Margolin: On design history

Dear colleagues;

Thanks to Vanni, I believe, for starting this discussion. I agree with Kjetil that historians need to control the narrative of design history. It is not simply a service activity but on in its own right like art history, film history, and so forth. There is a design history research culture with its own issues, etc…In terms of the narrative, however, I do want to present a paradox. A lot of what designers do today and will be doing tomorrow has never been done before or will not have been done before. Therefore the role of design history as I see it needs to fullfill several purposes. First is to how how design, whatever form it takes, is rooted in an historical situation. This means references to the wider field of historical knowledge and activity. Second, is to widen the content of what might have been considered design in the initial design history narratives to include the antecedents of service design, design for disability, etc. For example, there is a long history of design for disability. In the 19th century, people were designing prosthetics, the Braille system etc. and after WWII, at least in the United States, there was a major push to design prosthetic limbs. This moved from objects to limbs that are connected to the electrical pulses of muscles. The history of computers and man machine interactions is also important. Figures like Norbert Wiener, JCR Licklider, and Douglas Engelbart are important figures for design history as are the design outlaws of the 1970s and Buckminster Fuller is squarely in the middle of everything. Some of these topics have been taken up by the folks in STS and the history of technology which suggests that there need to be closer contacts with them. Perhaps a joint international conference at some point.


Di Victor Margolin

Victor Margolin è professore emerito di storia del design presso la University of Illinois di Chicago. Fondatore e membro del comitato di direzione di Design Issue. Ha scritto e pubblicato su diversi temi del design e tenuto conferenze e lezioni in tutto il mondo. Tra i volumi scritti, curati (autonomamente o in collaborazione) The Struggle for Utopia: Rodchenko, Lissitzky, Moholy-Nagy, 1917-1936 (1998), Design Discourse (1989), Discovering Design (1995) e The Idea of Design (1996). I più recenti sono The Politics of the Artificial: Essays on Design and Design Studies (2002) e Culture is Everywhere: The Museum of Corn-temporary Art (2002). È attualmente al lavoro su una storia mondiale del design.