Designing History and the History of Design

Submitting Institution

University of Brighton

Unit of Assessment

Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies
History and Archaeology: Curatorial and Related Studies, Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

History of design research at University of Brighton (UoB) has pioneered new methods of analysis and practices of interpretation to transform understandings of how design is produced, marketed and consumed. Firstly, it has changed the ways in which international organisations representing the design professions regard and value their history. Secondly, it has shaped the study and public appreciation of the history of design worldwide, and it has determined the kind of design that is collected and displayed. Thirdly, UoB has become an international nucleus for training researchers in design history, and thus partner of choice for design organisations and designers seeking expert stewardship and research-led promotion of their archives.

Underpinning research

The 1990s marked the beginning of a period of accelerated engagement for design history at UoB, with researchers stretching its disciplinary boundaries and connecting with a wider range of academic and professional fields, including anthropology and material culture, political and economic history, sociology and museology. Books such as WOODHAM's Twentieth-century design (1997) and TAYLOR's seminal The study of dress history (2002) pioneered the re-definition and representation of disciplinary territories, heralded the material turn, championed the archive, introduced concepts of mapping and design networks internationally and, in so doing, embraced academics, publics, design practitioners, museum curators and policymakers world-wide [references 3.1, 3.2].

WOODHAM's early inquiry into design and the state, and the design profession (1983), led directly to the deposit of the Design Council Archive at (UoB) in 1994, which spurred six refereed articles, a co-edited book, and eleven chapters and catalogue essays, many of which scrutinised the workings and impact of state policy and design promotion. A substantive international perspective was pursued by WOODHAM [3.3.], which he developed further during the REF census period in `Formulating National Design Policies: Recycling the "Emperor's New Clothes"?' [WOODHAM, 2]. This, in turn, stimulated debate in policy circles (Design Issues: 27,1 (2011) — in 2013 it was selected as one of 30 articles to celebrate the first 30 years of Design Issues. At the same time, further research into the British position accompanied the V&A major exhibitions, including Postmodernism (2011) and British Design 1948-2012 (2012): `Mrs Thatcher, Postmodernism and the Politics of Design in Britain' and `Urban Visions: Designing for the Welfare State' (REF output 4) cemented the centrality of these topics for museum-going audiences.

Complementing WOODHAM's objectives, TAYLOR has located her research at the interface of object-based dress history, museum curatorship and material culture, placing clothing and textiles, and related archival documentation, into their specific design, manufacture and consumption context. Provoking knowledge transfer between collection/museum work and the university history/critical theory worlds, this concern formed the basis of the Study of dress history. TAYLOR advised the V&A on the selection of dress for the `International Arts and Crafts' exhibition, contributing a text to the accompanying publication. In 2005, TAYLOR co-curated the exhibition and book Fashion and fancy dress - the Messel dress collection 1870-2004, a major exploration of fashion, memory and collecting. A regular contributor and reviewer for Costume, Fashion Theory and Textile History, TAYLOR's work has been published in France, Sweden, Poland and the USA. Recognition and support by the British Council facilitated the internationalisation of her approach to dress history with partners in Nigeria, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Cyprus.

Complementing the disciplinary redefinitions led by WOODHAM and TAYLOR, significant and distinctive research pursued by PURBRICK (material culture of the everyday), JOBLING (graphic design and masculinities) and MORIARTY (design curation), has further extended the range and reach of history of design at UoB [3.4, 3.5, 3.6]. Their additional focus on the material culture of ordinary things has helped to transform the traditional narratives of design history. This has served to recover and reconstruct histories that extend the boundaries of this field.

Key Researchers:

Paul Jobling: Senior Lecturer (Oct 2000–to date).
Catherine Moriarty: Archivist (Oct 1996–Sept 1999), Curator and Senior Research Fellow (Oct 1999–July 2008), Curator/Principal Research Fellow (July 2008–Oct 2013) Curatorial Director (Oct 2013–to date).
Louise Purbrick: Lecturer (April 1999–Aug 2000), Senior Lecturer (Sept 2000–Dec 2008), Principal Lecturer (Jan 2009–to date).
Lou Taylor: Lecturer (Sept 1978–Aug 1982), Senior Lecturer (Sept 1982–Aug 1987), Principal Lecturer (Sept 1987–July 1994), Professor of Dress and Textile History (Aug 1994–to date).
Jonathan Woodham: Principal Lecturer (Apr 1982–July 1999), Professor of Design History (Aug 1999–to date), Director, Centre for Research and Development – Arts (Aug 2008–to date).

References to the research

[3.1] WOODHAM, J.M. (1997) Twentieth-century design. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Paperback, ISBN 0192842048; Hardback, ISBN 0192842471; Korean edition (2007, 2009) ISBN 97895274801-1; Chinese version with new introductory chapter, Horizon Media Co Ltd: Shanghai Century Publishing (2012) ISBN 97872080444-0. [Quality validation: 1997 edition submitted to RAE2001 - Quality profile for RAE2001: Rated 5].

[3.2] TAYLOR, L. (2002) The study of dress history. Manchester: Manchester University Press. [Quality validation: submitted to RAE2008 - Output quality profile for RAE2008: 81% 2* and above.]

[3.3] WOODHAM, J.M. (2005) Local, national and global: redrawing the design historical map. Journal of Design History. 18 (3), pp.257-267. [Quality validation: refereed journal and submitted to RAE2008 - Output quality profile for RAE2008: 81% 2* and above.]


[3.4] PURBRICK, L. (2007) The wedding present: domestic life beyond consumption. Farnham: Ashgate. [Quality validation: submitted to RAE2008 - Output quality profile for RAE2008: 81% 2* and above.]


[3.5] JOBLING, P. (2005) Man appeal: advertising, men's wear and modernism. Oxford: Berg. [Quality validation: submitted to RAE2008 - Output quality profile for RAE2008: 81% 2* and above.]

[3.6] MORIARTY, C. (2013) Curating popular art: black eyes and lemonade. Exhibition at Whitechapel Art Gallery. [Quality validation: submitted to REF2014, see output 4].

Details of the impact

Research at UoB has changed the way the design profession values and represents its own history: The Design Council, the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) and the International Council of Graphic Design Associations (ICOGRADA) (ICOGRADA and ICSID embrace 352 member organizations in 72 countries in 5 continents) have all chosen UoB for the deposit and research-led promotion of their archives (source 5.1). Amounting to 430 linear metres, 13% of which were deposited since 2008, the Design Archives were considered by leading industry publication Design Week (6 June 2010) to be amongst the five key design research collections in the UK. Standing has also grown through receipt of recurrent external core funding, with the Times Higher Education (10 August 2010) reporting that for `the first time, a university's design archives have been nationally recognised through a grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for England' (5.2). UoB's Design Archives influenced the establishment of the Design Archives at RMIT, Australia, and informed policy in this capacity for the South Korean government (2012), which is in the process of building a national design archive (5.3, 5.4). Continuing Professional Development (CPD) involvement includes presentations for the British Institute of Interior Designers and in 2011 the Design Archives hosted a seminar `Archiving Design Organisations' which included archivists from the V&A, the RSA, D&AD and the Design Museum. Research on mapping design history through a Collaborative Doctoral Award with the Chartered Society of Designers (2010-13) involved the membership in creating a new view of the organisation's past (5.5).

Enabling access to previously hidden resources has widened the sources available to picture, television and museum researchers. Sustaining investment by JISC and others in digital resource development, currently 9,000 images from the Design Archives and 20,000 catalogue records are distributed through aggregators, including the Archives Hub, the Visual Arts Data Service and the Archives Portal Europe. Documentation and new images have featured in the BBC series The British at Work (2011) and in The Genius of Design (2010), and between 2008 and 2013, have featured in 80 separate publications and exhibitions, including those by the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, MoMA, Vitra Design Museum, Helsinki Design Museum and Centre Pompidou.

Research by TAYLOR and WOODHAM has influenced the form and content of design courses around the world: This has contributed significantly to the expansion of design and dress history as fields of study since the 1990s at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, for example, in the embracing of design on art history courses and in the inclusion of dress and the everyday as topics of study. Their work is one of the mainstays of reading lists around the globe. TAYLOR's continuing influence on dress studies is evidenced by her consultancy to the Department of Fashion Studies, University of Sweden in 2010; she was also the keynote presenter of the research series, La Mode: Objets d'Etudes? for the Institut National de l'Histoire d'Art, Paris and invited contributor to the Fashion studies handbook (2013, Oxford: Berg) (5.6). Likewise, WOODHAM's Twentieth-century design was translated into Korean in 2008 and Chinese in 2012; with over 55,000 sales worldwide it continues to inform design, design history and design education studies at all levels, from BTEC to masters degrees. Adopting institutions include Harvard University Graduate School, Parsons, the New School for Design, Sydney University of Technology, Greenside Design Centre College, Johannesburg, the Indian Institute of Information Technology, Mexico City University, Delft University of Technology and the University of Manitoba. WOODHAM's A Dictionary of Modern Design (Oxford University Press (OUP) 2004 hb. and 2006 pb.) is endorsed by the British Library and the V&A, and is licensed to and to Handmark for handheld devices. Part of OUP's online presence for eight years, it reaches 3,000 institutional subscribers worldwide. WOODHAM's role with the International Committee for Design History and Design Studies also testifies to his impact on teachers and students of design history globally. WOODHAM's keynote at the Osaka conference (2008) `Design Peripheries, Hidden Histories and the Cartography of Design' was one of three selected to represent the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design's (ICDHS) aims and ambitions on its website. The 2012 Sao Paolo conference, `Design Frontiers', comprised 154 papers by speakers from 27 countries in 6 continents: WOODHAM's research is referenced 52 times in the published proceedings (5.7). As a professor Emeritus at the Department of Art History, University of Illinois, Chicago asserts: `Professor Woodham has consistently promoted the internationalization of the field, especially the inclusion of countries that would otherwise be considered marginal. He has in fact become one of the few authoritative voices in the international design history community, based on the high quality of his scholarship, his efforts to promote an understanding of design history to the general public, and his championing of inclusion within the ICDHS itself.' (5.8).

The UoB has become an international nucleus for the training of researchers employed in museums and archives throughout the world: TAYLOR and WOODHAM have shaped curatorial practice directly, through their role as curators and consultants, and indirectly through the professional practice of their research students. TAYLOR's graduates include Dr Lesley Miller, Head of Textiles at the V&A, and Dr Alexandra Palmer, the Nora E. Vaughan Curator of Costume at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. The 2011 Developments in Dress History Conference at Brighton Museum marked TAYLOR's influence on an entire generation of curators: 70 speakers from 14 countries and 4 continents attended. Likewise, WOODHAM's research themes now occupy centre stage in museum displays. WOODHAM's expertise was embraced by the Czech Centre in a series of exhibitions and symposia (most recently in 2012), which `exerted a significant impact on the way design is understood by designers, historians and the public inside and outside the Republic, whether in terms of the Czech and Czechoslovakian cultural legacy and the relationship to politics, economics and Europe, or the design opportunities and complexities in the establishment of the Republic in 1993 and membership of the European Union in 2004' (5.9). Devising the British Academy/AHRB Institutional Fellowship at the V&A (1997-present), WOODHAM's research has informed collecting as well as exhibition policy, and UoB's AHRC CDAs at the V&A and the Design Museum continue this trajectory. The embedding of design research in exhibition contexts also drives the work of colleagues, for example, MORIARTY's exhibition Black Eyes and Lemonade was reviewed in the London Review of Books (LRB), the Times Literary Supplement (TLS), and attracted 146,000 visitors, with the Whitechapel recording `fantastic feedback from the general public' (5.10). In Margolin's view, `the professors and archivists at the University of Brighton have built up an impressive complex of resources that embrace teaching, research, and the dissemination of knowledge' (5.8).

Sources to corroborate the impact

5.1 Website of ICOGRADA, pointing out that the UoB `has gained a considerable reputation with regards to archives' and highlighting the role UoB's Design Archives play in the promotion and strategic development of ICOGRADA's archive collection. Available at: [Accessed: 12 November 2013.]

5.2 The Times Higher Education news article, highlighting the HEFCE award given to the UoB's Design Archives. Available at: [Accessed: 10 November 2013.]

5.3 Testimonial available from the Director of the RMIT Design Archive. The testimonial states how the UoB Design Archives was used as a model for the development of the archive at RMIT.

5.4 Report from the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism 디자인아카이브구축을위한 기초 연구 (Research into Creating a Design Archive; Seoul, 2012). This 343-page report commissioned by the Korean government considers 25 design archives and museums in Europe, Asia and North America. Consideration of the UoB Design Archives appears first in the report and occupies pp.48-77. The other UK institutions included are the V&A and the Design Museum. The findings have informed Korean government policy concerning the building of a new national design museum and archive.

5.5 Chartered Society of Designers web announcement of the AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award between the UoB and the Chartered Society of Designers. The webpage details the nature of the project and its importance to the society. Available at: [Accessed: 12 November 2013.]

5.6 Testimonial available from the Research Chair of Fashion at Parsons, the New School for Design, New York. The testimonial highlights the importance of WOODHAM and TAYLOR's research and, in particular, the impact of TAYLOR's publications on the chair's own research and research students more generally.

5.7 Proceedings from the 8th Conference of the International Committee for Design History and Design Studies: Design Frontiers (2012). WOODHAM's research is referenced 52 times in this document. Available at: [Accessed: 5 November 2013.]

5.8 Testimonial available from Professor Emeritus at the Department of Art History, University of Illinois, Chicago. The testimonial highlights the contribution of Professors WOODHAM and TAYLOR to the formation of design history as a field of enquiry, their internationalisation of the discipline, and their inclusion of countries, communities and histories that would have otherwise been considered marginal.

5.9 Testimonial available from the Director of the Czech Design Centre, London. This testimonial emphasises the significance of WOODHAM's symposia and exhibition projects.

5.10 Testimonial available from the Archive Curator at the Whitechapel Art Gallery following the exhibition Black Eyes and Lemonade: Curating Popular Art. The letter highlights the institutional appreciation and public impact of the collaboration with the UoB Design Archives. Supplementary evidence includes a review of the exhibition in the Times Literary Supplement and a review in the London Review of Books.