A conference examining the histories, legacies and values of international design organisations in a post-industrial, post-organisational world.

University of Brighton, Internationalising Design History Research Cluster

Victor J. Papanek Foundation, University of Applied Arts Vienna

Date: 9-10 November 2017

Location: University of Brighton

Deadline for abstracts: 30 January 2017 – Extended to 21rst February 2017


Prof. Jeremy Aynsley, Tania Messell and Dora Souza Dias, Internationalising Design History Research Cluster, University of Brighton.

Dr Leah Armstrong and Prof. Alison J Clarke, Victor J. Papanek Foundation, University of Applied Arts Vienna.


From industrialisation to post-industrialisation, international design organisations have shaped the socio-political, geographical and disciplinary history of design as a force for change in the world. However, the histories, legacies and values of these organisations have largely escaped academic scrutiny. This conference invites scholars from the humanities and social sciences to open out multiple perspectives on international design organisations in shaping agendas, identities and values within design and beyond. It aims to locate these histories in relation to the contemporary post-industrial and post-organisational society in which the design profession currently operates.

Ranging in scale and scope, international design organisations have taken changing forms over time. These range from membership-based organisations such as the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) and the International Council of Graphic Design Associations (ICOGRADA) (now Ico-D) originally formed in the mid twentieth century to represent the professions of design, to other specialist organisations and networks including the National Association of Clothing Designers (NACD) ( now IACDE), formed to promote the design industries to government and business on an international level. This conference seeks to explore the particular dynamics of these membership-based organisations and networks for the design professions. It will interrogate the internationalising agendas of these organisations and critically contextualize their impacts and legacies for contemporary design. The organisers invite authors to identify and explore the changing shape, form and function of international design organisations as an entry point into wider debates about the agency of design within geographical, political, cultural, social and economic contexts.

The following questions inform the background from which this call for papers has emerged:

How can we understand the changing function of the design organisation in relation to social, economic or political transition?

How has the agency of design driven political, economic and cultural goals internationally?

How have design organisations been shaped by colonial and post-colonial agendas?

How have design organisations engaged (or failed to engage) with the changing politics of postcolonial economies?

What are the systems of exclusion within which design organisations have operated and how have these been fixed and organised, spatially and temporally?

How do design organisations exist in the contemporary context of ‘dis-organised’ labour and de-professionalisation?

What is the relationship between material objects and the immaterial formation of bureaucracies?

What insights can the aesthetics and material culture of design organisations lend to understanding their agendas, values and visions?

What is the tension between the individual and the organisation in explaining the history, legacy and value of international design organisations?

What do design organisations share with other forms of international organisations, such as expert networks (INGOs and professional organisations) and international agencies (such as UNESCO)?


Emergent work in the fields of sociology, anthropology, design history and theory, design studies, cultural history, social history, gender studies, business history and social and cultural theory provide a rich context in which to pursue these questions. The organisers invite authors from these and related fields to respond to the following themes (and other suggested topics):


  • International development, including concepts of progress, modernity and growth;
  • The shaping of ideas about design, industrial production and post-colonial economies in the wake of the ‘global turn’.
  • The relationship between international design organisations and national government policies, from the creative industries, design for disability, the environment and sustainability, to open policy making and design thinking;
  • De-professionalisation in design in the invention of new forms of expertise and identities;
  • Issues of public engagement in the performance of design organisations for national and international audiences;
  • The relationship between design organisations, commercial interests and business.


The above aspects of international design organisations are intended to pose a wide variety of perspectives and are by no means exclusive. The organisers also particularly welcome abstracts that might identify previously overlooked organisations or issues.

Papers should be international in scope but are to be given in English. Please send a title, 250- word abstract and 150-word author biography to M.Stuart@brighton.ac.uk before 21rst February 2017.


Please email M.Stuart@brighton.ac.uk if you have any further questions.

We look forward to receiving your submission.

Conference Organisers

Prof. Jeremy Aynsley, Tania Messell and Dora Souza Dias, Internationalising Design History Research Cluster, University of Brighton.

Dr Leah Armstrong and Prof. Alison J Clarke, Victor J. Papanek Foundation, University of Applied Arts Vienna.

This conference is supported by the University of Brighton Internationalising Design History Research Cluster and the Victor J. Papanek Foundation, University of Applied Arts Vienna.