Chicago Press, 2010) and co-editor of Design Studies: A Reader (Berg 2009). A specialist in material culture, visual culture, and design studies, Dr Brody has published writing in Prospects: An Annual of American Cultural Studies, Journal of Asian American Studies, American Quarterly, Journal of Design History, American Periodicals, and his article on hotel design and housekeeping appeared in Design and Culture in 2011. His new project is titled Do Not Disturb: Design, Hotels, and Labor. David has given papers at numerous academic conferences.

Monday 17th October

10.30 am – 12.30 pm First seminar with research degree students. AA191. Dr Brody will discuss his work, including work in progress.

2 pm – TVAD Research Group Round Table. B160.
i. interdisciplinary contexts ref. Brody and Clark, eds., Design Studies: A Reader, and the intersections of design studies, design history, art history and visual culture studies; the delimitation of subject area, e.g. what is design and what is not, and holistic and inclusive approaches to design practice and design consumption vs. specialisation;
ii. comparative histories and international research contexts ref. Brody, Visualizing American Empire, an exemplar in the comparative use of a diverse group of source materials - from newspapers to maps to objects – for piecing together the relationship between two countries (USA/ Philippines);
iii. ongoing and future work ref. Brody, Do Not Disturb: Design, Hotels, and Labor.

Tuesday 18th October

10 am – 12 pm Second seminar with research degree students. AB132. Students to give presentations about their own work.

2 pm – TVAD Reading Group. B160. Participants to circulate draft writings in advance for discussion.

5 pm – Critical Dialogues lecture: ‘Disordering Design’.
Using the examples of American empire and the hotel industry, this talk assesses design and material culture as an agent that can reinforce power hierarchies. The paper concludes with some thoughts about how specific design practices can be disordered and interrogated to foster social change.
Open to undergraduates, postgraduates and research staff, with Q&A afterwards.

Contact: Dr Grace Lees-Maffei, TVAD Coordinator,

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Eugenics, Art and Darwinisms: The Case of the Darwin Museum Moscow

Pat Simpson will be giving a paper with the above title at the conference The Study of Eugenics - Past Present and Future, Uppsala University Sweden, November 10-11, 2011.

My current research is located at an intersection of two significant developments in the study of eugenics during the past decade. One of these is the increased scholarly scrutiny of eugenics discourse within central and eastern Europe including the USSR, evidenced, for example, in the work of Marius Turda and his colleagues in the disciplines of history of medicine/science. The other development is the growth of a new trajectory of scholarship concerned with the interrelationships of eugenics discourse and visual culture within histories of art and visual culture, exemplified by the recent anthologies Art, Sex and Eugenics: Corpus Delecti ( Brauer & Callen, eds, 2008), and The Art of Evolution: Darwin, Darwinisms and Visual Culture (Larson & Brauer, eds, 2009).

This paper takes a critical look at an exhibition about eugenics, entitled The Younger Sister of Genetics that was staged in December 2010 at the Darwin Museum Moscow, additionally taking account of the museum’s current, small, permanent display on the topic. The function of the case study is to outline aspects of recent and ongoing research into the apparent mycelium of links with eugenical thought underlying certain artworks that were arguably used to represent or imply nuanced interpretations of Darwin, projected by the museum both within the Soviet Union and abroad, before and after 1945. The paper’s aim is not just to showcase my research, but also to suggest two related avenues of potentially fruitful interdisciplinary investigation.

Firstly, given the close interconnection between eugenics and a wide range of visual imagery, there is evident potential for international collaborative projects between art historians and historians of medicine, science and ideas. More narrowly, the research indicates that one focus for such work might lie in considering the impact of eugenics on educational exhibition displays and policies in natural history museums pre- and post-1945.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Dr David Brody announced as TVAD's Visiting Researcher 2011

We are delighted to announce that Dr David Brody, Associate Professor of Design Studies at Parsons the New School for Design, New York, will be joining TVAD as our Visiting Researcher in October this year.

Brody challenges the definitions and practices of design studies, in his co-edited volume The Design Studies Reader (with Prof Hazel Clark, Berg, 2009) and his monograph Visualizing American Empire: Orientalism and Imperialism in the Philippines (University of Chicago Press, 2010). The latter is an exemplar of the comparative use of a diverse group of source materials - from newspapers to maps to objects – for piecing together the relationship between the US and the Philippines. Dr Brody is currently researching hotels, their interior design and the design of the labour which keeps them going, to be published as Do Not Disturb: Design, Hotels, and Labor.

Dr Brody will participate in a range of TVAD events, and seminars with research degree students in the School of Creative Arts, and will deliver the first Critical Dialogues lecture for 2011/2012 on Tuesday 18th October at 5 pm at the College Lane Campus. We look forward to welcoming Dr Brody to the University of Hertfordshire soon!

Friday, 15 July 2011

The Soviet Darwinian Body: Physical Culture, Socialist Morality and Eugenic Self-Evolution

At the conference 'The Evolution of Morality and the Morality of Evolution', St Annes College Oxford, July 8-10, 2011, social historian of art, Dr Pat Simpson, delivered a well-received paper entitled, 'The Soviet Darwinian Body: Physical Culture, Socialist Morality and Eugenic Self-Evolution. ' This paper is part of her ongoing research project 'Sex and Socialist Realism'.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

‘Telling it like it is’: author operations in the ‘expanded texts’ of contemporary film

Kim Walden will be contributing to a panel concerned with 'Authorship and Auteurism' at the Midwest Popular Culture Association / Midwest American Culture Association conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA 14-16 October 2011

‘Telling it like it is’: author operations in the ‘expanded texts’ of contemporary film
The 18th Century epistolary mode has often been regarded as a forerunner to the novel. However whilst this fictional style form waned in popularity, it did not disappear and has since found expression in the contemporary fiction of such notable authors as Doris Lessing and Vladimir Nabokov. By the 1980s when Margaret Atwood published A Handmaiden’s Tale, the epistolary form had undergone some modernisation. Letter writing had been superseded by media technologies and the heroine of this novel records her memories on audio tape
This paper will assert that epistolarity has manifested itself once again in cinema’s recent transmedia productions on the web. Described as ‘narrative extensions’ of cinema today, the web sites which accompany films provide audiences with narrative forms which extend the stories of their filmic counterparts through the ‘digital vernacular’ of videos diaries and vlogs as well as, social networking and fake web sites. Drawing on the work of new media theorists including Manowich, Bolter and Grusin, this paper will investigate this form of storytelling in web sites for films like Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 (2009) and Matt Reeves’ Cloverfield ( 2008)

Authorship has often been a question for consideration in Film Studies. The aim of this paper will be to examine the operations of authorship in the ‘expanded texts’ of contemporary film web sites in the light of the epistolary tradition and reflect on what this tells us about how the concept of ‘authorship’ is being reconfigured in a digital cinema culture.

For further details about the conference, please visit:

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Shared Garments and Forced Choreography - paper to be presented at Fashion – Exploring Critical Issues

Barbara Brownie will be presenting a paper at the forthcoming conference, 'Fashion – Exploring Critical Issues', due to take place at Mansfield College, Oxford, on 22-25 September 2011.
Shared Garments and Forced Choreography
Fashion is often described as asserting or reinforcing social or professional bonds, but rarely is such a fixed bond established as when garments physically link one body to another. We may be familiar with shared garments in dramatic costume, as in Chinese dragons or pantomime horses, but there are also examples of everyday garments that are designed to contain multiple bodies. Examples include Rosemarie Trockel’s double-necked ‘Schizo-Pullover’, Dana Karwas and Karla Karwas’ ‘Party Dress’ worn by five women simultaneously, and Aamu Song and Johan Olin’s ‘Dance Shoes for Father and Daughter’. These garments not only assert relationships between wearers, but make that relationship inescapable by physically binding bodies together. By linking or binding bodies, these shared garments restrict movement, and ensure choreographed motion, forcing the wearers to move as one. This establishes a hierarchy, placing one wearer in control of motion, and others in subservient positions. This paper will discuss the consequences of the wearing of shared garments, focusing in particular on how forced choreography affects issues of identity, interpersonal relationships, and social hierarchy. It will observe how shared garments may challenge or reinforce ideas about the relationship between fashion and identity, and will explore the social motives behind the design of such garments.

See the conference website for details:

Friday, 20 May 2011

Grace Lees-Maffei appointed Managing Editor of the Journal of Design History

Following interviews, The Design History Society and the Editorial Board of the Journal of Design History have appointed Grace Lees-Maffei to the post of Managing Editor of the Journal of Design History for a five year term. Grace will work alongside a newly appointed Chair of the Editorial Board, Prof Cheryl Buckley (Northumbria University).

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Designing Meaning: What Design History Brings to Understanding of Image-Text and Object-Text Relationships

Grace Lees-Maffei
Paper for the American Imagetext Conference 
University of East Anglia, June 18-19 2011

This paper assesses the utility of a growing body of design historical work on image-text, and object-text, relationships. For the past decade or so, design historians have been especially attentive to the ways in which design is mediated to consumers through text and image-based discourses such as advice literature, advertising, magazines, television and film (for example, Lees-Maffei, ‘The Production-Consumption-Mediation Paradigm’, 2009). These discourses demonstrate desirable consumption practices and wider ideas about design, and thereby prescribe what is acceptable, while also themselves being examples of design, from magazine layouts and poster design, to set and costume designs for television programmes.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Paul Stiff Obituary

Professor Paul Stiff sadly passed away in February.  Paul (1949-2011) was a friend of TVAD, having convened a panel for the 2009 Design History Society conference Writing Design: Object, Process, Discourse, Translation, including a paper of his own and papers by two colleagues. Obituaries are as follows:
University of Reading
Robin Kinross, the Guardian
Times Higher Education
Rick Poyner Design Observer

Friday, 1 April 2011

Critical Dialogue: Putting Words into Objects and Objects into Words

Date: Tuesday 5 April
Time: Networking from 5.15pm, doors open at 5.30pm
Venue:  A166, Lindop Building, College Lane Campus, University of Hertfordshire

Dr Grace Lees-Maffei  
Words are central in learning about objects, and in communicating what we know. Yet, the process of converting objects into words and vice versa is not neutral. In this talk, Lees-Maffei will review her Writing Design project and its most recent outputs Writing Design: Words and Objects, an edited book (Berg, 2011).

Dr Lees-Maffei, Reader in Design History (UH) coordinates the TVAD Research Group. She co-edited The Design History Reader (Berg, 2010) with Rebecca Houze and co-convened the 2009 DHS conference, Writing Design.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Art and Evolutionary Biopolitics

TVAD member Dr Pat Simpson, Social History of Art and Research Tutor for the School of Creative Arts, has received a grant from the British Academy to pursue her project 'Art and Evolutionary Biopolitics: The Moscow Darwin Museum in the 1920s-1930s'. The project, to be carried out from March 2011 to February 2013, will explore the relationship between art and evolutionary bio-politics at the Darwin Museum, Moscow. It centres on the work of artist and scientist Vasilii Vatagin, who is virtually unknown in the West. One of the main objectives is to enlarge western knowledge of Vatagin, and to locate his work in the within Soviet debates about ape research, genetics, eugenics, and Lamarckian-style interpretations of Darwin from the 1920s-1930s. The published outcomes will be of interest to scholars and the general public. For further information, please contact Dr Pat Simpson.