• Purposes, Poetics, and Publics: The Shifting Dynamics of Design Criticism in the US and UK, 1955-2007

Twemlow, Alice, 2013, Thesis, Purposes, Poetics, and Publics: The Shifting Dynamics of Design Criticism in the US and UK, 1955-2007 PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

The history of design criticism in the latter half of the
twentieth century in the US and the UK is punctuated with
self-reflective interruptions during which design critics were
acutely self-conscious about their purpose, role in society,
relationship to their publics and use of critical techniques
and formats. This thesis examines a selection of such moments
and considers the extent to which they disrupted, and even
redirected, the ways in which design criticism was practiced,
produced, and consumed.
The chapter focuses are as follows: a selection of articles
published in the design magazines of the mid-late 1950s and
early 1960s which forcibly activated a new set of values with
which to engage with expendable, mass produced product design;
a protest at the International Design Conference at Aspen in
1970 which posed a challenge to the established conference
lecture format and to a lack of political engagement on the
part of the liberal design establishment; a set of articles by
cultural critics that critiqued the prevailing celebratory
commentary on style and lifestyle in 1980s London; an
independent exhibition that offered an alternative view of
contemporary design in contrast to government-endorsed design
exhibitions in 1990s London, with an additional focus on an
intensification of thought about the designed object as a
potentially viable critical format; and, lastly, a debate
between the authors of a US design blog and an established
British design critic writing in Print magazine that drew
attention to a rift between the energetic amateur impulses of
blogging culture and the editorial values of traditional print
Three main problematics are used to provide continuity
throughout the discrete time periods of this thesis, as well
as points of comparison between the critical works examined:
criticism’s contesting conceptions of its instrumentality,
purpose and methods; criticism’s idealized perceptions of, and
actual engagement with, its publics; and, finally, criticism’s
adoption of a literary sensibility and narrative qualities in
an attempt to transcend the limitations of design’s
promotional and market-based concerns.
In identifying five moments of historical discontinuity in the
practice of design criticism, therefore, this thesis assembles
a time-lapse portrait of the intellectual, stylistic and
material constitution of design criticism between the early
1950s and the early 2000s, and in doing so, aims to contribute
meaningfully to a growing historiography of design criticism.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W900 Others in Creative Arts and Design
Date Deposited: 15 Oct 2014 11:56
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2018 15:45
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/1659
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