• Designing display in the department store: techniques, technologies, and professionalization, 1880-1920

Orr, Emily Marshall, 2017, Thesis, Designing display in the department store: techniques, technologies, and professionalization, 1880-1920 PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

Between 1880 and 1920 displays in leading department stores reached an unprecedented level of artistic and commercial ambition that required professional
skill, engaged with technology, earned consumer attention, and provided distinction between stores. Merchandise arrangements conveyed technical proficiency and
innovation specific to the retail setting while their form and content were also in conversation with current events, art, urban life, and popular culture. This thesis
explores the making, viewing, and meanings of display. Discussion will be framed around the following questions: What role did display design play in the development
of department stores in Chicago, New York and London at the turn of the twentieth century and how can the impact and significance of display be identified in the stores’
material and visual cultures?
Drawing from a diverse range of unexplored primary resources and archives, this thesis reveals a set of previously underrepresented design roles, tools, and
techniques of display production in the practice of architects, window dressers, shopfitters, and interior decorators who employed manual and mechanical methods to
create displays that were on constant view and in continual flux. In this newly changeable retail environment, display’s alignment with fin-de-siècle modernity is
explored through the themes of speed, variation, fragmentation, rationalization, and theatricality. Overall this thesis analyzes how display achieved an agency to transform everyday objects into commodities and to make consumers out of passersby.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies > W290 Design studies not elsewhere classified
Funders: British Association of Victorian Studies, Hagley Museum and Library, Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, Pasold Research Fund, Royal College of Art Student Research Conference Fund, Royal Historical Society
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2017 16:45
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2018 15:47
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/2775
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