• The scientist’s social network: Reimagining crystallographic diagrams ahead of the 1951 Festival Pattern Group Collaboration

Candela, Emily, 2023, Book Section, The scientist’s social network: Reimagining crystallographic diagrams ahead of the 1951 Festival Pattern Group Collaboration Design and Science. Bloomsbury, London, pp. 301-320. ISBN 978-1-3500-6192-7

Abstract or Description:

Despite current enthusiasm in the humanities for interdisciplinarity, little research exhibits approaches for deep, critical historical explorations of cross-field interactions between science and design. This chapter addresses this gap through a case study of the 1951 Festival Pattern Group (FPG) for the Festival of Britain, in which pattern designs were derived from crystallography diagrams. In this essay, the story of the FPG, particularly of how the project was catalyzed, illuminates how postwar British industrial design cultures engaged with science. In doing so, it presents an opportunity to hone approaches for generating richer understandings of interactions between design and science disciplines, both in the past and the present, using the concept of networks as a lens.

I trace the circulation of crystallographer Helen Megaw’s diagrams among networks of designers, artists and scientists during the germination of the FPG. It shows that cross-disciplinary social networks and the specific ideas, books, practices and images that flowed (and mutated) among them were key to the FPG project. Each actor involved in the group’s development, from an architect to a design policy officer and even fellow scientists, interpreted Megaw’s diagrams differently, according to the ideological and aesthetic frameworks of each figure’s particular brand of modernism. This challenges historiographical assumptions that the FPG reflects a generalised mid-twentieth-century modernist urge to unite art and science, and complicates understandings of the role of science in modernist design more broadly. Monolithic historical categories, such as ‘molecular’ design, dissolve, revealing a complex network of relationships, interests, and even disciplinary disjuncture teeming below the surface of the FPG’s patterns.

Official URL: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/design-and-science-9...
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies > W290 Design studies not elsewhere classified
School or Centre: School of Communication
Funders: AHRC
Uncontrolled Keywords: science and design; diagram; visualisation; design history; Festival Pattern Group
Date Deposited: 17 Apr 2023 14:54
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2023 08:38
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/5339
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