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Title: Purposes, poetics, and publics : the shifting dynamics of design criticism in the US and UK, 1955-2007
Author: Twemlow, Alice
Awarding Body: Royal College of Art
Current Institution: Royal College of Art
Date of Award: 2013
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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 media. 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.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: W900 Others in Creative Arts and Design