AIS/Design. Storia e Ricerche – n. 9 (settembre 2016) Call

AIS/Design. Storia e Ricerche – n. 9
“The years they made contact: Graphic design, new technologies and new media”
edited by Maddalena Dalla Mura, Raimonda Riccini, Carlo Vinti


“… throughout its brief history, the computer has already made contact with possibly all aspects of modern life and society. ‘Contact’, I believe, is the appropriate term when we talk about the role and opportunities that are offered by what can be considered the most advanced tool in the field of graphic arts, design and visual communication in general. Indeed, as in many other fields, we have just begun to scratch the surface of the potential applications of the computer.” – Helmut Flohr, “Il ruolo dei calcolatori nelle comunicazioni visive” (The role of computers in visual communication), in Poliedro, 4, Aiap Bulletin, 1967.

The advent of the electronic and digital age, since the end of WWII, has revealed new opportunities and opened new paths in the field of communication, not least for graphic design. The subsequent spread of computer usage beyond the professional sphere, the relative democratization of communication tools, and the rise of new media towards the end of the past century, however, have confronted designers with a number of radical transformations and challenges that have led some commentators to repeatedly announce the end of graphic design as a specialised profession. Though this has not happened, the last half-century has brought changes that have certainly affected every aspect of graphic design and led to a redefinition of the discipline at both the operational and the conceptual levels.

In the years immediately following WWII, well before computers offered designers actual tools, the rise of cybernetics and computer science spawned an ample range of futuristic imagery and provided inspiration for the systematic visual organization of information and knowledge. Since the 1960s, the gradual introduction of photographic typesetting and composition challenged designers to address new production techniques and new specialised professional figures, while opening up a landscape of new expressive and aesthetic possibilities. After the early pioneering experiences of the 1970s, the last two decades of the twentieth century brought about a veritable revolution: the introduction of consumer GUI and editorial software and the spread of desktop publishing definitively altered the entire working process, from type design to printing. Subsequently the advent of the Internet and the world wide web, the introduction of new devices and the convergence of diverse media, radically changed the way users interact with communication artefacts.

These changes transformed the processes of production, dissemination and utilization of visual communication, making graphic design work easier and faster, but also sliding the position of graphic designers in opposite directions, towards greater or lesser control, convergence or divergence with regards to other fields, the integration or hybridization of tools, and the specialisation of skills. On the one hand, the new tools have given designers direct access to specific aspects and phases of the production, mediation and circulation of communication that had previously been out of their reach, opening up new possibilities for design. On the other hand, the development of new media formats and artefacts (eg. CD-ROMs, websites) have confronted graphic designers with a different kind of complexity, which requires new knowledge and expertise that intersect with other technical and design areas – in particular programming and interaction design – fostering experimentation as well as resistance, emblematic of which is, for example, the contradistinction between graphic design for printing and multimedia design.

Over time, these phenomena have alternately strengthened and weakened specific areas of design expertise, repeatedly causing disciplinary boundaries to be questioned, prompting the design community to reflect on the profession and to confront new demands in the field of design education; they have also fostered the spread of new vocabularies, metaphors and definitions, from the rhetoric of “hypertext” to the notions of the “designer as producer” and the “digital designer”; and they have contributed to the emergence of new trends in style and expression, marked by the contamination and hybridization between different creative fields that have fueled the debate on the question of a new digital aesthetic. At the same time it should not be forgotten that graphic designers have played a role in the very process of communicating and mediating these technological innovations to a vast audience of potential users and consumers who, in turn, thanks to the gradual accessibility of tools and technology, have become more and more actively involved in the actual production of visual communication.

While, over the years, these changes have received attention in the press and in the critical debate, from a historical point of view they are yet to be thoroughly documented and investigated.

Thirty years after the desktop publishing revolution, it seems important to begin to recognize the historical relevance of the longest period of intersection, convergence and tension produced when graphic design “made contact” with technological innovations, and therefore to reconsider the impact they have had on the conception, practice and culture of graphic design.

The 9th issue of “AIS/Design. Storia e Ricerche” will address the history of the years that graphic design made contact with new technologies and media, from the postwar period to the new millennium, with a focus on the emergence of new areas of design and new typologies of artefacts. The aim is to gather original historical contributions that reconstruct and analyse the different ways in which the various technologies have become a tool, a medium, an idea and a source of inspiration for graphic design, and in particular articles that deal with the following issues and aspects:

  • The impact of technologies, media and devices on roles, skills and knowledge in graphic design; how they have changed workflows – in and out of the graphic design office –, design tools, the design process and the production, mediation and dissemination of visual communication;
  • How graphic design and designers addressed the rise of new areas of design and new communication artefacts (eg. web design, interaction design, game design, motion graphics);
  • Stories of convergence with other areas of technical and design competence as well as stories of resistance to change, rejection of hybridization, and eventual retreat into more traditional roles and into revivalism of pre-digital techniques and media;
  • Analysis of graphic design’s contribution to the field of new media and new formats, even in directions that have been superseded due to accelerated or forced obsolescence (eg. CD-ROMs, hypertextual and multimedia resources etc.);
  • Aesthetics, styles and visual language related to the use of new tools and technologies;
  • The impact of new technologies on the concept, organization and planning of graphic design education and curricula;
  • The theoretical debate and the critical discourse, as carried out, for example, in specialised magazines and journals, and the literature concerning graphic design and the role of the graphic designer in relation to the introduction of new technologies and media;
  • The role played by graphic design in communicating electronic and digital technology to diverse audiences, and in shaping a new imagery associated with these innovations.


All submissions are subject to blind peer-review.
Important dates:

• January 4, 2016: submission of abstracts of proposed contributions; the abstract (max. 300 words; in English or Italian) illustrating the proposal, will include the title and 5 keywords; authors should also include a short biographical note (max. 150 words);

by January 25: authors will be notified of the editors’ interest in, and acceptance of, the proposed contributions;

• April 19: full paper submission; papers should be prepared according to the given style guidelines; submission will include a short abstract, 5 keywords, a short biographical note about the author/s, a set of images and captions (see below, under “Types of contributions and manuscript preparation”);

by May 31: authors will be notified of the peer-review’s outcome and of the eventual acceptance of their papers (changes or additional work may be needed in view of publication);

• June 21: final paper submission.

All submissions should be sent to:
and cc:
For information and questions contact the editors at:


All proposed contributions must be original texts. Papers that are beyond the scope of the journal, that have previously been submitted to other journals or have already been featured (in any language), or that replicate texts published elsewhere, will be rejected without peer review.

Contributions will fall into the following categories:

1. Essay (contributions presenting a theoretical, critical, and methodological stance that offer an in-depth discussion or re-reading of broad historical arguments and questions) (max. 8000 words, including notes, references, captions)

2. Research study (papers based on studies conducted on primary sources and offering original historical insight into specific topics or stories) (max. 8000 words, including notes, references, captions)

3. Micro-history (papers that analyse particular and specific stories, which have been neglected to date or refer to the border areas of the discipline) (max. 4000 words, including notes, references, captions)

Full papers will be accompanied by a short abstract (max. 150 words), a list of 5 keywords, and by a short biographical note (max. 150 words).

Style and preparation guidelines are available from

To complement their contribution, authors can submit up to 10 images (copyright-free images or images for which authors have obtained the right/permission of publication), accompanied by full captions (including credits).

Questo articolo è stato pubblicato in AIS/Design Storia e Ricerche, Call for papers, news

Maddalena Dalla Mura

Maddalena Dalla Mura (Udine, Italy, 1974) carries out research in the fields of design and graphic design history and museum studies. With an MA in Preservation of Cultural Heritage (2000), in 2010 she received her PhD in Design Sciences from the Università Iuav di Venezia. She has since collaborated with the Design and Museology research group at the same university. From 2012 to 2015 she collaborated on several research projects at the Faculty of Design and Art of the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, where she has also taught Languages and Theories of Visual Communication. Since 2016/2017 she teaches Design history at the Università degli studi di Ferrara. She is associate editor of the design history journal AIS/Design: Storia e Ricerche. /

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