Category Archives: close-up

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Product-Service Design for Immigrants


The paper analyzes the social landscapes that arise from the spontaneous configuration of groups that mingle with each other following the instinct of survival and a state of emergency, which configure no longer linear country borders but fluid ones.
In this context a form of widend multicultural social typology emerges, where the human dignity is founded on acts of solidarity that lead to radical changes.

The paper presents Product-Service Design for Immigrants case a product-services for immigrant populations that ensure the efficiency and widespread access to the healthcare system.
Through innovative strategies that have been able to peruse a new welfare concept based on the user’s active role in order to develop an integrated assistance in which the immigrant citizen becomes part of a healthcare course.
The project, for its development, requires the support of a new generation of services, products and communicative artifacts that play an important role in the Health Care System: prevention, monitoring, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation.
In the healthcare field the use of ICT can be a useful tool to improve accessibility, to share data and information, for the implementation of health services already existing online, and to upgrade the performance of the whole system hence obtaining better results with less resources.
The project has set up a civic space like a platform to enable a dialogue between migrants and local health facilities establishing a digital context to receive, analyze and offer alternative models for assistance.

1. Multicultural breach

New social landscapes arise by spontaneous configuration of groups that mingle in areas easily accessible and affordable, functional nodes on the routes of illegal migration.

These “fall back lands” used to shelter and to organize their lives for emergency purposes, regulated by international agreements, lack in basilar human necessities. The social landscapes that emerge are the mirror of contemporary life: environmental disasters, poverty and war are the leading causes, from which a new way of life is developed, therefore a new social organization.
The “invisible multitudes” recover waste from western society, they draw from it resources to face issues, mitigate the disadvantages and adapt to change.
The new geography comes up with a new Europe seen as a continent with undefined borders, a single, huge city that embraces all the differences, allocated in mingled area.
The geographical mingled space of “Europe City” works today as a device that filters and organizes the movement and passages of migrant populations. This image of the continent that expands embracing new directions leads us to a mediterranized Europe; according to the idea of multicultural landscape as a mind place, by the plural character, such as the descriptions of Fernand Braudel (1998) of the Mediterranean.
In fact, the space of the “Europe Mediterranean City” is willing to embrace human landscapes and traditions, shaped by its various protagonists. The enlargement of the space spreads in peripheral and marginal zones, far and disconnected, revealing the ability to self-organization by spontaneous social groups. It concerns relational rules re-created and re-adapted by people within cultural social differences.
A new business model is outlined, based on the development of human skills, overcoming the capitalist model based on the values of each individual.
According to André Gorz (2004) society must focuses on the individual development, “one of the priorities will be to identify people and groups conveyed values and knowledge necessary for companies and institutions transformation” (p. 21).
The comparison is made between knowledge, value and capital, elements that guide us to understand the huge development of the knowledge economy along time; “knowledge is a practical skill, a know-how that does not necessarily involves delineate knowledge […], nor even the practical knowledge isn’t easily codified and cannot be learnt if not by practice and apprenticeship” (p. 22). This process involves the emancipation of human capital by the capital, according to A. Gorz (2004), an example is represented by the “craftsmen of free software and networks”(p. 22), that as holders of knowledge of high-level technical support, in opposition to the privatization of the access tools to a shared knowledge.
These tools are essential for the individual development in the human evolution from the “workforce” in “independent force” (p. 22): the software allows to generate contents accessible to all that have in usage unique value, bypassing the exchange value.

2. Sharing in emergency case

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) observed that in 2013 there was the most massive migrants movement across the Mediterranean: thirty-two thousand people landed in Italy, coming from Syria and North Africa require better migration managing through the prevention, protection and solidarity coordinated actions.
In this social context design strategies can realize integration between sustainable practices and innovative technologies and methods.
The strategic and services design are the disciplinary traces through which develop collaborative systems and experiment cooperative models, envisioning the managing social innovation demand (Cipolla, 2009).
Thanks new community forms, the individuals involved in process became actors. They identify flexible solutions, personalized and appropriate to their capabilities, testing the results and developing a new form of welfare (Cipolla & Manzini, 2009).
The promotion of a welcoming society, characterized by intercultural dialogue, social mediation and by the right to health, is the precondition of the research project Product-Service Design for Immigrants (PSDFI).
The design approach proposes to experiment new creative processes able to highlight the social issues, identifying opportunities and formulating possible solutions.
The development of solidarity and participation forms is a necessary condition to implement the design thinking methodological approach in new models (Brown, 2009).
According to recommendations of European legislation, in particular, the principles of the European Handbook on Integration (Niessen & Schibel, 2007), PSDFI intends to promote an easy access to welfare facilities for migrant communities and minorities thanks to a product-service system.
The PSDFI project aims to provide health care for immigrants with the creation of a services system that managed, in a platform, the information on the health condition, monitoring assistance forms and remote healthcare.
The main action is to create a multitasking network that is enable to capture and process data, to examine medical records pursuing a connection between public health operators, local actors, NGOs and immigrant populations.
In 2009, the project Mighealtnet, information network on good practice in health care for migrants and minorities in Europe, spread in 16 countries, has pursued a similar goal: to provide a services system for health care of the multicultural European population. Another project about the theme is: Healthy and Wealthy Together, promote by Municipality of Milano, that establish a thematic exchange network of public and private local actors working with or for migrants on the health and poverty issues.
The PSDFI project provides an intangible service for healthcare, associated to a wearable product, organizing the individual’s health information with the managing of clinical data; using RFID it is able to send data directly to the database. The wearable product is connected to the service platform, will be distribute to local reception centers for immigrants.
The site, that offers healthcare expertise, is a place to share and receive the requests and experiences spreading in user’s forum. The medical staff can access clinical data and update them as well as patients can check their portfolio and interact with an online expert 24 h/day.
The project promotes and facilitates the encounter between immigrant populations and families residing in the countries of origin through the online service (an interactive web site) that will provide information on health condition, and will allow to better understand which are the available organizations and resources. Information accessibility is guaranteed by actions of communication and awareness rising, provided in different languages (the partner countries and the countries from where migration to Italy originates).
The challenge is to demonstrate that using product-service design it is possible to ensure the efficiency of the Health System, a more widespread access to it, and to minimize public health costs.

The paper was written by the authors on the basis of mutual agreement and extensive discussions. Are related to the two authors jointly sections:

1. Multicultural breach, this paragraph was written by Maria Antonietta Sbordone.

2. Sharing in emergency case, this paragraph was written by Rosanna Veneziano.


Braudel, F. (1998). Les mémoires de la Méditerranée. Paris: Editions de Fallois.
Brown, T. (2009). Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
Cipolla, C., & Manzini E. (2009). Relational services. Knowledge. Technology & Policy. (pp. 22, 45-50).
Cipolla, C. (2009). Relational services: service design fostering sustainability and new welfare models. In Silva, J., Moura, M., & dos Santos A. (orgs.) Proceedings of the 2nd International Symposium on Sustainable Design (II ISSD) Brazil Network on Sustainable Design – RBDS, São Paulo, Brazil. Disponibile presso
Gorz, A. (2004). Métamorphoses du travail. Critique de la raison économique. Paris: Editions de Fallois.
Niessen, J., & Schibel, Y. (2007). Manuale sull’integrazione per i responsabili delle politiche di integrazione e gli operatori del settore, Commissione europea (direzione generale della Giustizia, della libertà e della sicurezza). Pubblications Europa. Disponibile presso

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The use of faces in Egyptian Graffiti

Psycho-social aspects and change of identity as post-revolutionary phenomenon[1]


After the 2011 Revolution in Egypt it has been easy to observe the intensive use of graffiti spreading with a particular characteristics:  the use of faces in Graffiti. The faces are protesting images. The art styles are many, and the techniques are variable from drawing, painting, decoupage, and stencil. The stencil sprayed around the cities of Egypt form a mass production of graffiti that is done by anyone. This phenomenon has raised through a social and psychological background related to the revolution event, which is referring to a new identity for the Egyptians.

1. The Egyptian Revolution and the “face”-graffiti

After the 2011 Revolution in Egypt it has been easy to observe the use of graffiti spreading out in the core areas of protest to support the people’s dissatisfaction as probably happens in any place of political “unhappiness”. But differently, a massive use of facial designs can be observed (Hyldig, 2013; Assaf S. et al., 2011), which continue the virtual demonstration against the political instability, either by showing martyrs (common persons who died under unlike situations) or common persons supported by keywords or simple representations of a scene (Wikipedia, 2014). [Fig.1, 2]

In the modern age with the spread of electronic media and social networks, the possibilities for common citizens to express their ideas and widespread them by reaching hundreds and thousands of others has changed completely. At the same time these people promote ideas and ideologies, they also promote themselves as persons. An anticipating media for this “self-promotion” is probably the wall graffiti as one of the arts belonging to Mural Paintings.[2]

Many of the interested researches refer this art to the first human civilization thousands of years ago, with similar meanings like expression of ideas and self-promoting by scratching or painting on the walls of caves and rocks. Since then, in all the eras people used graffiti to express themselves and their emotions (Unesco 2014; Gansser, 1995).

Different to other mural paintings, the graffiti moves into what is known by “street art” showing its core aim at the end of the sixties, and glowing with the Youth Revolution in France in 1968 as a tool to criticize the authority, and to self express (Rafferty, 2014; Shanks, 2008; BPS, 2014; Gallagher, 2010).

In a more direct way, it appears in the USA where it expressed the refuse of violence in the communities of dark skin people in the USA through art.[3]

Before the so called “Arab Spring”, there were few graffiti in Egypt, made by stencil and referring to social behaviors. Lately, a main shift happened with the 25th January Revolution in 2011 that attracted political groups and citizens to express their opinions on urban walls. [Fig.4]

The ongoing research of the Helwan University in Cairo, Faculty of Applied Arts, led by Prof. Dr. Reham Mohsen, and conducted by the postgraduate student Hend Yousef, works out the massive use of faces in comparison to graffiti of other places in the world, while defining general features characterizing the Egyptian graffiti. Inside these characterizing elements, an intensive use of faces can be observed which surely left a psychological effect on the population.

There are different ways of writing on walls: some are traditional, others use stencils that are cut out of drawings or elaborated photographs. Using these stencils for the political protest and message, the message rises to a different kind of diffusion and massification, executed not any more only by artists but by anybody. [Fig. 3]

The phenomenon of using portraits of common people of Egypt in the graffiti around the country is showing a sign of change in the structure of identity of Egyptian people, that might be going through a deep change. All started with the accuse of killing an ordinary Egyptian person for no reason during a peaceful demonstration turned outrage the community of youth in the country. They have already been suffering from many other issues by the government including poverty, lack of job opportunities, no health care, and others. The situation has raised worse when the government made order to the hospitals and death departments not to give a certificate for the victim declaring the true reason of death as “killed” but to indicate “suicide” or “car accident” (El-Aref, 2011).

From then the use of portraits of ordinary people who were killed represents a call for the human rights that are totally missed. Furthermore, it relates the whole population to the events, “facing” literally the protested politics and forces which led the country in these last 36 months. The population got an identity, a “face” which communicates and protests silently.

The idea of the ongoing research is also to focus on different ways of communication like facebook and their relation to political protest, as shown through graffiti: it might be a coincidence of the term “face” that there has been the phenomenon of Facebook which led most events of the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, and the large use of faces in the streets as manifest for human rights and as a perspective of a new Egypt.

2. The making of the “face”-graffiti (from an artistic point of view)

The characteristic of the portraits spread in the Egyptian graffiti is mainly about a silhouette, or a simplified form of the portrait in one or two colors, that is derived and edited from photography.  [Fig.1, 3]

This last is easily available because of the wide spread photography on the Facebook representing common people demonstrating: any running activity today is supported by a digital documentation either done by demonstrators themselves or professional photographers by using any kind of professional, semi-professional, and ordinary mobile cameras. All these photographs give a wide range for the graphic artists to choose the photo that fits onto the simple form that can be used to produce “face” graffiti of the person.

The portrait is then cut into a paper or any surface material, resulting into a quick made stencil set. And then, this stencil is used to spray the image on the walls, fences, even cars. The result today is that the walls of Cairo and other big cities in Egypt are full of graffiti that turned after all simple ordinary people into public celebrities. [Fig. 5]

They have become a symbol, each figure of the graffiti portrait is a symbol of felt injustice, a symbol of killing ordinary people, a symbol of all the suffering. They represent the anger, and recall not to forget the dead.

The colors used are primary colors mainly, like black, red, sometimes yellow, blue and grey. The color found less is green, which can easily be related to the meaning of green standing as the color for peace. [Fig. 11, 12]

The elaboration of the shapes of portrait varies more, starting from the simple high contrast of a photograph (used for the stencils) [Fig. 4, 5, 15], going through an illustrated lines and colors of the portrait (used by brush and paints of artists) [Fig. 11, 12], and ending with a painted portrait with more details [fig. 6], or lately, printed paper cut precisely and glued on the wall. [Fig. 13, 14]

3. Who are they?

About the expressions of the faces, we can classify few types:

The first type is the very shocking photograph shot of the face or head of a dead person, that became famous in the media and went then into a graffiti: the most famous is Khaled Saeed, yet killed before the revolution. [Fig. 11]

The second type we find in Egyptian graffiti is the good looking photograph of a killed person that was taken long time before his death. Usually smiling, and perhaps taken from the personal Facebook profile picture, it stands for the memory of the dead person and for initiating an inner blame to every observer, like in the case of Emad Effat [fig. 9, 10]. This kind of graffiti was mainly used by the football groups “Ultras” sprayed on larger scales in one color without any text around. [Fig. 3]

A third type can be seen in the caricatured faces which represent mainly political figures like the former president Mubarak and the former defence minister Tantawy, together in a famous graffiti painting putting both figures in one face, each one of them is one half. It simply represents the semantic way of “two sides of the same coin”. [Fig. 7, 8]

The spread of the face graffiti turned into a phenomenon, artistic and social. In addition, the use of the stencil to produce portrait graffiti turns the graffiti into a mass production process. The artist role can end up with the graphic effect edited from the photograph to form a simplified portrait. Then any one can pick up the thread of the process by printing the portrait, cutting the stencil, and spraying around. In the end hundreds and thousands of copies of a portrait turn an ordinary person into a public figure. Definitely, this is raising the story of this person and how he or she was killed into the mind of the people, up to bringing the portrait graffiti into a symbol. Now Egypt has famous names of ordinary people Emad Effat, Mina Daniel, and Jika, or Khaled Saeed (Bradley, 2010), and Saied Belal. Also these persons are famous by having paid with their life the wish of a different Egypt, getting killed while standing for their rights in a clearly witnessed peaceful way.

Right after February 2011, the photographs of the killed young people in the first revolution were used as stickers in the streets, on cars, or anywhere else. By evolving of the political situation, the production of these stickers were not anymore allowed, so that the face graffiti by stencil was the fastest and easiest way to produce these temporal memorials.

4. The situation today

Through the last three years the use of faces in graffiti experienced changes in many directions. While originally used for memorizing, in the year 2012 some portraits of famous political characters were spread, mainly at the time of voting to elections. In the last year 2013 portraits with no features started to appear: a face with no eyes, no lips, no nose [Fig. 13]. And some other figures represented in shrouds “white winding-sheet” used to prepare dead people for coffins, but in these shrouds we can find accompanying angel wings on the sides, and furthermore, the faces had nor details either they have been removed.

Later in 2013 a new symbol showed up after the 30 June revolution. This sign is a symbol for a massive human slaughter in the area of “Rabaa” in Cairo. The sign, black on yellow ground, is a simply hand with four erected fingers and the fifth finger turned in, symbolizing the number four, as the same name of the location “Rabaa” means: “forth”.

Showing single faces in order to represent the events has now no effect anymore by the number of killed persons. Therefore a collective sign has risen to conclude the whole tragedy of the events. While faces still stand for their anonymous protest, the sign of Rabaa is now forbidden!

Perhaps limited to the time after the Revolution of 2011, the face graffiti has signed a new way of protesting and communicating the anger of a whole population. Indeed, every day the graffiti in Egypt is showing a new creative style or idea, finding new ways of expressions, as the protests are still going on.


Assaf S. et al. (2011). The Road to Tahrir: Front Line Images by Six Young Egyptian Photographers. Cairo: AUC Press. pp. 8-9, 115.

Bradley, M. (June 14, 2010). Anger of the streets of Cairo. The National. Available on: [March 2014].

Bureau of Public Secret (BPS). (2014). Graffiti de Mai 1968. Available on: [January 2014].

El-Aref, N. (2011). The death of innocence. Available on: [January 2014].

Gallagher, R. (2010). A Situation for Revolt: A Study of the Situationist International’s Influence on French Students During the Revolt of 1968. Thesis for History, University of Albany. Available on:

Gansser, A. (1995). Hands: Prehistoric Visiting cards? Vlg. Dr. C. Müller-Straten. pp. 8.

Gröndahl, M. (2013). Revolution Graffiti: Street Art of the New Egypt. American University Cairo Press.

Hyldig Dal, M. (edited by). (2013). Cairo: Images of transition: Perspectives on Visuality in Egypt, 2011-2013. Bielefeld (Germany): Transcript-Verlag. pp. 265-274.

Mohsen, R. (2007). Process of Visual Perception and Cognition in the Human Mind and its Reflection on 2D Design. Paper Presentation during Conference Design Hot Topics of the Third Millennium, Human Factors in Design. Cairo (Egypt): Helwan University.

Rafferty, P. (2014). The Street Art/Graffiti of Youth: Questioning “the Normalizing Influence of Tradition. Department of Elementary Education – University of Alberta. pp. 3. Available on: [January 2014].

Shanks, M. (2008). Drive the cop out of your head. Available in: [January 2014].

Sicklinger, A. (2013). Notes on Optical Illusions around Tahrir: The no Walls Project. In Mikala Hyldig Dal (edited by), Cairo – Perspectives on Visuality in Egypt 2011 – 2013 (pp. 240-243). Columbia University Press.

Unesco. (2014). Cave of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain. Available on: [January 15, 2014]

Wikipedia (2014). Egyptian Arts post 2011 Revolution. Available on: [January 15, 2014].

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Extracted, re-edited and completed from the plan of the thesis by Hend Yousif, led by the team of supervisors; Dr.Reham Mohsen,  Dr.Akmal Abdelrahman. Faculty Applied Arts, Helwan University, Prof.Andreas Sicklinger, German University in Cairo.
  2. Video document: [March 28, 2014].
  3. See for example the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat, in

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Diseño activista en España. Una breve historia contemporánea


The political culture of the majority of the Spanish people during Franco’s era was marked by distrust and indifference. At the end of the 1960’s, however, interest on political matters grew thanks, to a great extent, to an increasing discontent with the regime and greater support for democracy by the people. The change in attitudes continued being observed during the years of the Transition. After this stage, Spaniards fell in a phase of disenchantment. By 1982, with the arrival of the Socialists to power, there were some signs of recovery. However, over the decade and during the 1990s was the growing mistrust and sense of political impotence that, at present, are one of the main features of Spanish political culture. Against this background, during the 1990s has been a growing social and political activism outside the legally recognized parties, which has been strongly linked with a broad spectrum of artistic and design practices.

The full paper is available in Spanish

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Design and new trends in temporary living for emergencies and nomadism


There is a long tradition of research, projects and experiments regarding the issue of temporary living. It is a very fertile field of reflection because it represents the intersection of practical needs with the aspiration, sometimes utopian, toward an extreme simplicity in living and an innate desire for freedom and exploration. Here, we will draw a quick historical overview exemplified by four design stories that are indicative of certain strategic and typological research lines, and then, we will present an updated overview of trends in contemporary design and production.

1. The Mediterranean area and forms of precariousness: the temporary dwelling

The Mediterranean area is a fragile and geologically unstable region due to its environmental, social and political ecosystems. It is a fluid territory in which the mobility of its people and cultures has become a part of its identity over the course of time; factors such as transience, mobility, insecurity, migration and nomadism are always present there, despite their opposition to the prevalent cultural model of permanence and long-lasting habitation. It is a vulnerable area in which the progressive inattention to environmental protection and proper management of the landscape has amplified the effects of natural disasters, and more and more, has transformed events during disasters.

In addition to these factors, we also should consider social problems related to fluctuations in the economy and politics that fuel migration and poverty.

In this context, an emergency can refer to many things: the need to respond quickly to sudden and unexpected cataclysms; the constant presence of social situations that are sometimes chronic and now increasing in size and number; and the hospitality management of large concentrations of people in a specific time and place (as in the case of major events).

The theme of the emergency is connected to the dwelling by a dialectic comparison of the sense of the precarious with the desire for stability, the insecurity of the situation with the security related to the concept of home, the relationship between the permanent and the temporary and between the fixed and the mobile.

This is an important topic in design culture, which is based on experimentation in military field and has expanded throughout the twentieth century through the research and solutions of distinguished interpreters: Le Corbusier’s early studies in Maison Voisin (1920) and in the Logis Provisoires Transitoires during the post-war period (1944), the Dymaxion Deployment Unit by Buckminster Fuller (1940), the Emergency Mobile Housing by P. Jeanneret and J. Prouvé (1945) and the Mobile Housing Unit by M. Zanuso and R. Sapper and the Mobile House by A. Rosselli and I. Hosoe, which are presented in the exhibition, Italy: The New Domestic Landscape at MOMA, New York (Ambasz, 1972; Mango & Guida, 1988; Firrone, 2007).

Alongside many proposals that have been stimulated by real and often urgent needs, an ideological strand has led to the development of new models of mobile dwelling that culminated in the eradication of the static concept of the city form in the futurist Walking City by Archigram in 1964; it is a design aspiration that is aimed at lightness and fluidity in living, which has produced many visions and proposals (Ambasz, 1972; Schwartz-Clauss, 2002), that have anticipated the current changes in social life and are only now being viewed with interest by the world of production.

2. Case studies: a comparison of four experiences 

We will now return to real life situations, though not solely emergencies. They have stimulated many research studies and projects regarding the topic of temporary or mobile dwellings, which we will now discuss. Each of these design stories can be taken as emblematic of the different types of construction (prefabricated modules, tents, containers, modular systems, etc.) or sustainability approaches in the social and natural environment.

Paris, 1954. An exceptionally harsh winter drove the Abbe Pierre to promote a fundraiser for the construction of emergency housing for the homeless. The project was then entrusted to Jean Prouvé, who designed the Maison des Jours Meilleurs (Better Days House). An expert in precast construction, Prouvè tackled the problem from a technical and logistical point of view, but also devoted great care to the qualitative configuration of the inhabitable space, arousing comment from Le Corbusier, who called it “the perfect object to live, the most brilliant thing ever built”(1956). The house, which could be assembled in seven hours by a few men with simple equipment, was 57 square meters and included two bedrooms and a large living room in addition to the core technical and structural steel for the toilet facilities and for the kitchen. From the constructive point of view, it was constituted of a steel frame on a concrete base, with wooden sandwich prefabricated panels that include openings and fixtures as well as cover panels in wood and aluminium sheet that jutted out to form the entrance porch.

This system’s components, which are easily storable, transportable and mountable, combined certain basic requirements – lightweight, low cost, durability of materials and comfort – but, it was too innovative for its time and it did not result in the mass production that was anticipated. It represented, however, a model and a reference point for subsequent experiments in the field of lightweight precast. Recently, an original version of the Maison des Jours Meilleurs was restored and was exhibited in the Paris gallery of Patrick Seguin in 2012 and during the Design Miami Basel in 2013.[1]

Valley of Muna (Mecca), 1975. Every year, during the pilgrimage to Mecca, it is necessary to erect temporary shelters in a wide area covering approximately 25 kilometres for an extremely large concentration of pilgrims who arrive from all over the world (about 2-3 million). Since 1975, the architect Frei Otto, together with the Research Centre of the University of King Abdul Aziz in Jeddah, has been engaged in numerous studies aimed not only at streamlining the logic of the settlement by integrating it with facilities and equipment for collective services, but also aimed at providing temporary housing made of lightweight structures that can be assembled and disassembled quickly. In particular, Frei Otto has designed an innovative solution consisting of a multi-story tent that can be installed with ease and less environmental impact on the hillsides of the valley and that provides internal conditions with enhanced habitability and ventilation. The tents, which have a square base with sides measuring 4 meters, can have up to three levels. The structure is self-supporting, with a frame made of aluminium profiles and wooden panels for the planking level; the casing is based on the traditional spire roof, which is made of a single sheet of fabric, while other fabrics enclose the perimeter, so that the overlapping flaps ensure protection from the sun, but also provide ventilation and a view. The ground anchor consists of holes drilled straight into the rock, where the structure of the tent is secured with simple joints once it is calibrated at a horizontal level (Guida, 1992). It is a simple system, which rationalises the use of space and has minimal environmental impact.

Irpinia earthquake, 1980. In the long list of earthquakes that have taken place in Italy, from the event in Messina in 1908 to the quake in the Emilia Romagna region in 2012, the Irpinia earthquake is particularly significant. This is not only the result of the vastness of the area affected and the high number of displaced persons, but also the effect it has generated in terms of planning and subsequent research; this is in contrast to the formerly inadequate response of the Civil Defence and the resulting lengthy periods of reconstruction, which have led to extended stays, sometimes for years, in housing units – mostly containers – that were supposed to be temporary.

In particular, it is worth noting that the research carried out by the Course of Design in the Faculty of Architecture in Naples (prof. R. Mango and E. Guida), which was conducted from 1981 to 1987, through an agreement with the Commissioner Extraordinary Government for Reconstruction, has resulted in the implementation of a prototype of a housing module (Cecere, Guida & Mango, 1984; Mango & Guida, 1988; Guida, 1992).[2]

The innovative approach of the solution, which started with an observation of the critical issues in the management of the Irpinia emergency, was mainly due to its establishment as a system, rather than as individual units; in other words, it is made up of a set of technical modular elements that are configured as a continuous cover under which it is possible to situate multiple units. This approach allows the storage of the components in a much contracted form, easier transportation and a greater adaptability to each individual context and to the different compositions of households during the assembly phase. In addition, it allows flexibility in time and the possibility that they can be regenerated for future use. An additional aspect concerns the quality of living that, despite the reduction in space, is expressed in the study of possible configurations, in the relationship between interior and exterior spaces, between private and public spaces and in the definition of the home space. It is a technical solution that does not forget the real dynamics of everyday use and is careful to ensure living conditions that respect the dignity of people who have already been hit hard.[3]

Civil war in Rwanda, 1994. To accommodate more than 2 million refugees, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provided a supply of tents that were made of an aluminium structure and PVC sheets; however, they were soon dismantled by the refugees themselves, who sold the aluminium poles and replaced them with branches of trees that were cut on site. This was a procedure that aggravated the already critical level of deforestation. To resolve this problem, the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban designed an emergency shelter structure using paper tubes that were first tested for durability, cost and resistance to termites. The solution was effective because of the easy production of the paper tubes and the small size of the machinery used to produce them. This made it possible to establish their production on site, and in turn, reduced the transportation costs. In 1998, fifty such emergency shelters were built in Rwanda and they were monitored to assess their performance (McQuaid, 2003; King, 2001). Following this experience and a previous one following the Kobe earthquake in 1995, Shigeru Ban has applied the use of cardboard as a structural material in other emergency contexts. He has refined and adapted a system used in Japan, the Paper Log House (emergency housing of 18 square meters with load-bearing walls in cardboard tubes), to different environmental and cultural contexts, including Turkey (2000) and India (2011). A first aid system consisting of tents with a tubular cardboard structure was used again following the Haiti earthquake in 2010.[4]

These four stories document the variety and complexity of emergencies to which we can respond, from time to time, with the most typologically appropriate solutions and with an emphasis on strategic issues, timing, environmental balance, large numbers, duration, quality of life, and so on. The entire repertoire of projects is certainly much broader and you may refer to the specific literature on the subject for further study.

The selection of these examples also wants to highlight some major research themes for the Mediterranean area: the attention to the social critical issues in the big cities with the first experiments on lightweight precast by Jean Prouvé; the large-scale migrations and the study of flexible and reversible systems by Frei Otto; the awareness of the geomorphological instability and the idea of a technical ready-for-use kit, with an attention to the values of living under transient conditions, in the research of R. Mango and E. Guida;  the studies of new materials and forms of self-production to respond to natural emergencies in a sustainable way with the experiments in the use of cardboard by Shigeru Ban.

3. The contemporary research on temporary dwelling: from emergency to new trends.

Here, we would like to outline an updated picture of the contemporary lines of research in three areas: emergency disaster, social emergencies and new trends in mobile living.

Regarding the first area, we will describe the Refugee Housing Unit project, which was born from a partnership between the IKEA Foundation and the UNHCR. The Swedish company has been able to provide this project with its expertise in the optimisation of costs and its operations in packaging, shipping and installation by transferring them from the area of furnishings to that of an emergency house consisting of 18 square meters.

The modules are now being tested in a refugee camp in Ethiopia; they are the result of co-design activities involving universities in Sweden, Switzerland and Germany. They are designed to replace the tent systems that are predominantly used in these situations and to ensure better climate protection and greater durability (three years compared to an average of six months for tents).

The modules are structurally composed of an easy-mountable system of metal and lightweight panels composed of a particular polymeric material called Rhulite, which is resistant and insulating and is capable of filtering the sunlight inside, but not projecting internal shadows to the outside at night. On the panels that make up the roof, there is a special fabric cover that reflects heat during the day and returns it at night; the sheets are also equipped with solar panels that provide lighting and electricity inside. All the elements necessary for the construction of a module are contained in its packaging plans, which include, according to the Ikea philosophy, everything needed for its installation, which requires half a day. The experiment, which began with 13 units that were installed in August 2013, is designed to verify their technical performance and the response to them in terms of housing and comfort during use to aid in the development of a final version.[5]

Other interesting research that is currently in progress and still at an experimental stage concerns the on-site production of clay housing by large 3D printers. The Wasp, the World’s Advanced Saving Project, which is an experiment being conducted by the research centre of an Italian company together with ISIA design students, has led the innovative world of producers to deal with housing issues in the poorest areas of the world.[6]

There are numerous project proposals that address the issue of social emergencies in light of the increasing number of indigent and homeless people.

Among these, the project Pro.tetto by Andrea Paroli (2012) is particularly interesting because it is exactly halfway between the design of a sleeping bag and a tent. Developed as a thesis in Product Design at the University of Rome La Sapienza and reported in ADI Design Index 2013 – Targa Giovani[7], it is designed as a disposable kit to be provided by mobile units to offer shelter from the cold on the most critical nights to all those who refuse to take refuge in specific centres. The kit, which is much reduced in size and weight (only 270 gr.), is contained in a little bag; it makes an emergency shelter composed of an inflatable insulating material (metallic PET), a mattress and a pump.

Similar in its compactness and portability, but intended to be personal reusable equipment, is the project Less Homeless, which was designed by the Portuguese architects Filipe Magalhães and Ana Luisa Soares, who were awarded a special mention in a contest in Lisbon in February 2013. Inspired by the Ikea concept, it is a very compact mounting kit that allows a shelter to be erected for the night in only a few minutes and then to be dismantled in the morning. The shape was deliberately designed to be an icon of a house as a means of visually signalling and denouncing the growing number of homeless people.[8]

More poetic and utopian, and striking for its extreme lightness, simplicity and “pocketability”, is the project Basic House by the Basque designer Martin Azúa; it is a cubic enclosure of metallic polyester that is inflated with air by the heat of the sun or by the human body, and which then deflates slowly, providing protection against heat and cold (Richardson, 2001). It is a minimalist house, designed for a nomadic lifestyle without material ties; but, it is also a way to expose the futility of so many things around us and to return to the basic concept of home as a protective shelter that is available anywhere and at any time. Basic House has been a part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York since 2007 and it introduces us to the third issue that, following the ideological trends of the avant-garde of the twentieth century, has revealed a renewed dimension of the nomadic life as a contemporary lifestyle.[9]

There are many projects that could be reported in this field. Among them is Diogene, a mini accommodation designed by Renzo Piano for Vitra: It is only six square meters and costs 20,000 euros. It features very sophisticated materials, technology and energy performance, and in addition, it is mobile and has completely self-sufficient systems for harvesting rainwater and for the utilisation of solar energy. It is a complex product designed for industrial mass production. Revealed on the Vitra Campus in June 2013, Diogene is not intended to be an emergency shelter, but rather, a voluntary choice for shelter: It is a housing solution reduced to the essentials that is inspired by the barrel used by the ancient philosopher from whom it takes its name and that operates in total autonomy, independently of its environment (Adam, 2013).

Two similar projects are also worth mentioning. The Smart Student Unit, designed by Swedish architects of the studio Tengom (2013), is made totally of wood, consists of 10 square meters and is partially a loft.[10]A few years earlier, and already in production, the Micro House M-ch was designed by a team of researchers and designers in London along with the Technical University of Monaco as a response to a growing demand for short-stay accommodation for students, business people, spectators of sports events and those enjoying weekend visits. M-ch was developed by a research university in 2001 and, inspired by a Japanese tea house, it is a cube of 2.66 meters per side that covers an area of about seven square meters with a folding top that allows its height to be extended. The module, similar to the previous cases, it is supplied fully furnished. In 2005, thanks to the sponsorship of a telecommunications company, six units were set up on the first university campus. Currently, M-ch is on the market at a cost of € 38,000.[11]

Solutions like these, which are even larger in size, but still easily transportable on wheels, already assembled and able to accommodate more people, are now very widespread; this reflects a real interest in the market and a cultural change in the idea of living. For example, consider the Portable Home ÁPH80 by the Spanish design studio Abaton, which is 27 square meters (in 2013, the cost is 32,000 Euros)[12], the mobile unit building Su-Si (42 square meters, which allows more complex configurations and spacious rooms when combined with other modules and was the winner of the IF Design Award 2000 in Hannover) and a more compact version called Fred[13](formed by two cubes of about 3 meters per side, one inside the other, that, in the installation phase, expand to form a living space of 16 square meters), both of which were designed by the Viennese architect J. Kaufmann between 1999 and 2000.

These proposals reflect the trends of new forms of tourism and dwellings that are more in touch with nature, but that are also in touch with practical temporary needs for accommodations for study or work. They are examples of useful and good quality experimental productions that we hope will inspire new basic solutions that can be applied in cases involving social and environmental emergencies.

4. Conclusions 

From this synthetic review of the contemporary design research, a complex framework emerges in the relationship between emergency situations and design approaches. We will try to summarize by highlighting the most interesting lines of experimentation for the Mediterranean area:

– The emergency solutions in case of disaster, in order to optimize the problems related to storage, transportation and manufacturing, are strategically oriented in two different directions: the study of durable lightweight modular elements, easy to carry and assemble, where the processes of prefabrication are closer to the world of furniture than to the building (the Refugees Housing Unit by Ikea and the concept of the “assembly kit”); or experimenting new ways of self-production of autochthonous forms with poor materials but with technologically advanced systems (like the 3D clay moulding), in line with the pilot project launched by Shigeru Ban with the cardboard tube.

– The solutions for social emergencies emphasize the idea of the minimum shelter as an extension of the body, as a basic protection or a provocative ideological manifesto of an essential dimension of dwelling. It focuses on the object scale, on his immediacy and his temporary use, to reiterate the need of addressing social emergencies to other scales (architecture and urban policy) and to other levels (social and economic policies).

– Finally, the new forms of social aggregation and the current needs of mobility and transience for job or leisure feed the mass production of micro-mobile homes, with an eco-friendly and energy efficient approach. A new reflection on the existenzminimum, supported by a growing market, which could affect the concept of urban development and the relationship between natural and built environments.


Adam, H. (2013). Diogene. A cabin designed by Renzo Piano and RPBW for Vitra, in Vitra Magazine,, [12 giugno 2013].

Ambasz, E. (a cura di). (1972). Italy: The New Domestic Landscape. New York: The Museum of Modern Art.

Cecere, T., Guida, E., & Mango, R. (1984). L’abitabilità transitoria: la ricerca architettonica per nuove strategie abitative. Napoli: F.lli Fiorentino.

Firrone, T. (2007). Sistemi abitativi di permanenza temporanea. Roma: Aracne.

Gentile, S. (1992), “Il Concorso Fantoni, nuove utilizzazioni del pannello MDF” in Guida, E. (a cura di). Sistemi abitativi di soccorso. Ricerche, esperienze didattiche (pp.23-24). Napoli: Officine Grafiche F. Giannini e Figli.

Guida, E. (a cura di). (1992). Sistemi abitativi di soccorso. Ricerche, esperienze didattiche. Napoli: Officine Grafiche F. Giannini e Figli.

King, L. (2001). Shigeru Ban. London: Princeton Architectural Press.

Mango, R., & Guida, E. (1988). Abitare l’emergenza. Studi e sperimentazioni progettuali. Napoli: Electa Napoli.

McQuaid, M. (2003). Shigeru Ban, New York: Phaidon.

Parente M. (1992), “La risposta al concorso. L’esperienza didattica” in Guida, E. (a cura di). Sistemi abitativi di soccorso. Ricerche, esperienze didattiche (pp.25-48). Napoli: Officine Grafiche F. Giannini e Figli.

Paroli, A. (2012). Protetto. Riparo per l’emergenza freddo, Tesi di Laurea Specialistica in Design del Prodotto, Facoltà di Architettura, Università degli Studi La Sapienza a.a. 2011-12, relatore prof. F. Dal Falco, correlatore arch. M. Ziliani. Disponibile anche in: [30 dicembre 2013].

Richardson, P. (2001). XS: Big Ideas, Small Buildings. London: Thames & Hudson.

Schwartz-Clauss, M. (a cura di). (2002). Living in Motion. Design and architecture for flexible dwelling. Weil am Rhein: Vitra Design Museum.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. More information is available at See the video explaining the house restoration at [January 10, 2014]. 
  2. The research, with the collaboration of students and undergraduates in the Course of Design, has continued in the following years through other educational experiments coordinated by prof. E. Guida, including solutions presented in a competition sponsored by Fantoni Furniture Group (1989). These designs, which were awarded with a special mention, involve the innovative use of MDF for modular temporary housing systems that are easy to transport and assemble. (Gentile, 1992; Parente, 1992). 
  3. In 1984, the IRI group Italstat realised the SAPI project – Space Housing Primary Care – designed by Pierluigi Spadolini; it was based on an evolution of the concept of the container into extensible modules that can be combined with each other to allow different configurations. The 200 units that were produced remained unused for years and required a large area for storage. They were donated by the Italian government for the emergency created by Armenia earthquake of 1989, which led to the creation of the still existing Village Italy. (Firrone, 2007, pp. 116-119). 
  4. See more disaster relief projects at [January 8, 2014]. 
  5. See the video explaining the project at [December 11, 2013]. 
  6. Cf. and see the video at [December 28, 2013]. 
  7. Cf. [December 2, 2013]. 
  8. Cf. [January 10, 2014]. 
  9. Further information is available at [January 10, 2014]. 
  10. Cf. [December 9, 2013]. 
  11. Cf. [January 18, 2014]. 
  12. Cf. [January 20, 2014].
  13. The Fred project has been exhibited in the travelling exhibition, Living in Motion (2002-2007), in the “Folding +Unfolding” section, and has been published in the magazine DETAIL n.03/2001 as well as in its catalogue. 

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Social Design for the Mediterranean


The article is based on researches within the editorial activities at PAD Journal from 2008 to present, and deals with the organization of the Mediterranean Design contest in 2009 and 2010. The text presents a selection of projects developed in different contexts in the last years and focused on the social and political problems of the Mediterranean area. These projects offer some possible answers to the emerging problems and to emergency by exploiting opportunities tied with social communities and territorial resources.

Design practices have been carried out by several design operators: from magazines designers, who operate culturally and critically in the geopolitical field, to designers who, in case of exhibitions or competitions, present some ideas who are freed from any industrial requests; from university research centers to groups of independent activists who are in partnership with associations and social communities. These projects range from architecture to product and visual design, by adopting several approaches to the project. All projects show an awareness of the real problems of the Mediterranean in the different contexts and set the social needs as the priority of the project.
The reading of the design practices acquires relevance in a perspective finalized to promote social innovation and economic development through “social design”.

1. Premise
The issues at the base of the structural crisis which has been affecting the Mediterranean area for centuries are numerous, and the issues to be faced in the context of the world economic crisis are very complex.

In many countries, both in the North and South coast of the Mediterranean (obviously with proper differences), the lack of any protection and support to life, welfare, labour and culture, give life to a structural uncertainty in everyday life, thus worsening political and social conflicts.

The strong economic inequality, social injustice and the inadequate access to basic services (education, health care, water, etc) in some area of the South coast of the Mediterranean, are today, like in the past, main causes of the emigration of millions of people searching for better life conditions.

In the last years, clandestine immigration has been increasing. This is illegally organised by criminal groups: slave-drivers who run modern traffic of human beings, as in the case of the so-called scafisti, the pilots who drive the boats, who gather plenty of people on totally unsafe boats leaving from the North coasts of Africa to get to the Countries of the North coast of the Mediterranean. Clandestine immigration has been the cause of death in the Mediterranean for years, and has stressed the reception system and the social devaluation of the most involved countries, such as Italy. The ever growing number of landings makes granting adequate assistance and first aid very hard.

The data of Caritas Italia on emigration related to 2008 show a foreign presence in the countries of the Mediterranean that is distributed as follows: Spain (5,3 mln), France (3,7 mln), Italy (4 mln), Greece (nine hundred thousand), Malta (fifteen thousand). In the North side of the Mediterranean there is a concentration of the so-called economic migrants, i.e. the ones who leave their home country looking for a job and for better economic conditions. In the South and East side there is a main concentration of immigrants seeking asylum and refugees. The countries of this side are, in most cases, also emigration countries with about 12,7 million expatriates, of whom 8,2 million (64,7%) resident in the European Union, 2,7 million in the Arabian countries (21,4%) and 1,7 million in other parts of the world (13,7%). Moreover, statistics record a growth in the trend of the migrants from this area towards countries in the North of the Mediterranean, ranging from 5 to 10% per year. Even though the number of migrants is globally decreasing, in this area of the planet the phenomenon is exactly the opposite. The two reasons for such a phenomenon are the crisis in Iraq and Sudan (Darfur), as well as the steady increase of the number of Palestinian refugees reported by the UNRWA.
According to the observatory Fortress Europe, from 1988 to 2007 the immigrants drowned while crossing the Mediterranean are at least 8.165 people. Half of the bodies have never been rescued. In the Channel of Sicily between Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Malta and Italy, there have been 2.487 victims, of whom 1.529 missing. 70 are the drowned while sailing from Algeria towards Sardinia. Along the routes from Morocco, Algeria, West Sahara, Mauritania and Senegal towards Spain, heading for the Canary Islands or crossing the Straits of Gibraltar, there have been at least 4.030 victims, of which 1.980 are missing. In the Aegean, instead, between Turkey and Greece, 885 immigrants have died, of whom 461 are missing. Finally, in the Adriatic Sea, between Albania, Montenegro and Italy, 553 people have died in the last years, of which 250 are missing. The Mediterranean proves to be the place for flows of immigrants that cross it on board of makeshift dinghies, ferries and vessels, on board of which they usually travel inside the holds or in containers.

Clandestine arrived in the destination countries will be faced with new sorts of issues. There are a lot of difficulties in entering the official labour market. They often become victims of the criminal organisations or are barely able to live a decent life.
How can design and its competences give a contribution to concretely solve issues such as the ones that afflict the Mediterranean?
In order to answer, we will investigate some examples of design that have been lately proposed in the Mediterranean.

2. Imagining bridges uniting different worlds
In the current complicated Mediterranean reality, an approach of “critical design” leads to questions that are both social and politically relevant, follow to address the complex needs of communities.

This approach belongs to the meta-projectual practices, i.e. during the phase of problem and opportunities analysis leading to the construction of reference sceneries for the project process. This phase does not always lead to the generation of punctual and precise solutions, though it allows to develop the debate on possible solutions or hypothesis to be experimented. By preceding the development of the solutions, critical design stimulates the thought of the designers, leading to the comparison between different points of view, different actors and bearers of interests and it makes the meaning of the operated project emerge.
This was the aim of the Project Heracles (J. Grima, 2011), promoted by Domus magazine, that, by invading the geopolitical sphere, stated “the need to rethink the relationships between Africa and Europe, starting from all those infrastructures that could lead, though symbolically, to dialogue and not to separation”. The project has worked as a provoking instrument to invite to a reflection involving social, philosophical and political disciplines within the project.
In May 2011, in the heat of the Arab Springs, the international magazine Domus edited by Joseph Grima, launches a call for ideas named Project Heracles. A Euro-African bridge.
The project originated from the epistolary swap between two European philosophers (both from Belgium), the activist Lieven De Cauter and Dieter Lesage (2002), that imagined a bridge linking Gibraltar and Ceuta, the two edges where Europe and Africa are the closest. The bridge would have represented a concept answer to the walls of Ceuta and Melilla, the two Spanish territories in Africa, built with the support of the European Community, symbolising the division between North and South. A bridge could have given a more suitable reply to the numerous detention/refugees camps for the illegal immigrants arriving from the South coast countries in the North Coast, thus putting an end to a story full of ecological, social and humanitarian disasters
Joseph Grima wrote in the editorial of Domus n. 949: “the idea of physically linking the European and the African continents… is not new and, for nearly one century, the commitment in the project has been fluctuating as a rag hanging to the rough wind of the European politics […] the issues of the African continent have poured (also physically) on the European conscience. If the situation is so critical that even the sea represents an obstacle, shall we completely abandon the concept of euro-fortification to build a bridge?”. This question was followed by an invitation to designers to send some design concepts for a Euro-African bridge to be printed on postcards.
At the same time Joseph Grima published an open letter to the President of the Council of Europe Herman Van Rompuy, in which he notes the possibility of Europe’s gaining much from Africa’s innovation and experimentations (Grima, 2011, 8).
At a later stage, thanks to the invitation of some European Members of Parliament, Domus managed to realise the exhibition “Project Heracles. 200 postcards from the Straits”at the European Parliament, showing the postcards received illustrating the projects in order to spread the initiative properly.
The Gopher Hole Gallery in London and Domus invited a number of distinguished thinkers, writers and curators to examine the postcards and make a selection of the most provocative and creative designs. Philosophers Lieven De Cauter and Dieter Lesage, architectural academic and author Eyal Weizman, curator of the Marakesh Biennale and director of Program, Carson Chan, director of Architecture for Humanity, Cameron Sinclair, futurist and author Bruce Sterling, writer Geoff Manaugh and The Gopher Hole team made a short list of six postcards which were to be displayed in the exhibition space.
Each postcard exposed presented an imaginary answer to the question. The drawings and pictures were accompanied by ideas to reflect upon the concepts of border and communion. Suspended bridges, floating cities, airships and cable cars marked a linking route between the two borders of Ceuta and Gibraltar. Amongst the many themes there were refugee camps, monorails, currency, playgrounds and artificial islands and a big floating city of the Mediterranean.
The project of the artist Francis Alÿs, entitled Don’t cross the bridge before you get to the river depicts a line of children leaving Africa towards Europe, while a second line goes away from Spain and moves towards Morocco. The two lines will meet at the horizon. [1]
Andrea Costa and Debora Sanguineti’s proposal transforms the “Square of the 200 columns” of the residential compound Climat de France in Algeri into an inhabited bridge, thus referring to the notion of Mediterranean City by Giancarlo De Carlo. [2]
The concepts reveal an imaginary universe that is able to overcome all cultural, economical and social barriers separating the two continents. And they showed that the Mediterranean still represents a cultural and symbolic space, which is alive despite its emergency condition and apart from the humanitarian responses that are needed for its crisis.
The project as a whole has showed that the architecture and design practises are strictly related to the global conditions of geopolitics and that, at the same time, they act as real activators in the construction of the symbolic contemporary universe.
Within the specific Mediterranean context the project defines a new social and critical agenda for designers.

3. Design Activism
While design practices acquire a social dimension, several expressions of design activism world wide show what Ezio Manzini, through his foundation DESIS[3]has defined as a societal journey towards a more sustainable way of living.
In the last few years, in many countries of the southern side of the Mediterranean Sea, like Tunisia, Egypt and others, intentional actions asking for a change are emerging. These want, stimulate change on behalf of a neglected group and support social innovation. Several expressions of activism have spread during public performances and through social networks, where all images and icons created to express discontent become “viral” and spread extremely quickly.

Characterised by different approaches, between art and design, social sciences and communication sciences, creative professions and civil society, design activism is focused on the social reaction, trying to find solutions activating new behavioural patterns and hence cultural change of society (Alastair Fuad-Luke, 2009). In order to do this design activism seeks for new communicative ways, by using ICT, and new ways of involvement (design participatory actions, co-design) and tries to catalyse any change in the perception of reality, by increasing information and awareness.

An interesting example of design activism is Visualizing Palestine. This is a project of visual communication conceived by Palestinian Ramzi Jaber. It uses creative visual concepts design and storytelling (in posters, motion graphics, animation, videos) diffused on line to describe a factual rights-based narrative of Palestine/Israel. The project entitled “against injustice in Palestine”, aims at correcting information against the wrong narrative spread by media on Palestine. Through its information, the project aims at a widespread social awareness of the injustice practiced in Palestine.

In 2009, Ramzi Jaber, quit his job of civil engineer in Jerusalem, as to organize TEDxRamallah. While working on the conference, he was impressed by the huge amount of data available on Palestine, though not very well-known. With the aim of spreading this information, in the early 2011 he conceived his project as a start up and non-profit project, in collaboration with TEDxRamallah co-organizer Joumana al-Jabri, an architect, operating with the same DIY approach as the conference. (Stephanie Features) Editor at Wamda and a freelance journalist.

After a first failure of some workshops launched in Amman and Dubai, the two founders realised that they needed to properly train a team composed by people with different competences, able to build and streamline the process of carefully-designed infographics.

Today Visualizing Palestine is composed by a team of 13 people of different nationalities (Arab, Jordanian, Palestinian, Lebanese, French, etc.) with different background and competences (managers, designers, and researchers), plus 8 – 14 volunteers, implement an eight-part process. Most of the work consists of turning raw data into a story, then telling that story through an arresting infographic, within the communication project, starting from modelling and visualising the data deduced by statistic studies and scientific researches carried out on Israel territories and coming from verified sources .[4]The process is meticulous enough to warrant the team. The communicative artefacts turn the data into infographics that overcoming linguistic differences allow the comprehension of information on a worldly scale. The visualization of the data has an immediate impact, due to the narrative style involving images and data.

Visualizing Palestine can be described as intersection of communication, social sciences, technology, design and city planning for social justice. It is financed through crowdfounding campaigns launched on indiegogo. It uses the license Creative Commons (no profit organisation) that allows the sharing and the employment of creativity and knowledge through free legal instruments.
The project carries on design practices that give voice to social and political contradictions, thus gaining political value. And it tries to reveal the public image, spread by traditional media, that conceals the complicity at the basis of contemporary politics.
Magazines and websites then buy and publish the infographics of Visualizing Palestine, unless they are commissioned, in which case clients then print and distribute them.

4. Design for emergency
The theme of emergency is not new to design. It has already been dealt with in the past, especially with regard to emergency housing, a problem that emerges in case of natural catastrophic events such as earthquakes and tsunamis. The problem of emergency deserves great attention both from a techno-functional point of view, and from a psychological one, since it has to fulfil man’s instinctive need for safety (P. Antonelli, 2005).

An example of product design for emergencies is that wanted by the Israeli Government. Between the 1980s and 1990s, the government of Israel collaborated with the Research & Development Department of Bezalel Art and Design of Jerusalem, in order to improve the quality of life of its population, that is constantly at war with Palestine.

The project, made for the national security plan, focused on the application of a device for gas masks: the air blower. This uses positive pressure inside the mask so that there is no need to breathe through the filter. It comes in kits for personal protection, consisting of gas masks with body extensions that protect different body parts (head, arms and part of the trunk). It is easy to wear and use for adults, children and new-born babies (like the portable cradle “Mini Mamat”) thanks to the flexible and transparent materials that cover one’s face without limiting their vision or movements. It also include a series of accessories that allow to drink easily ( a baby bottle and a straw) and to listen to the radio. It is easy to use thanks to graphical symbols showing the use modes of the masks. These protective systems, widely in use during the Gulf War, are still provided to every citizen of Israel. The Shmartaff kit (Hebrew slang for babysitter) is an official present from the government to every Israeli newborn child. Despite any arguments on the fact that these products may be part of the “political rhetoric”, this security kit has made Israelis stronger.

In 2005 these products were exhibited at SAFE. Design Takes On Risk features, an exhibition by Paola Antonelli held at New York MoMa. The show shocked the American people by highlighting the situation in Israel and how much Israeli designers are contributing to the population life quality and comfort. Overall more than 300 contemporary objects and prototypes from all over the world designed “to defend body and mind from dangerous or stressful circumstances and provide a sense of comfort and security” were exhibited. Addressing a range of human concerns, from the fear of earthquakes and terrorist attacks, the exhibition covered different parts of the project, from architecture to information. The exhibition included a “blast mitigation system” for glass walls, a bullet-resistant blouse, and the Spider Boot Antipersonnel Mine Foot Protection System, a special shoe apparatus for minesweepers and soldiers.

Some of the most recent projects, such as those which received an award at the International Contest Mediterranean Design[5], at the 2009 and 2010 editions, are focused on the emergency of clandestine immigration, and aim at improving immigration policies for refugees, while achieving psychological and physical comfort.

Floating hearts[6]by the Italian Giulio Iacchetti is a system of signalling buoys, equipped with led panels charged by photovoltaic cells and emergency signalling systems. The project offers a concrete solution while poetically hinting at a metaphor. The buoys hold the frame of a floating bright heart, and being spread over the Mediterranean they are useful to help the shipwrecked, and they could be placed where shipwrecks happened. “A warning to the sailors and a memorial between the waves, less vanishing than a bunch of flowers that is thrown from ships after any sea tragedy” as Iacchetti himself writes.
Brakumo[7]is a comfort kit by Studio Paolo Paladini who writes “… on disembarkation we need to provide the immigrants with a support …even a moral one, so that they won’t feel emarginated in a society that rejects them. A gesture is enough … Brakumo is made of a rug, a pair of shoes and two boxes. Minimal objects but rich in a gesture that breaks the present social patterns. The name of the kit is the word “hug” in Esperanto; through this global language we hoped for a dialogue between peoples, as well as we wished to break bias through the kit…a consoling and understanding hug…”

In 2014, the students of Ecole de design de Nantes Atlantique analysed the theme of surviving catastrophes in the exhibition Survival. Among the projects presented there, Vestaïs[8]is a brazier used for heating; a welcoming wood stove. On its top, a foldable grill can be positioned on the bowl in order to cook food. Heaters placed in the tripod can be removed to warm oneself. The stove location would help to share thoughts and ideas between people. As such, it is oriented toward conviviality. It is run on methane produced by a 7 litre compost bin and wood placed within the bowl. If the compost bin is not used (it takes 24 hours for methanization) to light the fire, it can be replaced by a gas bottle with a universal burner. The cross bars hold and dry the wood and can also be used to dry clothes.
Another project is Armadillo[9], an health capsule, that aims to create a reassuring environment for a person waiting to be rescued. It is a survival backpack that looks like a shell, which includes first aid equipment, a GPS and a light, in order for the person to be spotted by rescuers easily. It also includes an empty pocket, which can be filled in according to one’s needs. A user grabs the bag and leaves his house in order to look for a safer place. He then opens the shell, transforming the backpack into a cocoon in which he can sit. Like the Tuaregs, one can sit still a long time thanks to a belt going around his knees and back. One adult can fit in. The comfortable seat protects the user’s legs from the hard floor. A blanket made out of Goretex® with reassuring colours inside allows the user to stay warm and dry, while keeping the sweat from condensing. Parts of the backpack outer colour and blanket are reflective so that they can be easily seen by rescuers.
Nowadays, the main problem for this kind of design is finding actors who could promote, finance, produce and distribute the product to interested recipients. Sometimes humanitarian and philanthropic organizations, associations and ONG take care of this, and designers cooperate with them to identify problem areas and strategies to give suitable answers to the needs that products, services and systems have to have, in order to fulfil humanitarian help requirements.
Some companies are starting to deal with these themes, making them part of their strategies for the communication value they acquire in brand promotion.

5. Design for socio-economic development
The awareness that design can be a real agent of development in various situations led design research to try and offer concrete solutions to less urgent matters than those discussed before. Given the low industrialization of Mediterranean countries, research explores new production and innovation opportunities for typical or local products, or different configurations for actors and resources, capable of creating new value for those productions. The projects strategically receive a huge capital in terms of tangible and intangible competences and resources linked to the social and territorial context. Some introduce new ideas or organization models; others mix handicrafts with industrial processes or put together old technical skills with new technologies.

This is the case of Egypt design hub (Di Matteo, 2012) that, during Salone del Mobile 2013 and 2014, at the Salone Satellite, presented, prototypes from young designers, who experiment new products for local manifacturing production segments. The project by Nadal Bahr, released this year, is Anub Chair, a wooden chair combining fine craftsmanship from ancient Egyptian production, inspired by animal anatomy, with innovative 3D milling techniques.

Another case is that of Rawtating[10]project by the Israeli designer Adi Zaffran Weisler who experimented a production process for the production of small series of furniture. He created a set of tables and stools by combining tree branches, trunks and twigs with plastic during the moulding process. The project combines the industrial and the manual process and develops a method where the meeting point between the organic and the synthetic is achieved through the rotational moulding process without the need for cold joints or complex adjustments. From the manufacturing process a new aesthetic language is created out of basic shapes and raw materials.
In a context where the economical crisis is exacerbating job security, it is important to promote such projects in which design supports the internationalization of productive territories. These projects that have been developed by design centres, institutions or individual designers, are mainly led by the desire to help artisans and small producers to reach new markets and to build connections with partners worldwide. In some cases, these projects have become a concrete opportunity for new businesses, showing how the process of design driven innovation can have a strategic role in economical development.
An example is Corque Design (Mestre, 2013), a new sustainable design brand based on cork, a Mediterranean sustainable material. Corque Design was born after an applied design research led by the Portugues designer Ana Mestre with a focus on design solutions with these materials produced in large quantity in Portugal. The brand was internationally launched in 2009 during the Milan Design Week, and offers a range of high quality furnishing products and accessories carefully designed by different Portuguese designers. It has already made several small series productions, which have been exhibited and commercialized in the European, American and Asian markets.
Another case is Trochet, a collection of objects between fashion and product design (handbags and soft chairs), made by crocheting a line obtained from used plastic bags, indeed Trochet stands for trash+crochet. The project is by Diana Rayyan, from Saudi Arabia, founder of Ateeq, a startup that helps poor Saudi women by giving them a job. Objects knit from used plastic bags by women involved in the project are sold thanks to commercial mediation by Trochet. Founded in August, 2012 with two women, the company today numbers 50 employed women and has worked 200,000 plastic bags.

Other projects are aimed at giving value to agricultural productions, agro-alimentary products local resources and cultures to make them accessible. Being capable of valuing them is today a key element for the development of production systems, considering the economic, social, touristic opportunities it can raise. Even the mere preservation of typical activities like agriculture, integrated with new and different functions, noticeably the environment and territory protection, creates new economical and social opportunities for places. (Belletti and Berti, 2011).

During the last few years in Italy, France, Spain and also Greece we observed a growth of attention to initiatives that place touristic, educational and recreational services aside of agricultural production, also with the aim of detecting and satisfying new consumer segments interested in the fruition of agricultural products and production territories, in order to “dive” into the culture of those places e live consumption experiences as opportunities for social and cultural enrichment (Ferrara, 2011b).

The Ametlla+ de Mallorca® (Flaquer, 2012) brand project by designer and entrepreneur Barbara Flaquer is part of this vision. She and other 4women from Mallorca have established in the island the 3+1 company. They produce and package various preparations, based on almonds and other ingredients, to be used in traditional recipes. Thanks to the preparations, the recipes may be cooked in less time, thus complying with the contemporary life style. The project aims at reintroducing the cultivation of Majorca almond, so that it may still be a profitable activity, yet preserving the beauty of the landscape. Company communication is based on typical iconographic elements of Majorca visual culture, which show the beauty of the landscape of the island. Attention to product authenticity and production eco-sustainability is part of an economic development strategy that values the local territory, without going back to archaic or autarchic economies.

6. Social design for social innovation in a geopolitic contest
Design in all its different approaches (from critical design to design activism, from emergency design to design for the socio-economical development of communities and territories) is a powerful tool for the development of a collective awareness and for the transformation of reality through its processes, productions and actions requiring its use and consume.
Often, design operates in the symbolic universe. Frequently it raises reactions and moves consciences through its strong ethical messages, which affect the cultural, political and commercial life. This has always happened, although nowadays this need is stronger. In particular since the word design has been accompanied by the ideas of “responsibility” and “social commitment”, thus giving birth to a peculiar area of design called Social design[11], referring back to the theories of V. Papanek, G. Bonsiepe and V. Margolin and debate which took place between the 1960s and 80s. At present, Social Design “that is directed first and foremost to human needs” (Margolin, 2007) is taking on the attitude for a better future, including the ideas of sustainability, activism and social innovation.
As V. Margolin claims, design research has confronted for as long as two centuries with the ‘market model’, which has seen design develop in the most industrialized countries as a profession specializing in product and visual communication design, commissioned by production companies and targeted to the consumer market. Design for market model takes care of social need, not everybody’s need though, but only those of potential buyers.

Today, the transition toward social market asks for a redefinition of goals: make responsible fulfilment of human needs a priority, without differences in purchasing power, and including poor countries and disadvantaged groups.

In the last ten years, a crescendo of projects, exhibitions, and initiatives demonstrates a collective movement for ‘social design’ and suggests new social dimension for design practice and not a mere ally of consumerism any more.[12]

As designer activist Alastair Fuad-Luke claims (2009, p. 78): “There is a stream of consciousness and activity around what could be termed ‘social y active design’, where the focus of the design is society and its transition and/or transformation to a more sustainable way of living, working and producing.”

But the transition from the market model to the social model raises a new problem for designers, that is organising economic and partnerships conditions for the projects. In the market model, these conditions are guaranteed by the entrepreneur who funds a production and gets the profits from the sale.

The advent of new communication technologies and additive production (3D print), lighter, more sustainable and economic than those of the past, give us hope, because they offer some opportunities useful to rethinking of development processes possible, allowing co-existence of both social and market models.

Moreover in a globalized society, there is the idea that it is necessary to carry on creative activities and projects respecting socio-economic conditions and international politics. We are going towards geodesign, a “strategic” design that deals with the building of “bridges” and strategic international alliances for the development of territories.

Today, designers are less and less asked to provide productive responses. Instead, they are asked to produce questions and ideas that require different skills and include the design of products, services and communication in its multifold shapes. A designer’s role is to identify the problems, guide choices towards selected targets, be good at building and managing networks of people involved, individual and collective skills and direct all these skills towards different possible solutions[13]and productions.

Starting from an evaluation of the cultural, productive, geo-economical and geo-political variables of every single territory, geo-designers and social designers may act as facilitators, finding partners that together can make up a single production chain, from the project to the consumption, also acting as strategic planners of this system, which is the means to reach the targets, by fostering social change at the same time.

In a geopolitical vision, design is asked to be the promoter of both economical and social change. Design is indeed able to convey complex information, raise people’s awareness of reality, modify our perception of the world around us, project us into the future[14], open new opportunities and visions in order to transform contingent reality, by improving people’s activities and welfare.

7. Conclusion
The design offer for the Mediterranean seems varied and consistent with a new “social model” that drives design towards social innovation and economical development, in a context where the ideas coming from the “bottom” are more significant than those imposed from the “top”.

The above mentioned projects focus on concrete realities and the appreciation of environmental contexts and human resources.
The purpose of social design research is now that of understanding how social and economic development could proceed responsibly at the same speed in order to accelerate and increase “design-driven change”.

In adhering to the perspective on design for social model, we wish for design to contribute to the development of the hyper-democracy context Jaques Attali (2006) talks about as the only chance to avoid a hyper-conflict.

This scenario asks us to work on relationship, sharing and cooperation between the two sides of the Mediterranean. To try and do new things designing them together, developing the capability to satisfy social and economic needs.

The present Mediterranean context represents an essential challenge for designers if they wish to contribute to the socio-cultural evolution and the economical development of this large part of the world.

Antonelli P. (2005), Safe: Design Takes on Risk, New York: Museum of Modern Art.

Attali J. (2006), Une brève histoire de l’avenir, Paris: Editions Fayard; Italian translation by Eleonora Secchi, Breve storia del futuro, IT, Rome: Fazi Editori.

Belletti G., Berti G. (2011), Turismo, ruralità e sostenibilità attraverso l’analisi delle configurazioni turistiche. In Pacciani A. (ed.) Aree rurali e configurazioni turistiche. Differenziazione e sentieri di sviluppo in Toscana, pp. 21-62, IT, Milan: Franco Angeli.

De Cauter L., Lesage D. (2002), Re: The Myth of the Bridge (an e-mail correspondence) in Hunch 5, pp. 54-68.

De Cauter L., Lesage D. (2011) Project Heracles. A Eurafrican Bridge. In Domus 947, May 2011, pp.90 – 94.

De Cauter L., Lesage D. (2011), Project Heracles #1. 172 Postcards from the Straits. In Domus 949, July/August 2011, pp. 94 – 105.

Di Matteo, G. (2012), From Drop City to the African hackerspace. In PAD. Pages of Arts & Design 9: 0803. Accessed March 15, 2014.

Flaquer B. (2012), Mallorcan Design and flowering almond trees. In PAD. Pages of Arts & Design 8: 0904. Accessed March 15, 2014.

Ferrara M. (2011a), Mediterraneo fucina per il design. In Arte e Critica, 68, pp. 76-77.

Ferrara M. (2011b), Mediterranean design? Dal food design all’agrindustrial design per la riqualificazione delle attività agricole e dei contesti territoriali. In ddiseño, 10.
Fuad-Luke A. (2009), Design Activism: Beautiful Strangeness for a Sustainable World. UK:London Earthscan.
Margolin, V., Margolin S. (2002), A “Social Model” of Design: Issues of Practice and Research, Design Issue vol. 18, pp. 24-30.

Margolin, V. (2007), A Call for Social Design, lecture presented at the conference “Best-Practice Medical Design for 2020 Technion, Haifa, Israel, June 14, 2007. Accessed March 15, 2014.

Mestre A. (2013), Corque Design: a New World Branding for Cork. In PAD. Pages of Arts & Design, 10:1012. Accessed March 15, 2014.

Studio Paladini, (2011), Brakumo. In PAD. Pages of Arts & Design, 7. Accessed March 15, 2014.

Papanek V. (1971), Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change. London: Thames and Hudson

Pencarelli T. (2010) (ed.), Marketing e Management del Turismo, Urbino: Edizioni Goliardiche

Weisler Z. (2011), Rawtating. In PAD. Pages of Arts & Design, 7. Accessed March 15, 2014

Safe, MoMA In Accessed March 10, 2014.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1.  The project was published on the cover of Domus in progress of May 2011. 
  2.  The Italian architect Giancarlo De Carlo, reflecting on the distinctive characteristics of the Mediterranean city and imagined a city-bridge connecting the two continents. He writes: “I think the idea of the Mediterranean city could be a major influence in the construction of Europe and the European city; this influence would be beneficial because it would generate fruitful contradictions. […] Migration has always been the vital important for Mediterranean cities. Newly arrived cultures have become part of everyday life and have fertilized society with their wealth of imagination which are expressed through complex urban forms (De Carlo, 2004, “Tortuosity”on Domus January 2004, pp. 24 – 25), so multiculturalism is one of the most important factors in contemporary Europe, resulting from migration determined by a variety of reasons. It has transformed the spaces of the contemporary city.”
  3.  DESIS (Design for Social Innovation towards Sustainability) is a network of design labs, based in design schools and design-oriented universities, actively involved in promoting and supporting sustainable change. Its website is: 
  4.  International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Committee for Employment of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon (CEP)
  5.  Thanks to the free theme, the Mediterranean Design Contest, organised by Journal PAD. Pages of Art and Design, proved an interesting point of observation of the trends in Mediterranean design. There were projects that try to give an answer to Mediterranean emergency. 
  6.  This project was awarded the first prize in the product design category at the Mediterranean Design Contest 2009.
  7. Project receiving a special mention in 2011 in the product design category at the Mediterranean Design Contest 2010.
  8.  The Vestaïs project, by the students P. Dufour, I. Le Pays Du Teilleul, M. Leproux, D. Letassey, H. Louradour, J. Rolland, was developed with the support of Armor, partners for the Survival event, and exhibited at the Salone Satellite, at the Milan Fair during the Salone del Mobile 2014. The prototype was produced with the support of ArcelorMittal SoluStil. 
  9.  The Armadillo project by the students (I. Hauck, M. Le Bas, C. Germain, D. Le Cléac’h, C. Sanz, L. Chatain) was developed with the support of Armor, partners for the Survival event, and exhibited at the Salone Satellite, at the Milan Fair, during the Salone del Mobile 2014. 
  10.  Project selected at Mediterranean Design Contest 2010 and exhibited in 2011 at Mediterranean Design Exhibition at Design Hub, in Barcelona. 
  11.  With the phrase Social Design we define a specific skill in activating process of real change aiming at providing a respectable daily life. The project operates in social, cultural and economical marginality situations, deriving from specific vulnerability that systematically affect people and communities: access to credit, food, housing, education, work, health… They vary from context to context, from country to country, from culture to culture, therefore design has to comply with these variables and find the right tools, knowledge and competences, by activating multidisciplinary processes. 
  12.  In 2002 the exhibition “Designs for the Real World” at the General Foundation shed a critical light on urban development, ecological design and the third world; in 2007 the exhibition “Design for the Other 90%” held at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum showcased the global need to refocus design to the underserved 90% of the population; in 2005 the Utrecht Manifest Biennale for Social Design, a new biennial for social design was launched and in 2009, numerous events and exhibitions at this Biennale aimed to strengthen multidisciplinary socio-political debate. 
  13.  On the other hand the development of the philosophy of complexity (as discourse, paradigm and collective experience) demands that design, not only should improve its competences and skills, but should also have a constant dialogue with the systemic dimension of reality. As Edgar Morin has clearly pointed out what is hard to achieve for a contemporary project is precisely “to project the complexity of the points of view” in order to “organise” and “manage” the sequences of potential behaviours. Thus the central feature of design becomes the process that is activated and enabled and how it generates the project. The actors involved are central; the competences and the tangible and intangible resources linked to the territory and the social context where the project operates have strategic importance. 
  14.  The term ‘project’ is derived from the Late Latin proiectare frequentative of pro-jacere which means ‘throw forward’. 

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Interview with Vincenzo Castellana

Abstract: Vincenzo Castellana is an architect, designer, lecturer and co-founder, together with the executive committee of ADI Sicily, the regional delegation of ADI (Association for Italian industrial design).  For several years, he has been conducting activities aimed at the exploitation of local, territorial resources, both as an architect, through works of architectural recovery and as a designer committed to modernizing outdated productions in the territory. Current President of ADI Sicily, Castellana endeavors to establish communication between the world of little production companies and craftsmanship with the young designers from the schools of art and design.

Alessandra Fazio: Where did the idea for ADI Sicily come from?
Vincenzo Castellana: The story of the Sicilian delegation is almost an anecdote.
ADI has existed since 1956. The delegations were established under directorate of Gianni Forcolini in the early years of 2000. A process began of convening in regional areas, from which the delegations sprung out. The Sicilian delegation was among the last to be formed.
In 2007, designOrientity, a business related to my professional activity, was selected for publication in the volume ADI Design Index, which is in fact a nomination for the Compasso d’Oro (Golden Compass award). DesignOrientity is a permanent laboratory that connects designers and craftsmen, and over the years has developed a collection of objects (about 15).
In the same year, during the Salone del Mobile (Furniture Showroom) in Milan, I was invited to form the delegation ADI Sicily by former President Forcolini.
In parallel, Professor Vanni Pasca, in a predominantly academic ambit, was already working on the birth of ADI Sicily, so I contacted Pasca informing him of my intention to establish the delegation and we were both happy to join forces to come to the establishment of the Sicilian delegation.

What kind of path is ADI Sicily pursuing?
Since its foundation, the delegation is carrying on the initiative “Ferri di richiamo” (Iron tools) with which this year we were guests in Milan at ADI, during the Salone del Mobile. This is a series of meetings aimed at deepening the knowledge and value of some instances of high-quality design and production in the history or modern affairs of our region.
“Ferri di richiamo” in building tradition serve to continue construction over time; in this sense, the meetings proposed by the delegation serve to strengthen that process of signification which not always in the past in Sicily has made its quality and culture recognizable.
With this goal in mind, the delegation has also launched collaborations with the artistic school of Caltagirone, specializing in ceramic production, with design schools of territorial excellence such as the the Abadir Academy and with small and medium production realities.

What prospects are there for design in Sicily?
It is a very difficult question that is almost impossible to answer today, as it does not depend only from ADI and the variables or the combinations necessary so that we can envisage design as the path to value in Sicily are several. The process at the core is one that depends on training. In this regard, we are confident Academies will open to design, in conjunction with the transformation of course curriculums in schools of art and the growth of university courses with a more pragmatic approach and workshops, as well as that of Abadir where young designers may learn how to become themselves entrepreneurs. On the other hand, it is necessary that organizations that no longer operate only on a regional level decide to take advantage of design and to be representatives of this culture. I care in this regard to point out the example of Moak, a producer of coffee, which is set to revolutionize its image entrusting to Bob Noorda the restyling of its logo, the aim being to assert itself as a company that believes in quality. It therefore is a problem of companies maturing and becoming aware that to be active quality planners means promoting a new way of doing business, of communicating and also of manufacturing new products. For some weeks now, the Sicilian delegation of ADI has formalized a partnership with MOAK. The cooperation includes the establishment of a biannual research project which attempts to simulate the project of a Corporate Museum for the company.

So its a matter of business strategy?
Yes, that’s correct! Strategy allows you to reach into new markets and to assert your business. Strategy must be planned out and as such, includes design. Obviously, product innovation is only one of the ramifications of the course of innovation chartered within the company.
Sicilian companies must understand that the only possibility in this situation of economic crisis that we are living is innovation through design.

In this regard, how is ADI Sicily going about the process of spreading awareness among businesses?
I have already spoken of “Ferri di richiamo” which is one of the activities of cultural promotion in which we present case histories that tell more of the collaboration of companies and designers in an event within one showroom in Sicilian territory.
Among other initiatives organized is the event “The product of the ceramic design”, periodically scheduled in Caltagirone in the secondary school of the arts for ceramic design with the aid of various supporters. The initiative provides for the creation of workshops and design exhibitions.
Last year, the first edition of the event saw a partnership with Bitossi, the company that produces ceramics designed by Ettore Sottsass, in addition to those of Karim Rachid and Luisa Bocchietto. This year will feature guest appearance by Alessi, whose ceramic creations are the focus of an exhibition inaugurated on May 18 and the designer workshop of 3 days on the theme: “Tea and Coffee”. The latter involves the best 5 students of 5th year classes of the secondary school, associated with 5 students and 5 craft enterprises chosen on in the Calatino territory, so as to constitute 5 groups of 2 students and a craftsman.
These activities are expected to bring two types of results: the first is to encourage collaboration between young designers and artisans through training activities, in an effort to understand that design must promote a circular process that involves the planning and design stage, production, sale and consumption. If this process is interrupted, the project dies before it even starts; this is the problem that we have been dragging for ages in Sicily.
Moreover, now ADI Sicily is one of the promoters of the III International Competition “Mediterranean Design”, launched every two years by PAD journal for the design of new scenarios of Mediterranean design.

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New design geographies. International workshops in Sicily

Abstract: 2012 seems to have been a relevant year for design in Sicily. From Giulio Iacchetti to Giovanni Levanti, the island has witnessed numerous designers who have been invited by different institutions for various projects, thereby bringing to it their own experience. What is actually going on? Why are designers starting to spend time in Sicily not only for their holidays but also for the purposes of design? Is there a new wave that is inverting general trends and the usual geography of design dynamics? Who promotes design on the island and why do they do it? The most active side has certainly been the education sector. Since 2000 the Design courses of the Faculty of Architecture in Palermo have promoted a lot of activities connected to the world of design and now other institutions have taken the initiative of starting to call designers to teach on the island. One of these institutions is Abadir Academy, a private institution authorized by the Education Ministry.

In 2010 the Academy launched Abadir Design, a new department aimed at training designers to design our contemporaneity and to develop new ideas able to shape the future and the time in which we are living.

Last year among the department special activities hosted two of the most active designers of the current panorama in Italy and Europe: Giulio Iacchetti, a designer based in Milan, awarded with the Compasso d’oro in 2001, together with Matteo Ragni for the Moscardino project, and lagranja design, an Italian-Spanish studio based in Barcelona, designer of several products for Foscarini, Poltrone Frau, Metalco, Palucco and others.

Both workshops were inaugurated with an open lecture held by the designers who outlined their professional path by talking with students, architects, teachers and other designers. These have proved to be very important didactic occasions as well as opportunities to raise the public’s awareness regarding issues of design, as well as to convey the value of the synergy between the designer and companies.

Secondo imbrunire was the title Giulio Iacchetti gave to his workshop, in homage to the homonymous song by Franco Battiato. Out [of the] Door was one of the Master’s activities in product design and it aimed to explore the possibilities of volcanic material and to experiment with its features in the production of objects. The choice to work on the material of the volcano strongly rooted the workshop to the identity of the place, its nature and its uniqueness. As in the Franco Battiato song whose lyrics enhance the charm, the colors, smells and sounds related to Mount Etna and its landscape, the workshop with Iacchetti sought to explore these places starting from the quarries, where the material is stripped from the volcano, to the craftsmen, the industrial process, the production companies and the supply chain.

In July, the activities of the design department of the Academy moved to the coast and its beaches. Vamos a la Playa was the workshop conducted by Gabriele Schiavon and José Manuel Fernandez from Lagranja Design; for Abadir they proposed a new workshop once again linked to the nature of the Sicilian territory that has become a testing ground for the design of devices for the beach, the shore and the sea.

Istanze di design was the name of the workshop curated by the Foundation Fiumara d’arte and Antonio Presti in collaboration with AIAC and Press/T factory, which was held in Tusa at the Museum Hotel Atelier sul Mare.

The topic of the international workshop was the development of a hotel room for the Atelier Sul Mare according to the wishes expressed by the Foundation: to create a permanent laboratory which combines the artistic processes with the production of everyday objects, through the mutual exchange between local artisan and the design skills of the artist-designer.

The workshop, which lasted a week, was led by Giovanni Levanti, Mario Trimarchi, Chris Kabel from Droog Design, Michael Obrist from feld-72 and Wyssem Nochi from Lebanon. Tutors assisted students between project activities and theoretical meetings, rethinking the spaces of the Tusa museum and the surrounding park, dotted with important sculptures that over the years, Antonio Presti has commissioned from artists such as Tano Festa or Pietro Consagra.

The workshop held in Caltagirone with Luisa Bocchietto and Vanni Pasca was devoted to ceramics and the tradition of some major Italian companies.

Entitled Il design del prodotto ceramico, the event was organized by the Sicilian Delegation of ADI together with LADEC and it was developed on two levels: a laboratory itself and an exhibition dedicated to Bitossi ceramics through 20 artifacts produced by the company since 60s to today, with pieces by Ettore Sottsass, Karim Rashid, Mario Ferraini and the same Luisa Bocchietto. After the workshop, molds were shaped at the Montelupo factory and then again prototypes were created in Caltagirone. Therefore, a new series of ceramic products for Bitossi took life thanks to this experience and they will be presented soon in Milan along with a special event.

In December, Giulio Iacchetti returned yet again as he was called by the Kore University of Enna, where he held a one-week workshop entitled S/Tools. Once again, it was an active laboratory that involved local craftsmen, which produced 10 real stool prototypes according to the main theme of the workshop: the stool and how to sit down.

Iacchetti and the city of Enna had already met a few months earlier. The castle of the Sicilian city hosted the show Cruciale last June. Curated by Beppe Finessi, the exhibition showed 21 crosses the famous designer has created starting from the assumption that contemporary design is no longer only related to the material sphere of our existence but also to emotional, sentimental and spiritual functions.

It is the same Iacchetti who has announced new possible geographies for design. The radical change of economic processes and the new dynamics of the market, accompanied by technology and new communication systems, have deeply upset the model in which design was related only to large industrial systems based in the north of the world. Today it is possible to produce design with few elements: a good designer and a skilled artisan or small business with technology on one side, and small-scale production on demand, web as a showcase to the whole world and powerful means of transport for shipments on the other side.

It’s already an on-going phenomenon that has given an opportunity for growth to peripheral regions unable to deal with industrial dynamics.

In this sense, Sicily, if able to acquire virtuous designers capable of creating value from its territory, could without question generate new projects and new economies. This is the mission of design schools and laboratories spread around the island: to train designers and raise awareness among entrepreneurs. Events and facts recounted here may indeed be a sign of this trend.

Lucy Giuliano is an architect and director of Accademia Abadir in Catania. She studied at the Faculty of Architecture in Palermo and at Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in Barcelona (ETSAB), obtaining a MA degree of Historia, arquitectura, arte y ciudad, and DEA degree (Diploma de Estudios Avanzados) in the Projects Department. From 2000 to 2011 she worked at the Arata Isozaki office in Barcelona, as architect in concept and design buildings. She participated to several project developed between Barcelona and Tokyo. Beyond architecture, she also collaborated to several publications. During her period at AIA office she broadened her interests in intersection between architecture, contemporary culture, territory and current issues in society. Since 2010 she is full time engaged as director of ABADIR Academy (Arts Between Architecture Design & Interdisciplinary Research) in Catania.


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Design and new processes between culture and service

Abstract: Places and services in Palermo are abuzz with new activities and processes. A territory almost devoid of industries, marked at the beginning of the 20th century by the Workshops Ducrot, seems to now have grasped the value of the word design and has begun to experiment with its various forms. The word Design (project) in the city candidate as 'European Capital of Culture 2019', is not only cool, fashion or for a few but has been transformed into: lab, creative industries, self-generation, service design, co-design.

Companies and cultural associations are linking their activities with the world of design, sometimes unconsciously, other times in an almost natural way they turn into companies that are able to provide goods and services in an innovative way. Let’s see who are the actors and places where this change is occurring.
We will start from Addiopizzo, a voluntary association spontaneously born to support the fight against the racket of Mafioso blackmail, producing goods and activities with brand name Addiopizzo. The association publishes the lists of the names of the professionals and companies that take position against Mafia and organises the Party of critic Consumption “I will pay those who won’t pay” that is based on the idea of “common good”, example of shared management aiming at overcoming the Mafioso system. Through its services Addiopizzo Travel, a rich calendar of trips to the places symbol of the struggle against Mafia through the discovery of a territory that is resisting blackmail money, the association is turning into social enterprise, thus attaining the world of design of services with a project of ethical tourism. Since 2005 the visual communication of Addiopizzo has been looked after by Fausto Gristina, member of the Committee Addiopizzo and visual communication expert for FAI, Federation of Italian Antiracket Associations.
NEXT | New Energies for the Territory is an association dealing with development strategies and interventions for the innovation and sustainability of the organisations and the social contexts. It has carried out some research on “artefacts of history within the internationalisation processes of Palermo” realised with the support of the Foundation Banco di Sicilia. Starting from a mapping of the architectural places and goods turned into multi-purpose museums and urban parks, the association has developed the app Urban City Guide Palermo, a guide that tells about Palermo as a different city, that is to say a city that has been transformed, with the recovering of the ex-industrial areas, new generation urban parks and public spaces, co-working, design hotels, bars and shops.
Aware of mixing together cultural practices and design, RE FEDERICO co-work is a project by CLAC (Lab Centre of Contemporary Arts), a cultural enterprise engaged in Palermo since 2003. The aims of its project are: to test new practices of social innovation, to support the emerging lifestyles of the creative young people, to create a virtuous example of participatory economy based on new themes that put together designers and architects of sustainability sharing the same aims and projects. Some of the co-work activities propose mappings for young people (Use-it), practices of co-distribution of products of the territory and research and project tables about agrindustrial design.
Accommodation places in the city turn into places for experimenting new cultural processes. N38E13 “micro hotel” and association of social promotion within a historical building of Maqueda street, becomes a place of creation, use and connection between arts. The space devoted to visual and sound arts and to design will house residences, laboratories, exhibitions and meetings about culture, tourism and territory in an innovative way.
With the aim to carry out some good practices and a conscious design, between training and meeting, sensibiliambienti, puts in practice new forms of co-production. It is an agency of exhibit design of sustainable creative spaces and it deals with logistic support, training, distribution and design for a new ethic system of out-fitting.
New forms of design-handicraft, in a little lab in the historical centre, draw inspiration from the local materials that are poor and typical and turn into miniminimondi (Miniworlds). Narrow-gauge boxes and postcards that can be sent by mail, contain tiny alternative spaces. The delicate paper works come from the common passion for poor or waste materials of Carmela and Nina, two non-Sicilian women arrived in Palermo a few years ago.
A store that becomes the meeting point between the customer and the stylist. Rizzo Manufacture studio is a crossing between a creative space and a handicraft laboratory where the tailor-made product becomes a service. A place where the creative/manufacturing process followed out in details takes place along with the customer and the realisation of shoes and bags is carried out through hand-crafted processes within the laboratories of Scius.
Sartoria Maqueda is also an experimental Laboratory and co–design along with customers. It is a place where territoriality, design, dressmaking tradition of pret-à-porter with the brand Mitzica give birth to street-dressmaking and creative recycling. Inside the shop it is also possible to ask for stylistic consulting and trend research through the project b-plan.
Artes, an association dealing with the diffusion and promotion of textile art in all its shapes is the result of Giulietta Salmeri’s research and experimentation. Rugs, scarves, wool decorating textiles and cloths, cotton and linen are contaminated by other materials, such as paper and copper through the use of looms with 2, 4 and 8 heddles.
Pradlab is a system of services dedicated to design and manufacturing, belonging to the design and rapid prototyping study of the same name, able to provide support and consulting in every stage of the creative, design and manufacturing process: from the concept to the final product.
Whereas cultural enterprises and associations with the attitude of creative operators are transforming the concept of enterprise, there is also someone who has made their own design work turn into a brand, as in the case of the brand OJI, set up by the designer Giuseppe Pulvirenti together with the cabinet-maker Carlo Caruso Jr. This brand produces and markets the products that arise from the confrontation with other cultures, characterised by a fusion of ideas, shapes, atmospheres and colours, according to a will expressed by the brand itself: for Oji is the name of a metro-station of Tokyo, while in Italian the pronunciation is ‘oi’ that means ‘today’ in the ancient Sicilian dialect. Oji products are marketed by Spaziodeep, a special concept-store promoting design on the island through its own magazine and blog.
Maribelle 615 designed and produced by two young designers, Francesco Belvisi and Vito Pavia, is an innovative sailing boat, 6,15 m long, characterised by tube-shaped tires that make it a mix between a sailing boat and a rubber boat. Pointed out in the adi index 2011, the first model of the boat has been self-manufactured by YAM, a company born thanks to the company start up of the University of Palermo and assisted by the Consortium Arca.
The reuse of spaces with new modalities and the restart of old handicrafts seem to be the key-point of studio427, born in Palermo in a space of industrial archeology in Brancaccio, that has moved to an old carpentry in Alloro street. Founded by the Swiss designer Alfred von Escher with the cooperation of Raffaella Guidobono as advisor of the study in the communication strategy, it is an atelier/studio of co-design, where old furniture is recovered: wooden platforms, pallet, no longer used scaffolding boards, no longer used cloths and equipment of theatre sets are employed for new purposes, with simple forms suitable for daily uses, such as the furniture line Leftover, presented in the last Milan Design Week.
Pivviccì products originate from the same passion for design and attention to the eco-sustainability of manufacturing. They are totally hand-made with materials recycled by local artisans.
The first project developed by the group Snap, made up of very young designers of the island is Metroquadro proget, a series of furniture pieces to be put together, thought to be within a plywood sheet, whose dimensions are multiple or sub-multiple of the square meter. Easy to be assembled and stored, they express the will to limit the production wastage.
cut&paste  is the studio of three young designers that deal with the topic of “self project”, projects animated by games and creative activities to be shared with those who buy them: Patella is a lampshade made up of several ribbons of notched paper to be self-assembled and Wally is a vinyl sticker to be self-applied, both self-manufactured by the studio that works above all in the field of visual and exhibition design.
Freelance designer, Gandolfo David without forgetting or referring to traditions (as in the products designed by him for the brand OJI together with Giuseppe Pulvirenti), mixes together shape, material and colour in an interesting collection of “illumination” tiles. Designed for the Studio Le Nid, an atelier created in the mid-sixties that is still working between tradition and experimentation.
Designer of exterior and interior furniture, Roberto Serio has some important partnership with leader companies within the national and international panorama. He designs exterior furniture collections for Talenti, luxury collections or the legendary company Turri and for Visionnaire.
The “germ” of design in Palermo has a long history. Since the eighties, there have been many designers and companies at international level that have been spreading the germ of the “project” within the design courses with several moments of high training, information and experimentation.
From the sustainable awareness to the research of new recipes anti-crisis: reuse of spaces with new modalities, restart of old crafts, employment of new technologies, experimentation of new cultural processes, services for the territory, that is how design shapes itself in Palermo.

It’s no coincidence that within the Cultural Yards of Palermo, the idea of a start up of creative enterprises becomes a new incubator. Cre-zi, managed by the Consortium Arca, already coordinator of the incubator of the University of Palermo, in collaboration with the innovation lab Catamiati, aims at encouraging the birth of new enterprises in the fields of the economy of knowledge, such as show, fashion, design, audiovisual and editorial production.

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Paolo Zaami. The flow of things

Abstract: Paolo is an illustrator, graphic and product designer, born in Palermo in 1986 and currently based in Milan. Graduated in Industrial Design at University of Palermo, then he moved to Milan to follow a master’s degree in Design Innovation. In 2011 he collaborated with Marco Piva office, being part of several design projects for Vitrum, KME, Unopiù. In 2012 he worked at Total Tool studio, dealing with research and graphic design for A2A, Expo 2015, Barbanera. Currently he works at DINN! Design Innovation Studio in Milan where he brings his knowledge of graphic and product design, his vision and his aim of “doing it right”. Discreet, accurate and determined; keen about art, illustrations and plasticine. Moving around a multicultural and multidisciplinary planning dimension, he has learned that design is fusion of knowledge.

Il flusso delle cose project

Everyday we are exposed to a huge amount of data and media content. We are inside a constant stream of experiences. Every action and relation is recorded beyond our will: we are always tracked. The aim of this thesis is to understand the process of tracking and how it can turn into an useful mean for designers. I have started this path asking myself the following questions: how can we understand our relationship with things? Can we realize useful tools to understand this relationship? Through these tools, can a designer analyze the value of things he/she lives with? Can a self-tracking path helps a designer to understand his/her personality and subconsciously hidden relationship with things? The thesis starts with a research which deals with different subjects starting from the analysis of the human behavior related to things: from the need to remember and memorize, to the complexity of data to deal with, ending with the self tracking. Then, there is the concept and the metaproject sections where I have recorded my own tracks. Hence the sofware “Designmapps” is developed. This software/app is created to catch and memorize technical and sensitive details. Day by day, designer enrich his/her personal archive which becomes a resource of studying and planning.

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Interview with Vincent

Vincent, or Vincenzo Billeci, born in 1988 is a fashion designer native of Palermo. Despite his young age, Vincent is already showing his talent at high levels. Recently, in fact, his collection fall winter 13-14 has been mentioned on in the new talents section. Great sensitivity for Sicilian tradition impoverished by every overdone stereotype and accompanied by a focus on the contemporary. A work of research that takes its cue from religious and anthropological symbolism of Sicily processed carefully observing the figurative arts of our times and structuring a good theoretical research on performance art and body art giving rise to a style that is consistent and adequate. We get to know Vincent better in this interview.

Giuseppe Mendolia Calella: Vincent… tells us more about yourself. Why are you involved in Fashion design?
Vincent: As a child I always wanted to be the stylist; i dreamed the haute couture in Paris. Fashion was not only a passion but a reason for living, a constant commitment that has brought me where I am today. I am involved in fashion because among the visual arts, it is the one I express best, narrating the tale of my land, my aesthetic taste through fashion collections.

A Sicilian soul with no overstatements, tradition and innovation. In your concept and in your stylistic search they seem to be recurring staples… wouldn’t you agree?
Yes! in my collections, there is a very strong bond with Sicily, its traditions and all that religious symbolism so dear to me. At the same time, I always try to reformulate the whole in new aesthetic codes, expressing something extremely contemporary.

You studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Palermo; you have presented a thesis on sculpture as vestment with curator and art historian Laura Barreca. It seems to me that visual arts make a strong impression on you, don’t they?
The Academy of Fine Arts in Palermo was a very important time in my life. The Academy has allowed me to develop a critical conscience and offered and opportunity to experience; as in my work on the thesis: “Art, fashion and technology between XX and XXI century”.
Starting with the first experimentations in the 20th century, the fluxus and the birth of the performance art , together with Emanuela Graci I created a video-installation where through costume, the body is deformed and changes shape, always creating new solutions. Contemporary art is essential in my creative process, in particular those artistic disciplines where the body becomes the instrument of research.

Was there an encounter, a significant moment in your career that you recall as being decisive?
No, there was no precise moment, but many small moments that day after day have allowed me to grow and made me known to a wider public. The publication of the collection fall winter 13_14 on surely represents a very important starting point.

In Sicily, what is the role of haute couture? Is there a system, are there any points of reference?
Someone before me has said: “ The Sicilian women know how to dress well without lacking taste. ” I believe that Sicilian women are truly among the most careful and sophisticated, but at the same time, I think that the role of fashion in Sicily has lost a once known privilege. I would like to mention Donna Florio; she was considered to be the most elegant woman in all of Europe [ … ]. So it is the new generation of Sicilian stylists who have the task of spurring a new stylistic renaissance.

What are you going to be doing in coming months? What are your goals?
I’m already working on the Spring Summer 2014 commuting between Milan and Palermo, and I hope to continue my work to the fullest, and always give more credibility to my brand.

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Alessandro Squatrito. New reality for old locations

Born on a warm day of November, in Palermo, he grew up surrounded by the beauty of his city. He studied in Palermo, A Coruña and Venice where he concluded the master degree in product design at the Iuav University in 2012 with the project “Nuove realtà per vecchie località” (New reality for old lacations).

He has worked between Italy, Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom, after a collaboration with Cibicworkshop, he is currently collaborating with the studio Chris Kabel in Rotterdam.

He works in product and graphic design.

New reality for old locations

So what makes any place a nice place? Probably the people who live there and the relationships that are established between them, but if at some point these people abandon it and forget it, then it loses not only its beauty, but also loses its sense of place.

This thesis talks about Sicily, small towns built sixty or more years ago, and talks about reactivation, new forms of tourism, paths, nature and new proposals.

The work is divided into two key moments: the first comprehensive research on the meaning of abandonment and how to reactivate existing in Europe. In a second time, the idea focuses on the villages farm built in Sicily between 1920 and 1960, during the Fascist period for the plan nicknamed “piano di colonizzazione del latifondo siciliano“, between fifty and more villages built, four were chosen for their geographical and morphological switches and have proven potential for a large and complex project reflection. It is given initial impression of use for each of the four villages, each village subsist thanks to a resident community through agriculture produced in the adjacent fields in turn occupies the management and operation of the entire service; of the four villages then for their characteristics is intended for specific uses: a joint tourism, a centre for art and crafts, a centre for research and agricultural production and a small alb ergo diffuse.

The project focuses on the path of one hundred and eleven kilometres that connects the four villages, the latter to be made on foot, on horseback or by bike, through not only the villages as well as areas of natural beauty, try to reactivate areas normally excluded from traditional tourism markets such as the agricultural areas of the Sicilian countryside. They were finally designed a series of artifacts of use and communication artifacts such as microstructures for day and night stop, reporting structures, multimedia application and a website that try to make the tourist experience a moment of discovery and lived. In its complexity the project does not want to be the point of arrival or the solution to the problem of abandonment, but identifies it as an opportunity to undertake a process of reflection on the potential of the existing.

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Andrea Sciarrino. rEvolution

Andrea was born on February ’86 and raised in Palermo.  Awarded a Bachelor degree in Industrial Design, he decided to move to Milan with other fellow students, enrolling at the Master’s degree (Product Design for Innovation) at the Politecnico di Milano. In December 2012 he graduated  with a thesis, which aims to combine two great passions: music and design. With this thesis he has the opportunity to work in an important field where coexist music and design. The most meaningful professional partnership takes place with Noah guitars, a company that helps him during the development of the thesis project, and with which builds the foundation for a new concept of acoustic guitar, with a new material: aluminum. The thesis project is just the first step in a long way project. Today he is dedicating himself to the research and analysis to identifying new ways of understanding and thinking about the  world musical instruments.

rEvolution. Material metamorphosis of a sounding board for acoustic guitar

The project idea born from cooperation with Noahguitars, a company in Milan that realizes electric guitars with aluminum,using a CNC milling machine for the guitar’s body.
The common will is to create a new way to thinking about acoustic guitar. This research thesis has as ultimate goal,to realize a concept resulting from a material metamorphosis, from wood to alluminum.
The design object is an acoustic guitar soundboard. The metamorphosis has been divided in three phases: A,B,C.
“Metamorphosis A” explains the way in which the linings are incorporated in the sounding board.
“Metamorhposis B”consists of the transposition of the concept of grain in wood in a material such as aluminum.
“Metamorphosis C” concerns the structural point of view, and portrayed the bracing role in a hypothetical soundboard made of aluminum.
Revolution is a word game that adds two important concepts: revolution and evolution. The revolution is given by material Metamorphosis to aluminum. The evolution is given by research and from the design behind the three stages of processing of the concept. The way I see it is that only the union of these two spects can give an innovation as a result.

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Carla Piazza. TuneUp

Carla gained her first degree in Industrial Design, at Palermo University in october 2008. She spent an Erasmus semester at A Coruña University, Spain, and she was a video editor intern at the Palermo audiovisual production Studio Forward. In April 2012 she graduated full marks cum laude in Visual and Multimedia Communication, specializing in Interaction Design, at Iuav University of Venice. Two of her projects were semi-finalist in the 2010 and 2011 Adobe Design Achievement Awards for the Mobile Device Category. She was a visual and interaction designer intern at ICON Worldwide, a design and techonology agency in Bühler (Switzerland). She worked as freelancer for the agencies Log607 and Digital Accademia (H-Farm) in Roncade (TV). She now lives in Madrid, where she is engaged in a new work experience at the international firm Fjord.


TuneUp is an application for mobile devices that helps diabetic teenagers with the technical and emotional management of their condition by creating a sound image represents the collected glucose data with an educational purpose. The application collects data about the blood glucose levels and translates them into sound distortions applied to an audio track chosen by the user: the duration of the sound track represents the user’s day; the distortion is applied to the portion of the track  connected to the part of the day in which the testing values are out of the normal range. The collected data can be edited and brought back within the optimal glycemic range through an interaction with the app that aims to increase knowledge about the daily management of diabetes and emphasizes, through sound, the importance of proper self-management.

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Fabrizia Parisi. Cooltour

Fabrizia (Palermo, 1985) is a designer and freelance photographer. After the degree in Industrial Design in Palermo, she specialized in arts and design at the University IUAV of Venice, with a thesis on services design. His work ranges from design, illustration and photography.
In 2011, participates in the architecture Biennale in Venice with a project in collaboration with Fondazione Claudio Buziol and Kist-scious and Kigali Institute of Technology in Hall Rwanda. Also in 2011, exposes some of her personal shots at the space A + A Public Center for Contemporary Art in Venice. Now works at La Claque, a collective founded in 2012 that work about communication, design and lifestyle. At the same time she is working on a photographic project about some institutions volunteer for children of Palermo.


Cooltour is a project of hospitality widespread in the territory, that upgrading three rural villages abandoned in the province of Messina. The project will protect the historic heritage lower, keeping the memory alive, and urging the historical and cultural recovery of these picturesque places, renewing the economy of the inland areas, bringing new tourists who travel to Sicily most degraded through responsible tourism and non-seasonal.
The project configures the experience, through a new kind of tourist accommodations, closer to the products, culture and the environment, the project generates a place in complete harmony and balance with nature. The project offers a way of life and the quality of the rural villages, places to live by reversing the hospitality vertical, the hotel facilities, to horizontal.
The idea is to make the hospitality of a widespread pattern of tourism development compatible and able to exploit the resources of the territory, with particular attention to the promotion of the products and culture, stimulating initiatives and involving local producers generating networks and supply chains between the small farmers, land owners and guests of the service.

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Dorotea Panzarella. Emmo

Dorotea Panzarella was born in Palermo in 1985 and grew up in Cefalù. In 2004 she enrolled at the University of Palermo and in 2008 completed her Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design with a visual identity project for the Mandralisca Cultural Foundation. She also partecipate in Erasmus programme, attending the FHNW – Hochshule fuer Gestaltung und Kunst in Aarau (Switzerland). In 2008 she enrolled at the IUAV University of Venice and moved from Palermo to Treviso for attending product design classes. In 2011 she completed her Master’s degree in Product Design with a degree project named “Emmo – An interactive toy for visually impaired children”. Now she still live in Treviso working as freelance and collaborating with other design studios, mainly in the consumer electronics  design field.

Emmo. Interactive toy for visually impaired children

The project has been developed after visiting some rehabilitation centers (in Padova, Trieste and Bolzano) and interviewing families of low vision children. Emmo is especially meant to motivate spatial exploration and helping children to develop the capability of creating mental topological maps. The toy includes lighting and sounding elements for a kind of “treasure hunt” and space-related “memory game” and it’s based on RFID technology. Shape, materials and colours (black and white) has been studied in order to meet low vision children needs. A first prototype has been realized in rapid prototyping; it works thanks to the Arduino UNO microcontroller and other electronics elements (audioshield, RFID readers). Emmo was presented at the Arduino Day 2011 in Rome and an article about Emmo was posted on the Arduino official blog.

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Fabio Nucatolo. Cooking Naturally

Fabio Nucatolo was born in Palermo, and took his Bachelors degree in Industrial Design at Palermo University. In Palermo he did a 3-month internship at yacht designers Acom and freelanced as furniture designer for Mediterranean Engineering. In 2010 he and Simona La Torre won the ComON national design competition, following which they were invited for a month as guest designers of furniture manufacturers Lema (Brianza, between Milan and Como). In 2010 he also started his first year of the Masters in Product Design at the Faculty of Design and Arts, Iuav University of Venice. His projects have been exhibited in Rome, Milan, Verona, and published in the journals Interni, Interni On Board and Ottagono. His thesis master degree investigates the possible development of special purpose devices for kitchen.

Cooking Naturally

Cooking Naturally aims to change people’s use of food resources, reducing waste by creating a direct channel between people and the information cloud surrounding the theme. All, a kitchen device that allows a better exploitation of this information, is both a display appliance and a filter which adapts its behaviour according to the user’s habits.

It is designed for people living in shared accommodation or alone. Due to their living conditions and lifestyles, and to how food is currently distributed and sold, these are the categories most exposed to food waste. Through All, such people can receive advice on grocery shopping and food conservation, preparation and consumption. As it is used, All learns to recognize its users, improving the advice depending on each individual’s behaviour.

All is used in the kitchen during food preparation and consumption. It can recognize the person using it and understand words and gestures. All integrates itself in the habitual dynamics of this environment. Making people concentrate on normal tasks, like preparing a recipe or conserving food, it becomes a tool that improves the experience of responsible cooking, not the focus of the experience.

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Claudia Miliziano. Lexis

Claudia (b. 1986, Palermo) took her first degree in Industrial Design at Palermo University, designing a social network that allows users to access informations which may be of interest in professional field. In 2009 she worked for three months as graphic designer at the Agrigento advertising agency Stand Up and in 2012 she was an interaction and graphic design intern at the Roberto Fazio Studio, Bologna. In April 2013 she gained her second degree in the Master programme in Visual and Multimedia Communication at the Faculty of Design and Arts, Iuav University of Venice. Her specialism is interaction design and her main interests are graphic and product design, art and new technologies.

Lexis. Il mostro

Lexis il mostro is an interactive game for dyslexic children which aims to support the processes of reading, memorizing and association in a kinestethic, ludic and amusing way. It is designed for Sifteo Cubes, a new game platform with mini-screen and proximity sensors.

Inside Lexis are mini-games that allow the testing and development of specific skills. Furthermore, to encourage the dyslexic subject to test with regularity, the game has been designed with a captivating character. The child has to keep a monster through three different areas: feeding, cleaning and fun. The mini-games are included in this contest and only at the end of the game is it possible to unlock some bonus, useful for the character’s needs. Last but not least, this instrument allow teachers and parents to check the progress of the child, thanks to the data saved on the associate site.

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Eleonora Majorana. conDUCImi

Eleonora was born in Catania in 1984. After graduating in International Communication at the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures of the University of Catania with an experimental thesis titled “Graphic Design: between art and communication”, she has continued her studies in Barcelona at the University Elisava where she has obtained a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Design, specializing in Graphic Design. The Erasmus scholarship has given to her the chance to study in Paris, and after gratuating she has attended the Master in Branding and Packaging at BAU University (Barcelona).

She did an internship in Javier Mariscal’s design studio in Spain and moved to Mexico City in 2012 where she has joined the design team of the global branding consultancy Interbrand. In Mexico she actually works as freelance Graphic Designer for countries like Spain, Italy and U.S.A. under the name of branDept. – Branding little brands, creating and developing little brands with an international team.

From January 2014 she will start teaching at the Colegio Mexicano de Diseño – COLMED in Mexico City with the courses of Corporate Identity, Branding Methodology and Personal Branding.

During her experiences abroad she loves to do research about the design working process, its multidisciplinary aspect and the chance to know new methods.
When people ask her if she will ever go back to Sicily, she answers with a Sicilian saying “A iaddinedda ca camina tunn’ a casa ca urza china” (The little hen that walks comes back home with a full bag).


conDUCImi® is a fashion and souvenirs brand for (Sicilian) girls and tourists, created by Eleonora Majorana in 2005 and made it known through exhibitions of creatives and artisans.

conDUCImi has been defined as: glamorous, romantic, elegant, pop & folk.
The Sicilian word ‘duci’ literally means sweet. In the island it is almost a way of being. It is perfect to describe a person who is special, sweet, sensitive, delicate and unique. It is ‘duci’ everything that produces tenderness and what the heart likes. The creations of this brand are ‘driven’ by the user. Girl and accessory are united by the awareness of being different from all others.

The brand is represented by a Sicilian handcart. That’s because the brand means ‘take me’, ‘guide me’. In fact this symbol is both a container and a mode of transportation that perfectly conveys an idea of Sicilian folk. Reinterpretation is given by the color of the symbol, sometimes put in old pink, very unusual for a handcart, but adapted to the concept of tenderness and sweetness that characterizes this brand.

The brand will be launched again on Spring 2014 with a recall of the places where its designer has lived: the French elegance of Paris, the Mexican folk, the impact of Spanish visual communication, the perfect work of an American brand, everything based on the world apart of Sicily’s inspiration.

Made in Sicily for pride and for the difference that Sicilians represent.

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Simona La Torre. The daily show

Born in Palermo, Simona is 26 year old. Her training is heterogeneous and transversal her approach to the project. She worked as a product, footwear and fashion designer. She started her training in Palermo where obtained her bachelor degrees in industrial design. Her first approach to the fashion design world is a Polo Ralph Lauren project, about fashion trends and a footwear collection. An initial three-month internship in Italy Lotto sport (where she developed her thesis) extended for a one year full in this company.
In 2010, she and Fabio Nucatolo won the ComON national design competition, following which they were invited for a month as guest designers of furniture manufacturers Lema (Brianza, between Milan and Como). The project, “Comera” table was showed in Como, during the creativity week , November 2010.

In 2010 he also started her first year of the Masters in Product Design at the Faculty of Design and Arts, attending the pattern course, the fashion laboratories , male tailoring and knitting. On july her knitting collection was selected and showed in Giacomelli building during the “fashion at Iuav”.
 To improve her tecnical skills attend the Short Course of Fashion “from shapes to dress, creative pattern for designers”.
She took her masters degree on April 2013 with a thesis and projects of a male and female capsule collection  named “Lo Spettacolo del quotidiano”.

The Daily Show

The focus of this thesis was to develop a collection composed of pieces that also live individually, The design process of the dissertation begins from a personal interpretation of photographic portraits; they act as filter and synthesis of people chosen , each outfit is the sartorial portrait of the person, who inspired the author.
“Lo spettacolo del quotidiano” is a fashion collection of men’ s and women’s clothing designed from photographic portraits taken from the Inta Ruka’s series “My country people”.
The sartorial portraits proposed are independent items of clothing which create a collection through three unifying features: the chosen source of inspiration to draw people’ profiles from, the clothing items’ construction criterion and the textile printing technique.
Experiences and life events lived by each character, described in the book are evoked and imprinted on the surface of the clothes through a process printing.
This precise choice pursues a concept of tailoring understood as the design process slow and ad personam, prints fact are made according to a manual technique, which impresses the fabric as if it were a photographic film, through exposure to sunlight.
Patterns and prints placing talk to each other, to enrich of the sense the result and to shy away from a trivializing relationship between them. Making sure that one is not mere support and the other does not go along with logic purely decorative.

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La Claque

La Claque is a collective of four young design from Sicily – Alessandro Arena, Maura Messina, Fabrizia Parisi e Salvatore Portella – that deals involved in with design, graphics and communication with a focus in offering suggesting contemporary style, making thus promoter promoting a taste of a trend dictated by the analysis of different realities that surround us. Its purpose is to generate a contagious “start at a round of applause contagious” is his intent. Sensitivity and rationality are the basic philosophy of La Claque, not to mention a sense of humor, fun and gratification that follow the design.

“La Claque collides with enthusiasm with the reality of Palermo, a periphery of Europe and the center of the Mediterranean, which therefore possesses at the same time the heart divalent soul divalent heart and the border. Why Palermo is what has been but it is also one that still is not, and then you have to discover, to experiment, to risk” (la Claque, 2013).

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d/storto design project

d/storto is a group of four Sicilian designers: Gaetano Crivello, Vincenzo di Stefano, Daniele Grande e Paolo Zaami. The mission is to become an active subject promoting design through the introduction of innovative processes into local craftsmanships. d/storto works on two parallel project lines: one answers to external requests (e.g. local authorities, cultural organizations, private persons) while the other one is an internal method of research which fosters the emergence and spread of design products starting from local firms.
d/storto is already working locally with the product “Frank”, a folding chair totally made out of cardboard, which has been showed at exhibitions like Vinitaly (client: Tasca d’Almerita) and local events like the “Earth Day” and “Domenica in cantina” (client: Planeta).

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Manuela Bentivegna. Autisme

Manuela was born in Palermo 26 years ago. Once adult she went to Rome where she worked and, at the same time, got her bachelor degree in Industrial Design at La Sapienza University of Rome. This experience improved her capacity to interact with people of different backgrounf, and power of her ideas. Between Rome and Palermo she collaborated as graphic designer for many studios/publishing house/ companies. She worked with inespaoluccidesign for the university and for famous design companies; for a small roman editing house Socrates Edizioni; with Archicom she managed SposiMagazine; for Aikon she designed a capsule collection; with and for il Filo dalla Torre onlus she developed an app for children with autism.


Trough a depth research and sperimentation Manuela studied the way to manage, playing, children with autism and what can be the control/verification/help instruments for them. Thanks to many esperts and psychologists helps, she designed a computer appliance capable to adeguate with any children need: Autisme is a tablet videogame studied and worked out for children with autism and mental retardation from two years of age.

Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder that occurs within the first 3 years and accompanies the subject for all his life. Recent cognitive theories identify in the distortion of interpersonal relationship the fundamental characteristic of autism, impinging in all areas of children’s relationship.

The game, unique in its genre, consists creating animated stories that reproduce routine, often for children with autism difficult to understand and to play.

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Laura Bagnera. Auxiliary mimesis

Laura Bagnera (1987) was born and raised in Palermo. After high school, she decides to attend a course in Industrial Design in Palermo. At 22 years old she moved to Milan to attend a course for a Master’s degree in industrial design at the Politecnico while cultivating an interest in illustration. In 2012 she finishes her studies with a thesis that analyzes the relationship between the object-aid and the elderly. She did a three month long internship in a snail farm in Greece. Right now she’s trying to carry on personal projects.

Auxiliary mimesis: design for autonomy

A change that today can not fall through the net is the increasing in the average age of the population. This means that the number of people over 65 years of age may be even more numerous. My thesis comes from the desire to meet these new needs by taking a look at which are our daily habits that at a certain age may become difficult. I have thoroughly investigated the relationship between elder and object through a careful analysis of the products: there are objects that scream our disease, so we refuse to use them, we are ashamed, others with whom we can live together peacefully. Through the hand we can make the simplest gestures, making thus independent. Simultaneously with an analysis of the problem related to the hands movement I place my attention on what it means to be elderly today. My intention is therefore to make sure that there is a peaceful coexistence, without too much effort and without shame, with the object.

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Vittorio Venezia. un/coordinated

Vittorio Venezia is a product designer. He graduated in Architecture at the University of Palermo in 2005. He has devoted himself to the design products since 2004, after winning the Bombay Sapphire Martini Collection Award. In 2006, his final university paper won the Lucky Strike Junior Award. In 2007 he moved to Milan and started collaborating with various international designers. Meanwhile he continued his research on design, cultivating an increasingly personal approach. In 2008 he was selected for the Triennial Prime Cup and included in the International exhibition New Italian Design. Through his career Vittorio Venezia has won various major international awards, including: Grand Prixe Emile Hermes 2008; Promosedia 2012; Cristalplant 2013. Some of his works have been exhibited at the Triennale di Milano, the Louvre and the MAXXI. In 2012 he became co-director of the master “Out of the door” from the Abadir Academy in Catania. He lives and works between Milan and Palermo, where he collaborates with many companies, such as Alcantara, Falper, Meritalia.

un/coordinated. Notes, drawings and models for the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Paris

Once upon a time Grand Tour used to bring people all the way throughout Italy to the deep South, Sicily. To this regard those are her words: “Nowadays, I’d like to think that I have done a similar journey but pointing north, all the way to Paris. My aim in fact is to draw and design and sometimes event to craft objects myself. I much prefer the ones that can be used for some purpose and thus I am called a designer.”

During his residence in Paris at the Italian Institute of culture he was asked to design an Italian merchandising family. He started his research trying to define a project with a strong and direct link to Italy, to Italian culture, so that he could be a synthesis of the Bel Paese. “The project here presented is the un-coordinated array of objects inspired by Italy. Rather than finished items I like to describe them as travel notes. I conceived them as un-coordinated as they are born from different methodologies: some are formal quotation, others come from simple sensations, perception of different materials or the manipulation of familiar objects. I like to design working on indirect memories such as the roll while moving on the Lagoon in Venice; the chimneys in a painting by Giorgio De Chirico; the big domes in Turin, Florence and Rome; a moka coffee maker; wood grain; a clothes peg and the list could continue forever. Travel notes. The focus of this project was to steal symbol of the Italian culture re interpret them and transform them into simple object that try to convey a memory, a distant echo of belonging somewhere.”

Some of the objects he designed have been developed with craftsmen and artisans in different Italian cities and with different expressions. The glass, for instance, is made in Vicenza, the toll in Palermo, the sun glasses in Sorrento, marble is from Comiso. Other objects have been rapid prototyped, they create undefined forms, representative of one single idea.

This approach wich he loves define s/coordinated as it attempts to harness and metabolize all the slight differences and sensations of such unique a culture that can only be described as Italian. Assistent of the project, with Vittorio Venezia, was Giorgio Laboratore.

Young Sicilian design

This section presents an overview of the youngest generation of Sicilian designers.
These designers, who share the same origin and the same interest in the world, work all around Italy and Europe, dealing with social, interaction, visual and fashion design.
It’s a generation experiencing a phenomenon occurring for years, that is to say globalization, with the abolishment of frontiers and the shortening of distances: such a condition leads to the exploration of new destinations, to the comparison with other realities in order to enhance one’s cultural knowledge, experiences and insights.
For all those who have left and live elsewhere, the comparison is direct; for those who leave and then come back, the web net allows to keep in touch easily, to work remotely with other people, to be always up-to-date, thus activating a virtuous circle that fosters the creation of a network of intelligences and professionals.
Culture of the project, contemporary languages and sensitivity towards beauty, always of great importance in Sicily: these are some of the qualities that characterise the projects of these young designers. The different working conditions of each of them, not only connected to the geographical context of Sicily, represent a sort of guarantee that keeps them far from any possible expression of regressive regionalism.
Instead, what emerges from their projects is often the wish to release their own home countries.
The young designers represent, along with the artists, the most surprising driving force for the cultural transformation of the territories. A cultural transformation that, without any imposition, can encourage the development of a consciousness, of a mental ecology based on the “being”, to be carried out in order to restore the balance between our individual and collective needs and the natural roof of our planet.
The new generation of young designers, an important human resource, represents the promise of a better future.

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The current art scene in Sicily

Abstract: How would you describe the creative identity of Sicilian art? Flexible, open, independent, free of local and provincial restrictions. Through its artists, Sicily nowadays confirms its role of primary importance in the world of contemporary art, thanks to an altogether new ability compared to the past to promote itself and gain a reputation, to frequently migrate to the centre of the action, to take up new challenges and arouse curiosity and interest. Artistic currents and forms of expression mingle and continuously blend, displaying an inquisitive spirit and designer orientation, often shared as part of a creative teamwork approach. From Palermo to Scicli, many young artists have devised no-profit platforms to exchange feedback, productive cells open to both local and international art, often acting as springboards for fruitful endeavours on the territory and innovative outreaches to the wider audience. So everything is OK, then? No, obviously not. The art system is still quite fragile. The result is a Sicily full of life but yet unable to manifest itself, promote art and grow.

In recent decades, an attempt has often been made to outline a profile of Sicilian art, striving to understand how this borderline territory, these Western outskirts on the margins of the art scene, have responded to trends and isms that were developing elsewhere. The question is which currents and movements have penetrated the island and how and when, which and how many artists have chosen the way of innovation over the continued establishment of solid tradition. The results of this evaluation, as you can imagine, have differed from decade to decade, but up to the end of the 90’s, we have surely witnessed mass migration of artists to the happening venues of “integrated” art, those cities in Italy, Europe and even Northern America, where the art system offered visibility, support, and advertising opportunities. Those who decided to leave have often also opted for a language of research and change, adding a number of stylistic currents to the system that have become the benchmark for scores of generations of artists. To name a few, consider the abstract signs of Forma Uno, with Carla Accardi and Pietro Consagra at the fore-front, the conceptualism of Emilio Isgrò with his essentialism, the environmental sculptures of Schiavocampo, the post-pop of Filippo Panseca with his eco-friendly machines, the dynamic monochromatic art of Pino Pinelli, the spatial art of Turi Simeti with his exterior vocation, the trans-vanguard of Mimmo Germanà, up to the decorative textures on wallpaper of Francesco Simeti, the audio-visual work of Seb Patanè, the video-art and photography of Domenico Mangano, the pictorial installations of Pietro Roccasalva and Francesco Lauretta, or the socio-political reflections with subversive incursions of Adalberto Abbate.

In the past two decades, we have witnessed a substantial change of course: the ultimate landings and an approach bridging to the future have changed. The immediateness of digital technology, in my opinion one of the most functional motivations to the decision to “stay on”, as also a bond with one’s homeland and the sweet savour of this Mediterranean latitude, have been the springboard that has driven certain artists to  return or stay on in Sicily, in spite of everything. Andrea di Marco, a talented painter from Palermo who died six months ago at the age of 42, had returned to his native city after the mafia’s terrorist attack on judge Falcone. In his own words, because “the thought of leaving the most cherished friendships and ties to themselves… and this gnawing sense of guilt” made him feel a part of the tragic political affairs that swept the entire nation. The expression “in spite of it all” continues to be as stereotypical as it is dramatically urgent, in light of the economic-political dynamics of recent years, the system’s idiosyncrasies, with the consequential setbacks for the territory and its cultural programmes.

Staying (Loredana Longo, Canecapovolto, Sebastiano Mortellaro, laboratorio Saccardi), returning (Alessandro Bazan, Francesco De Grandi and Fulvio Di Piazza) and arriving (Stefania Galegati, Aleksandra Mir) are verbs familiar to the latest generations of artists who work on the island; they have configured a new creative, flexible, open, independent identity, free of local and provincial restrictions. The scene appears as a stage walked by a broad number of actors, some of whom lead stars, others deuterogamists, in the sense of a conscientious and intriguing juxtaposition outside set patterns and trends in a land with a strong egocentric drive. Many struggle to break free of fashion trends that are in reality lacking conceptual and aesthetic soul, but many others are willing to reinvent themselves, to venture outside their home to seek dialogue with different and foreign realities, eager for artistic confrontation. Globalisation and localisation are two concepts we stumble upon continuously and, after all, the international landscape includes many artists who frame reality from a perspective tending to embrace broader topics, in Shanghai just as in New York, while not straying from the compass mark of local themes, with a glance on individual and collective memory.

Currents and forms of expression continue to blend, displaying curiosity and a designer mentality. If up to a few years ago, art here winked an eye to individual myths, a collective trend seems now to have the upper hand, one of consciously sharing and participating to collective projects with “team spirit”, one that often aims to share idealism, work, approach and an engagement of reality. “Cowork di Re Federico” in Palermo has embraced the communitarian concept, having for some years now webbed a network of young independent artists who share professional skills, creativity, experience to tackle together the touchy subject of work and the shifting job market. Coworkers are offered state of the art facilities with workstations and a common environment in which to share their work time. This programme has extended to the city at a time of occupation of the Zisa Cultural Construction Sites, “I Cantieri che vogliamo” (The construction sites we want), with round tables and workshops organised to discuss and plan with the community of citizens at large the fate of a symbolic place in local culture. The artistic project proposed by the scientific committee designated by the local Council to open the pavilion inside the Construction Sites, meant to become the new centre of contemporary art of the City of Palermo, is much in line with this teamwork approach. ZAC (Zisa Zona Arti Contemporanee) opens to the city as an outdoor space whose “boundaries are constantly shaping” that welcomes all forms of contemporary artistic expression. A group of some 90 young artists and students of the Academy of Fine Arts have been selected and invited to contribute to the great nave of the ex-hangar, with the aim of jointly designing a think-lab, of pooling creative skill to condense inspiration and suggestions, the aim being to design the ZAC project as a team. Of the lab artists, the team Fare Ala, born in 2009 and comprising young artists from Palermo, Spain and France is the one that instantly managed to grasp the concept of the project.  Accustomed to exchanging “feedback on the relation between artistic practice and the social and urban dimension”, Fare Ala has attracted other artists, acting as a melting pot in a particularly new and complex situation. The themes tackled by ZAC have to do with memory, the weaving of past and present, construction site identity, the concept of databasing, topics in a variety of sub-installations, paintings, sound effects and video footage. However, there are also examples of relational/useful art, such as the “fertile zone” of Dessislava Minerva open to collaboration with Gabriella Ciancimino, or “the great theatre” of Andrea Mineo, a stand built with recycled materials from construction sites, transformed into a mutating structure that can adapt to different “settings”, art that opens to the arts. The idea of salvaging the city’s history in terms of artistic heritage thought of as a shared asset is at the base of the “Macerie” (Rubble) project. Now in its second edition, the event was held in the 14th century halls of Palazzo Barlotta di San Giuseppe and in the 18th century Giglio church, historical sites inaccessible to their state of total ruin. The project’s designer is once again the young artist Andrea Mineo, who has succeeded in bringing together a large number of artists who have worked on and with rubbles to create sceneries of sheer visual and emotional effect.

An exceptional observatory on contemporary research is Zelle, a busy and dynamic centre under the direction of artist Federico Lupo. Counting on the contribution of several international young artists, Zelle includes a collection of works on paper called “Sweet Sheets”, in a place where history, fragments of souls, a play on emotions come alive, thanks too to the lightness of the support and to the lingering trails. Palermo also hosts the A Project space designed by artists Giuseppe Buzzotta and Vincenzo Schillaci, a set of stands transformed into exhibition space, but also a residential area, where conceptual building artists create minimalist work, decorating the living space with sombre aplomb.

The no-profit cultural association Erbe Matte, the “artist-run space” Bocs and Parking 095 in Catania are central spots for promoting and organising urban action, site specific events, unconventional exhibitions in the city. On the Saracen coast between Capo d’Orlando and Brolo, the artistic scene is quite thriving and counts on the support of events sponsored by artist Massimo Ricciardo, who designed “Guardiola Contemporanea” (Contemporary Porter’s Lodge), artist residences and workshops, and the exhibition “La rincorsa della lepre” (The hare’s chase) jointly with Tothi Folisi of the Laboratorio Saccardi Group. The events welcomed contributions by Sicilian artists and a broad spectrum of international artists. South-eastern Sicily is preluding to a new horizon in contemporary research. The works of the Barbaragurrieri/group have attempted to analyse the social framework when compared to issues of local microeconomics and the global macro-economy. Clang in Scicli is a space of research, collaboration and innovation established by the artist Sasha Vinci, which will be presenting “Crossing over” in 2013, a series of events that encourage dialogue between different arts.

The Sicilian landscape becomes especially interesting when we touch on photography, in a variety of international spins: documentary, journalist, artistic, inventory snapshots of seemingly useless objects, imaginary landscapes, surreal inventions, an open language that is by now vital in contemporary routine. Young photographers touring the world express their vision in impactful, beautiful images whose theme is Sicily or India, China or Wall Street. The quality and modern vibe of the artistic offer from the latest generations is still lacking a sturdy system, institutionally and privately. But that is another story.

Design & Production in Italy from ‘Miracolo Economico’ to Present

Abstract: The history of Italian design is characterised by a variety of changes gradually occurring within the relationship design-production. These changes are inherently connected to the structural conditions of the Italian industrial fabric, to the technological development, to the economical changes and to the changing conditions of the design demand and offer both in Italy and all over the world. The present chronicle considers Milan and its surroundings as the centre of a series of events that made the Italian design reach the point that it is still maintaining at a worldly level. Moreover, it takes into account the productive sector of furniture and furnishing accessories, which mainly identify Italian design. As any facts revision, also this one has privileged some aspects and excluded some others, in order to reach its own significance.

The complete version of this article is available only in Italian.

Interview with Cheryl Buckley

  1. Marinella Ferrara: In your opinion, which was the contribution of Gender Studies to the history, to the criticism and to the practice of design?
    Cheryl Buckley: I think that the contribution of Gender Studies to the study of the history, criticism and practice of design has been profound. Dating from the early 1980s, this influenced historians, practitioners and theorists who developed ideas that had emerged from various academic contexts: art and design history, philosophy particularly post-structuralism, history.
  2. What is today the situation of Design Gender Studies and on which research are you working on?
    It is inconceivable today that those working in design history, theory and practice should not take account of gender. Since the 1980s there has been a plethora of work in numerous fields- of course in design, art, architecture, but also in studies of social identities more widely especially around sexuality, race, and latterly generation. Academics have come from a range of disciplines and I think one of the advantages of design as a field is that its is very permeable. By this I mean that over the last 30 years, it has drawn ideas, methods and approaches from other disciplines such as history, geography, politics, linguistics, pyschology, etc.
    As regards my work, I am currently co-writing a book (with Hazel Clark based at Parsons School of Design in New York) on Fashion and Everyday Lives in 20thC Britain and the USA. It will be published by Berg in 2013-14. This project is the first sustained investigation of fashion and everyday life on two of the world’s major fashion cities: London and New York. Typically fashion has been studied as an ‘exceptional’ rather than mundane aspect of visual and material culture with an emphasis on stylistic innovation, perpetual change, and distinctive youth cultures. Instead this project aims to unsettle the dominant views by understanding fashion as a manifestation of routine daily lives that remains with people over time. The project examines the ways in which the everyday use, appropriation, circulation, re-making and regular re-modelling of fashionable clothes by diverse social groups can be: anti-modern and non-progressive; exemplify continuity and tradition; responsive to regional and national subtleties as well as global ones; and disruptive of fashion’s structures and systems as well as its visual codes and norms of consumption. Whilst there remains a predominant interest in the fashion ‘syntaxes’ of the young, the novelty of the ‘look’, and the currency of the latest style- whether re-cycled, second-hand, revivalist, or new, this research investigates the vast swathe of fashionable dressing outside of these categories. This fashion comprises the ordinary and mundane practices of wearing that draws items from the personal wardrobe in a routine manner over time. This research aims to define a new theoretical and historiographical framework for the subject which moves beyond the dominant thesis regarding fashion’s relationship to modernity.
  3. In Anglo-Saxon Countries the attention to Gender Studies was much greater than it whose in Italy and in the countries of Southern Europe, especially in the design field. Why does it happen, in your opinion?
    I don’t have a clear understanding of why this should be particularly in the case of Italy with its strong engagement with design. The secular nature of Anglo-Saxon countries is probably a factor as too are the specific circumstances of history and politics. Italy, Greece and Spain, for example, had predominantly right-wing post-war political regimes; one could argue that these ideas of social justice – such as are embedded within feminist discourses- did not have the same currency in these contexts?
  4. Do you think that it would be possible and useful today, to launch a debate about relations between national cultures and gender, strictly regarding design, particularly in the Mediterranean countries, which actually are very different one from each other?
    Yes I think that an awareness of and sensitivity to national cultures is very important particularly in the light of the last question. My view is that a close understanding of the specific historical, political and social contexts of national cultures is vital. However articulating and defining ‘national cultures’ is challenging in a post-imperial, post-colonial world in which ‘national identities’ are complex and heterogeneous.
  5. PAD is committed to map the work of women designers and woman design entrepreneurs based in the Mediterranean countries. What would be your advice In this regard?
    I would think that to understand what has been done by others in different parts of the world is a very useful first step, and then to consider firstly how this can inform PAD’s objectives, secondly to identify how this is different or similar to the experiences of those in Mediterranean countries, thirdly to develop an action plan from this. I would consider extending your remit to include women consumers and users of design.

Cheryl Buckley is a design historian with an interest in the history of everyday things (fashion, architecture, domestic interiors and ceramics).
Since 2006 she has been Visiting Professor in Design History at Parsons, The New School for Design/Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York. In 2007 she was awarded a Chair in Design History at Northumbria University, Newcastle (UK)
and became Editorial Chair of the Journal of Design History in 2011.
Her research has dealt with the history of 20thC design. Her major books are: Designing Modern Britain, (Reaktion, 2007), Fashioning the Feminine, Representation and Women’s Fashion from the fin de siècle to the present day (I.B.Tauris, 2002) and Potters and Paintresses. Women Designers in the British Pottery Industry 1870-1959 (The Women’s Press,1991).
Cheryl Buckley has a particular interest in design history and gender with two essays that contributed to this particular debate: ‘Made in Patriarchy: Theories of Women and Design, A Re-Working’, in Design and Feminism: Re-Visioning Spaces, Places, and Everyday Things, ed. Joan Rothschild, USA: Rutgers University Press, 1999 and ‘Made in Patriarchy: Towards a feminist analysis of women and design, in Design Issues, Vol. III, No. 2, Fall 1986, pp.1-31.
She also has a long-standing research interest in the history of ceramics and the role of émigré designers in Britain and the USA (see forthcoming introduction and co-edited special issue (with Tobias Hochscherf),‘Transnationalism and Visual Culture in Britain: Émigrés and Migrants 1933 to 1956’, Visual Culture in Britain, vol.13, no.3, 2012, and book chapter ‘Authenticity, tradition and modernity: Marguerite Wildenhain and Ruth Duckworth, women émigré studio potters, 1936-1964’, in Entfernt: Frauen des Bauhauses während der NS-Zeit – Verfolgung und Exil, Women in Exile, volume 5, eds. Adriane Feustel, Inge Hansen-Schaberg, Wolfgang Thöner, text+kritik, Richard Boorberg +Verlag GmbH & Co KG, Munich, 2012). This research began with postgraduate research for a Master of Letters thesis that focused on the British furniture company and architectural practice, Isokon  (Isokon, exhibition catalogue, 1980), and it continued with research for a Doctorate on women in the British pottery industry. This led to various publications, notably the book Potters and Paintresses, and various articles and book chapters such as ‘Women and Modernism: A Case Study of Grete Marks (1899-1990)’ in Women Designing. Redefining Design in Britain between the Wars, eds. Jill Seddon and Suzette Worden, Brighton, 1994 and ‘Quietly Fine, Quietly Subversive: Women Ceramics Designers in Twentieth-century America’, Women Designers in the USA 1900-2000 Diversity and Difference, ed. Pat Kirkham, USA: Yale University Press, 2000).

The Mediterranean of Women. Evolutions and new Opportunities for Design in the Network Society

Abstract This article examines and documents the emergent phenomena, wich in the countries of southern Mediterranean coast manifest a grater awareness by women of their role in society. Those phenomena can be considered as the effects of convergent actions like investment plicies in education programa, promotion of artistic practices and the widespread use of social networking media, enables by ICT. We can note a growing tendency towards democracy that is expressed in various ways on artistic and productive activities by women. So much so that today a new Mediterranean can be told through observating of the women’s practices that are a clear reflection of the growth of talents, skills, ideas and projects. All the more so if we consider art and design, not only the mirror of social change, but also as an agent of socio-economic development.

Key words mediterranean design, gender study, social web, communication technologies, crowdfunding.

Only 15 months ago The Arab Spring proposed some democracy scene, that were unthinkable. Apparently, it seemed that the process towards democracy, that had started slowly, had suddenly sped, thus giving voice to bottom-up phenomena, to the needs of  minority and discriminated poor classes, to the demand for freedom and respect of human rights. Whereas on the other side, on the North side, the awareness of the decreasing Western influence was developing more and more, although such an influence was considered as a necessary condition for a more balanced relationship between the two parts.

The rebirth of North Africa had represented an incredible opportunity to reevaluate the social role of women. The events of those days, with protest marches, were characterized by a heavy participation of women asserting their rights, showing a great need for coming out and widening their limited horizons in the participation to the social, economical and cultural development of their countries.

Nowadays we are going through a period of regression. The expected change has occurred not according to the principles of democracy and reformation that had inspired the Arab Spring, but in relation to the success of the conservative Islamic parties. The scene is still confusing and the outcomes of the transitional process are even more uncertain. In general, the situation has been worsened by the Syrian question and the economical crisis spreading in the Euro-Mediterranean area.

Despite disenchantment, in this particular moment, it is crucial to talk about Mediterranean design. Above all if we consider design as that act of design culture that is the expression of social changes and of lifestyles. The designer’s attitude to ‘catch’ the meaning of changes and to turn them into plans and therefore in product/service shows that it’s possible to play a role in the transformation of society: leading the smallest and the most important social and behavioural changes to the system of objects, then to the dimension of every day makes any transformation concrete and comprehensible to common people, thus avoiding the arise of fears and social oppositions, but, most of all, avoiding the passive acceptance of the new [1]. Art and design are innovation factors and can become instruments for the social and economical development, if associated to production activities.

The above-mentioned theory has been shown by the history of fashion design, a developing sector in the South coast of the Mediterranean, that has involved a stance on the women role and on its interpretation, by claiming the dignity of the body and of the gender  in the visual communication. Design understands style, renovates expressive languages, signs and products, by promoting great changes in the daily life of women or showing its disapproval for some emerging positions. Often, who works in this sector is an avant-garde figure, but his creativity is not separated from what happens in common life, what can be observed on the street, what  happens in young and artistic fields.

In Europe, the periods of rapid social changes have provided artists with the opportunity to open new perspectives in fashion trends; such trends have encouraged important changes in the women’s role. Let’s take Coco Chanel, for example, who acted in the limits of fashion industry; she managed to create a new style, responding to the social changes that were occurring at that time.

Nevertheless, fashion also means social control, as it belongs to the group of mechanisms developed by every collectivity in order to avert the deviance from a certain kind of attitude. The social group holding the power exercises control on the ability of the citizen to conform to the social and civil prescriptions (Merton, 1983).

Even more crucial, at the moment, is to talk about the ‘The Mediterranean of Women’, by gathering information on professional and research activities of women operating in the area of creative, artistic, business, architecture and handcraft project [2].

To support this theory, we’ll refer to Griselda Pollock, the design protagonist of the Cultural Studies, who in the 1970s stated that a feminist approach is neither a side-issue nor a novel historical perspective – it is the main concern of contemporary history design… “we are involved in a contest for occupation of an ideologically strategic terrain” [3].

Despite the debate generated by the Design Cultural Studies in Anglo-Saxon countries, that has shaken all the certainties about historiographical methods, thus unmasking the ideologies laying behind the lack of valorisation of women designers and opening new ways to research,  such a theory has not been very successful in the Mediterranean countries. The reasons are the ones just mentioned by Cheryl Buckley during her interview, concerning the particular historical-political conditions of each country, that have blocked or inhibited the diffusion of ideas deviating from the official behaviour.

A rebuilding of the problems and motivations that have affected  the lack of valorisation of women’s role is essential in each of the Mediterranean countries, such as the one carried out by Cheryl Buckley. As it would be impossible to face such a wide subject here, we will state our theory through some statements.

1. “When women change, everything changes. And women in Muslim world are changing radically.”

The sentence of the famous feminist writer Naomi Wolf (2011) represents the starting point to state that, despite the barriers created by political issues and predominant ideologies, world is continuously evolving, sometimes with original elements that escape from stereotypes.

Among the predominant stereotypes in Western world about Muslim countries, the most popular are the ones concerning women, that are seen as veiled and victims, exotically silent, closed inside their strict gender roles.

Such a stereotype does no longer respond to reality. The participation of women to the manifestations of North Africa of last year is an evidence of this theory, together with the work of many Arab women involved in the art field. Education represents one of the most important changes occurred.

Among the countries of the South coast of the Mediterranean, Tunisia represents the most significant example of  a politics of investments in education (the highest investments in the world) that, started in 1956, has been successful so far. In 2000, about 92% of children from 6 to 12 years attended school. Thanks to this change, women in Tunisia represent a vital part of the qualified work force.

Two generations ago, only a little minority of élite daughters got university education. Nowadays. Women represent more than 50% of Egyptian university students and more than 60% in Iranian students (Esfandiari, 2003). Many investments on education have been done also in Israel and Palestine.

Another great change has occurred in the art field, where women belong to a developing artistic independent movement; also they are among the biggest patrons and collectors of Middle-East.

Currently, in the Arab world, there is a huge space for art, exhibitions and artists’ rewards: festivals, meetings, competitions, galleries, auction sales are organized more and more often and new museums, such as Abu Dhabi and Qatar (wanted by Sheik Mayassa Al Thani) have been opened. Finally, even Western world starts to get interested in this ‘stranger’.

Women find in art the ideal terrain to express themselves freely, to fight against stereotypes and to start a career on their own, even staying at home.

The true art is a crucial part in the dialogue with society and it can change it from the inside. Quoting the critic Lucy R. Lippard (1995): “women’s art is not a style … , it’s a system of values, a revolutionary approach and a lifestyle”.

Also in the Mediterranean, as in the Anglo-Saxon world, renovation originates from art and from acknowledgment  of women work and it belongs to the feminist movement. As we learned from history, after women’s education, it is difficult to stop the tendency towards democracy.

2. There is a link between the use of ICT and the tension towards democracy.

We have learned from media how crucial the role of ICT (telephone nets, cable TV, Internet and social network) was in the recent manifestations of North Africa, both for the diffusion of Western lifestyles and as an instrument of dissidents. It has led to the awareness of being part of the world, by encouraging the confrontation of Southern and Northern coasts populations with different identities and lifestyles.

Mobile phones has developed really quickly. And, although some surveys (carried out by teenagers) show that girls are less likely to be up to date with technological developments and communication technology items, nowadays, more and more women, who are interested in their interactive and aesthetic dimension, use technology to get in touch with people who are geographically distant (Virpi Oksman and Pirjo Rautiainen, 1997, p. 148) and to know better the different ‘faces’ of the world.

In the Middle East, women are very active in social networks, with a high participation, about 70%, of which 34% connecting at least 10 hours a week on their spare time (Qudoos, 2010)[4]. The desire to chat, share information and contents, talk about themselves on the web is increasing. Women have been among the first ones to use the net as a space for dissidence.

Sondès Ben Khalifa, journalist for Radio Tunisienne and blogger says: “New technologies have given women the strength to fight against men. They have helped them communicate, to express themselves quite openly. And all their efforts have turned into a virtual reaction that has become real” (Manfredi, 2011)[5].

Ehab el-Zelaky, Egyptian journalist of the independent newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm has stated that “The manifestations of Maghreb have distant roots … since 2004 the voices of dissidents and of minorities on the net have risen, above all women voices…some bloggers have started to tell about their life experience, thus  uncovering taboos and reacting against solidarity among criminals”. On the internet Egyptian women have started to talk about female homosexuality and homely violence.

Social media, because of their technological nature, enable men and women to share their thoughts, understand differences, have a dialogue, express their needs, by means of different communication codes. Social networks encourage women to take part actively to the building of society, politics and culture in full consciousness.

As pointed out by Naomi Wolf (2011), women, if not trained to manage power, can have some difficulties in dealing with leadership and protest, traditionally conceived, because these involve a technique that is ‘unknown’ to women body, such as standing on a stage, under the search-lights or  challenging the crowds, actions that are usually associated to young activist men, holding a megaphone. Social networks, instead, and Facebook in particular with its interface, imitate the women attitude towards the social reality: in fact, they base their attitude on the relationships among people, according to links that are also instruments of dominance and control.

“On Facebook you can be a simple human being, but also a powerful leader, without having to be an authority or having to state your dominance, only by creating a great ‘we’.“(Wolf, 2011).

3. New technologies create new models, systems and projects.

Many professional women are experimenting new the ways towards self-affirmation and professional developments thanks to the communication system, that is more and more fluid and changeable, by creating new instruments and languages, opening new ways, thus starting a process of global personal interaction that is turning around the social web.

Let’s take for example the crowdfunding. This is a means to detect funds to be used for the start-up of projects and businesses that is based on the global cooperation through the Internet. The idea is not new at all: we still remember the ‘money collection’ usual among students or in the church for charity, or the so-called tontines, that is to say the modality of self-organised micro-credit very common among the women of North Africa in order to overcome the difficulty in reaching finance, as they cannot offer much in terms of guarantee. This practice is typical of all communities and associations created spontaneously for the mutual interest of all participants, by paying a very small share that raises a mutual fund that is regularly used to achieve initiatives and projects.

Nowadays the number of specialized crowdfunding platforms for technology businessmen, for journalism and also for creative professions and for arts (cinema, television, music, photography, etc.) is increasing.

This instrument is particularly efficient for all those projects that would never get the institutional and political support; these projects can be realized thanks to a fund collection among people that are interested in the project proposed on the platform. A real shared society is then created, besides classical economy, based on independent rules.

Iraqi photographer Tamara Abdul Hadi has presented on the crowdfunding  platform for journalists an interesting project: a real challenge to the western stereotype of all Arab men that are likely to be terrorists. She has taken some pictures of Arab men and has collected them in a presentation that portraits reality for different and unexplored points of view.

In Italy, Naba and Domus Academy design school, the latter being one of the most prestigious in the world, has started a cooperation with Eppela platform.

The first Arab crowdfounding portal will be launched on the 2nd July. The portal, called Aflamnah, aims at encouraging the proposal of projects for the Arab world in different fields: cinema, television, art, music, photography and fashion.

According to Vida Rizq, the main founder of Aflamnah, the initiative aims at changing the way of conceiving creativity in the region and hopes to encourage a new generation of  directors, software programmers, artists and designers to pursue their hobby and realize their ideas.

4. The Mediterranean will be told through the development of talents, competences and projects.

Marinella Ferrara, Politecnico di Milano, INDACO department.



Buckley, C. (1986, autumn). Made in Patriarchy: Toward a Feminist Analysis of Women and Design. Design Issues, Vol. 3, n. 2 pp. 3-14.

Esfandiari, G. (2003). Number of Female University Students Rising Dramatically in Iran [WWW page]. URL

Lippard, L. R. (1995). The Pink Glass Swan: Essays on Feminist. New York: The New Press.

Manfredi, A. (2011, March 15th). Rete, blog e social media. Voci di donna dal web alla piazza. La Repubblica esteri. Extracted from

Merton, R.K. (1983). Teoria e struttura sociale. Bologna, IT: il Mulino.

Oksman, V. & Rautiainen, P. (1997). Il prolungamento della mano. Il rapporto di bambini e adolescenti col cellulare in Finlandia. In L. Fortunati, J. Katz, R. Riccini (Eds.), Corpo Futuro (pp. 144-154). Milano, IT: Franco Angeli.

Qudoos, M. (2010, giugno 14). Arab women score high in Internet use online. Khaleej Times online. Extracted from east_June452.xml&section=middleeast. Wolf, N. (2011). The Middle East Feminist Revolution [WWW page]. URL

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. In 2008, in occasion of the exhibition “Design and Elastic Mind” Paola Antonelli, curator of the design section of MOMA of New York, claimed that the role of design consists of “catching” the meaning of changes occurring in the fields of science, technology, social attitudes and turning them into projects concepts, by tracing the achievements back to the human dimension and to daily life. Therefore, one of the fundamental aims of design is to be between revolution and daily life and to help people understand changes.
  2. It has been done in other occasions. See: Ferrara, M. (2009). “Donne dal Mediterraneo”, Disegno Industriale-Industrial Design. 40. 34-39.
  3. Pollock, G., (1982). “Vision, Voice and Power: Feminist Art History and Marxism” Block 6. Estratto da: Buckley, C. (1986).”Made in Patriarchy: Toward a Feminist Analysis of Women and Design” Design Issues, Vol. 3, N. 2 (Autumn, 1986), The MIT Press, p. 4. “Griselda Pollock has stated, a feminist approach is neither a side-issue nor a novel historical perspective – it is a central concern of contemporary design history. As she has pointed out, “we are involved in a contest for occupation of an ideologically strategic terrain.”
  4. Journalist for Khaleej Times, Mohammed Qudoos, reports the data related to a survey carried out by YouGovSiraj in April 2010, commissioned by, portal devoted to Arab women, created by Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADMC). The survey has been carried out in order to understand the evolution of behaviours in the women of Middle-East and to turn them into opportunities for a dialogue. It has pointed out that “Arab women are highly involved in the social networking space, with Facebook ranking as the leading social networking site among Arab women: 91 per cent in Lebanon, followed by 80 per cent in Egypt, 78 per cent in the UAE, 70 per cent in Jordan, 68 per cent in Kuwait and Qatar each, 66 per cent in Bahrain, 64 per cent in Saudi Arabia, 55 per cent in Oman, and 45 per cent 
in Syria.” Cfr. Qudoos, M. (2010).“Arab women score high in Internet use”, Khaleej Times online, 14 giugno 2010, online on east_June452.xml&section=middleeast.
  5. A. Manfredi, “Rete, blog e social media. Voci di donna dal web alla piazza”, La Repubblica, 15th March 2011, online on intervista_sondes_ben_khalifa-13634909/.

Design and Gender Studies

Speaking of women and design, it is important to recall the crucial role carried out by Gender Studies. Therefore, we asked a short interview to Cheryl Buckley, one of the main protagonists of design gender studies.

Besides, Cheryl Buckley’s article “Made in Patriarchy: Toward a Feminist Analysis of Women and Design” extracted from Design Issues, Vol. 3, N. 2 (Autumn), The MIT Press, Cambridge1986, pp. 3-14, is here re-published, with the kind permission of MIT Press (

There follows a short report on Gender Studies[ref]Cultural Studies are the meeting point of the different contributions coming from numerous disciplines – social sciences, cultural anthropology, semiotic, aesthetic theories, history of science and communication techniques- that aim at establishing the right of difference: sexual, ethnic, racial, religious, geographic. Cultural Studies re-evaluate and express subcultures and focus on subjects that are considered marginal: sexuality, gender, media, social and cultural movements, interethnic relationships and popular culture.[/ref], originating from “a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approach to the study of socio-cultural meanings of gender identity” in order to dismount the established knowledge on historiographical methods, by unveiling the ideologies that led to the lack of women in history books and in order to define new research paths in design.

Design e Gender Studies

Born in North America between the 70s and the 80s within the Cultural Studies , Gender Studies started spreading in Western Europe during the 80s. They developed from a specific branch of the feminist thought and found basic ideas in post-structuralism and in French deconstructionism (above all Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida), in the studies on language and psychology (Jacques Lacan and, in a post-lacanian perspective, Julia Kristeva).

Gender Studies are not a branch of knowledge apart, but a modality of interpretation of the different aspects of human life, the formation of identity and of the relationship between the individual and society and the individual and culture. For this reason they can be applied to any branch of knowledge.

In the 70s and 80s the spreading of Gender Studies was characterized by a political activism purpose linked to the condition of the homosexuals and other ethic and linguistic minorities in relation to discrimination problems, racial and ethnic oppression, the development of post-colonial society and globalization.

Thanks to Gender Studies nowadays it can be affirmed that the idea of gender does not coincide with the sex (biological, physical and anatomical features), but sex and gender are interdependent dimensions, in the sense that the process of gender identity definition starts from the sex, Gender is not characterized by an innate behaviour or roles but it is a cultural idea that is built psychologically and socially; not even gender identity is innate and immutable, but constantly changing through time and space, because it mirrors social and cultural conventions in a specific place and time. Therefore, the relation between sex and gender varies according the geographical area, historical period and a people’s culture. The ideas of masculinity and femininity are relative, that is to say dynamic and they need to be historicized and contextualized. Any society defines which values are to be assigned to a gender identity.

Throughout their development Gender Studies followed the evolution of feminist theories in the western world, that, after a ‘radical’ phase (60s – 70s), went through a ‘cultural’ phase, and subsequently a post-modern and post-structuralist one that unlike the radical phase which denied the difference between men and women, worked towards the construction of a theory and a practice of gender equality, taking into account the social and cultural differences.

In the design branch, Gender Studies, flourished in the British countries, argue that women are almost totally invisible in the history of design, an idea already claimed in some art studies (Rubino, 1979[2] ; Parker and Pollock, 1981; Bukley, 1986).
Therefore, in the second half of the 80s and 90s, in concurrence with the post-structuralist phase of feminism, a research path began, involving many scholars who wanted to go back along the history of design again with the aim of revealing the presence and the contribution of women.

Drawing on the researchers that through a hard work, because of the lack of specific sources and bibliographies, revealed the women’s paths in the arts even with non-conventional methods, many studies identified the women who, working in the factories (from, wall-paper painters to ceramists, from weavers to stylists), within artistic movements and school such as the Bauhaus [3], significantly contributed to the history of design. The historical studies traced back their lives, they also analysed their gender, i.e. the set of behaviours, attitudes, expectations, expressive forms and social relations modes though which the individual and social gender identities are defined in relation to the geographical, social and cultural context.

Judy Attfield, Cheryl Buckley and Pat Kirkham’s work was fundamental; they are seen as the main theorists of Design Gender Studies, to them we owe not only a map of the women designers and artisans’ works and biographies, but above all they re-established the importance of these women’s role, and the specificity of female creativity and projectuality in the social contexts of design, thus marking the change from a women designer approach to a feminist approach, as Judy Attfield mantains (1989).
The feminist approach manifested the need to re-discuss the cultural paradigms of modern culture, that disregarded women’s activity in the public sphere of production and design, confining them instead to the private sphere of care and reproduction.

Cheryl Buckley (1985; 1986) noted that, despite many studies highlighted the women’s work, among the critics a gender prejudice still exists: the classical historiographical methods established hierarchies, gave priority to some types of design (industrial design), designers categories (the pioneers), different artistic movements and production types (industrial), that were meant to neglect women; they ascribed to the men the dominant functional areas, relating to the industrial production, and to the women the “decorative” area of design: the so-called decorative or applied arts (textile, pottery, etc.) often carried out in a private or domestic context, and therefore not recognized as design activities[4].

The Gender Studies critical approach on classical historiographical methods, that caused the absence or the discrimination of the women in the histories of design despite their presence, involved a radical dispute on the well-established cultural paradigms. That debate showed ‘the ideological reasons of the silence on women’ thus revealing the relation of dependence between patriarchy and capitalism in the Western world, and the skill of both of them in modelling and re-defining society in order to avoid potential processes of transformation (Buckley, 1986).

This change of perspective opened new perspectives for the analysis and the historical reading of material culture, aimed at overcoming conventions and stereotypes. Research provided the possibility to identify new historiographical methods and parameters (for assessing design objects, and defining design and a designer’s activity) in order to let the dimensions hidden or omitted by previous studies, come to the surface. Especially, Cheryl Buckley underlined the need to re-define and widen the borders of design, redrawing the relationships and the distinctions between the arts, craftsman and design, in order to write a more inclusive history of design than that produced by modern culture.

Also in the British cultural context of the 80s, some researchers investigating, from a feminine perspective, the role of design in the gender relationships, emerged. These include enquiries on adverts, art, visual design such as those of Ellen Lupton, and on large consumption products, of which they analyse the communicative signs and images.
The interest for this kind of studies went beyond the British world.
Researches highlighted the subordination of women in the consumerist society: that of consumers of products designed by men.

It was also analysed how the design affects the construction of a gender identity, and if subjected to stereotypes, it leads to gender discrimination.
The relationship between gender and everyday objects was analysed under different aspects: from their shape to the materials, from the colours to the finishing, all elements conveying messages on life-styles, the desires of the consumerists and by which the gender identity is defined (Martha Zarza, 2001).

In Italy there is an interesting study by Raimonda Riccini whi investigated the relationship between the promotion of domestic technologies and the female identity. After clothing, the domestic technologies and techniques are the first instruments by which the female body is structured. Riccini’s study aims at highlighting now, despite the positive aspect of introducing technology into housework, hidden behind the utopian perspectives of a higher comfort, new forms of subservience to work are hidden, more and more insidious. Technologies offered new lifestyles where, every time, the housework seems to de-materialize Instead, a drastic reassessment of the female body and its technique in housework is foreshadowed : “…the intelligent house is once again a male technical construction, in which the technological functions are decided by engineers and producers” (Riccini, 1997, p.164).

Marinella Ferrara, Politecnico di Milano, INDACO department.


Attfield, J. (1989). Form/female follows function/male: Feminist Critiques of Design. In J. A. Walker (ed.), Design History and the History of Design, London, UK: Pluto Press, pp. 199-225.

Buckley, C. (1986, autunno). Made in Patriarchy: Toward a Feminist Analysis of Women and Design. Design Issues, Vol. 3, n. 2 pp. 3-14.

Pietroni, L. (2002, settembre). Donne e Design: il contributo dei Gender Studies. Op. cit., n. 115 pp. 15-35.

Pollock, G. with Parker R. (1981). Old Mistresses. Women, Art and Ideology, London UK: Routledge & Kegan.

Riccini, R. (1997). Identità femminili e tecnologie del quotidiano. In L. Fortunati, J. Katz, R. Riccini (a cura di), Corpo Futuro (pp. 155-166). Milano IT: Franco Angeli.

Rubino, L. (1979). Le spose del vento. La donna nelle arti e nel design degli ultimi cento anni, Verona, IT: Bertani Editore.

Trasforini, M. A. (2000, a cura di). Arte a parte: donne artiste fra margini e centro. Milano, IT: Franco Angeli.

Weltge, S. W. (1993). Bauhaus Textiles. London, UK: Thames & Hudson.

Zarza, M. P. (2001). Hair Removal Products: gendered objects under control of conventional conceptions of femininity and masculinity. Proceedings of the ICSID 2001. Seoul, Korea.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Old Mistresses: Donne, Arte e ideologia, gli inglesi studiosi esaminato il ruolo delle donne all’interno della storia dell’arte.
  2. In the 90s, Sigrid Wortmann Weltge addressed to the women’s work at the Bauhaus a study carried out from a female perspective. The study was published with the title Bauhaus Textiles – Women Artists and the Weaving Workshop.
  3. In fact, according to Judy Attfield, the history of design suffers from the theories of Modern Movement, that considers the shape-woman as originating from the function-man. Design is believed to be the product of professional designers, originating from industrial production through methods of work sharing. Handicraft given to women and made at home is not considered as adesign activity.

Made in Patriarchy: Toward a Feminist Analysis of Women and Design

This article extracted from Design Issues, Vol. 3, N. 2 (Autumn), The MIT Press, Cambridge 1986, pp. 3-14,  is here re-published, with the kind permission of MIT Press (

Women have been involved with design in a variety of ways – as practitioners, theorists, consumers, historians, and as objects of representation. Yet a survey of the literature of design history, theory, and practice would lead one to believe otherwise. Women’s interventions, both past and present, are consistently ignored[1]. Indeed, the omissions are so overwhelming, and the rare acknowledgment so cursory and marginalized, that one realizes these silences are not accidental and haphazard; rather, they are the direct consequence of specific historiographic methods.[2] These methods, which involve the selection, classification, and prioritization of types of design, categories of designers, distinct styles and movements, and different modes of production, are inherently biased against women and, in effect, serve to exclude them from history. To compound this omission, the few women who make it into the literature of design are accounted for within the framework of patriarchy; they are either defined by their gen- der as designers or users of feminine products, or they are subsumed under the name of their husband, lover, father, or brother.[3] The aim of this paper is to analyze the patriarchal context within which women interact with design and to examine the methods used by design historians to record that interaction. To a certain extent, this paper is also an attempt to pinpoint some of the key debates to have emerged in design history in Britain concerning the role of women and design. Most of these have taken feminist theory as their starting point. Feminist theory has been particularly useful in that it delineates the operation of patriarchy and the construction of the “feminine. “[4] It has shown how femininity is socially constructed and how sexuality and gender identity are acquired at conscious and unconscious levels in the family and through language acquisition. The work of feminist historians and art historians has also been important, especially the critiques of the discipline of history revealing the ideological reasons for the silence about women.[5] As Parker and Pollock have argued in their book Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology, “To discover the history of women and art is in part to account for the way art history is written. To expose its underlying values, its assumptions, its silences, and its prejudices is also to understand that the way women artists are recorded and described is crucial to’ the definition of art and the artist in our society. “[6] In their writings, feminist historians have challenged the centrality of individuals as agents of history and the focus on professional structures and modes of activity. Instead, they have pinpointed domestic labor and non-professional activities as crucial areas of women’s history, and they have located alternative information, such as oral sources, to counterbalance the great weight of “official” documentation. In recent years, a feminist approach to design history has been placed firmly on the agenda. Feminist design historians, theorists, and practitioners have attempted to coordinate their activities through teaching strategies, the organization of conferences, and in publications, because, as Griselda Pollock has stated, a feminist approach is neither a side-issue nor a novel historical perspective – it is a central concern of contemporary design history. As she has pointed out, “we are involved in a contest for occupation of an ideologically strategic terrain.”[7] Women designers Central to a feminist analysis of women’s role in design is an examination of patriarchy.[8] Patriarchy has circumscribed women’s opportunities to participate fully in all areas of society and, more specifically, in all sectors of design, through a variety of means – institutional, social, economic, psychological, and historical. The resulting female stereotypes delineate certain modes of behavior as being appropriate for women. Certain occupations and social roles are designated female, and a physical and intellectual ideal is created for women to aspire to. These stereotypes have had enormous impact on the physical spaces – whether at home or at work – which women occupy, their occupations, and their relationship with design. Design historians who examine women’s role in design must acknowledge that women in the past and women today are placed within the context of patriarchy, and that ideas about women’s design abilities and design needs originate in patriarchy. Recent debate within feminist history and theory has highlighted the dependent relationship between patriarchy and capitalism and the ability of both to reshape and reformulate society in order to overcome potentially transforming processes.[9] To what extent, then, does patriarchy form the framework for women’s role as designers? In a patriarchy, men’s activities are valued more highly than women’s. For example, industrial design has been given higher status than knitted textiles. The reasons for this valuation are complex. In an advanced industrial society in which culture is valued above nature, male roles are seen as being more cultural than natural; female roles are seen as the reverse of this. As a consequence of their biological capacity to reproduce and their roles within patriarchy of caring for and nurturing the family, women are seen as being close to nature. As Sherry Ortner has argued, “female is to male as nature is to culture. “[10] Even women designers, who through the design process transform nature into culture, are tied to their biology by patriarchal ideology, which defines their design skills as a product of their sex – as natural or innate. Women are considered to possess sex-specific skills that determine their design abilities; they are apparently dexterous, decorative, and meticulous. These skills mean that women are considered to be naturally suited to certain areas of design production, namely, the so-called decorative arts, including such work as jewelry, embroidery, graphic illustration, weaving, knitting, pottery, and dressmaking. Linking all these activities together is the notion that they are naturally female; the resulting design products are either worn by women or produced by them to fulfill essentially domestic tasks. Significantly, men can be the designers of clothes, textiles, or pottery, but first the design activities have to be redefined. Dressmaking, for example, has been seen as a “natural” area for women to work in. It is viewed as an obvious vehicle for their femininity, their desire to decorate, and their obsession with appearances. Fashion design, however, has been appropriated by male designers who have assumed the persona of genius – Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, and, more recently, Karl Lagerfeld. Fashion as a design process is thought to transcend the sex-specific skills of dexterity, patience, and decorativeness associated with dressmaking. Instead, it involves creative imagination, and the aggressive business and marketing skills that are part of the male stereotype. This practice of defining women’s design skills in terms of their biology is reinforced by socially constructed notions of masculine and feminine, which assign different characteristics to male and female. Sonia Delaunay, the painter and designer, is noted by historians for her “instinctive” feeling for color, whereas her husband, Robert, is attributed as having formulated a color theory. Robert Delaunay embodies the male stereotype as logical and intellectual, Sonia embodies the female stereotype as instinctive and emotional. To compound this devaluation of women designers’ work, designs produced by women in the domestic environment (their natural space within a patriarchy) are seen to represent use-value rather than exchange-value. The designs produced by women in a domestic environment (embroidery, knitting, and applique) are used by the family in the home rather than exchanged for profit within the capitalist marketplace. At this point capitalism and patriarchy interact to devalue this type of design; essentially, it has been made in the wrong place – the home, and for the wrong market – the family.[11] So, one result of the interaction of patriarchy and design is the establishment of a hierarchy of value and skill based on sex. This is legitimized ideologically by dominant notions of femininity and materially by institutional practice. British art and design education at degree level, for example, reinforces this hierarchical and sexist split between male and female design activities. Because of sexism few women industrial design students survive to the end of their courses which are outside the female stereotype. They succeed well with fashion and textile courses which are considered to be suited to female abilities, but fare badly with industrial design, which is considered male.[12] Design historians play an important role in maintaining assumptions about the roles and abilities of women designers by their failure to acknowledge the governance of patriarchy and its operation historically. As a result, women’s design is ignored and unrepresented in the history books. Clearly, then, one of the main issues for historians to tackle, if they are to account adequately for the role of women designers, is patriarchy and its value systems. First, the terms by which inferior status is assigned to certain design activities must be analyzed and challenged. The ideological nature of terms such as feminine, delicate, and decorative should be acknowledged within the context of women’s design. Second, it is crucial that design historians recognize the patriarchal basis of the sexual division of labor, which attributes to women certain design skills on the basis of biology. Third, they must acknowledge that women and their designs fulfill a critical structuring role in design history in that they provide the negative to the male positive – they occupy the space left by men. If, for instance, historians describe men’s designs as bold, assertive, calculated, then women’s designs are described as weak, spontaneous, or lacking in rationale. Design historians, then, should recognize that “be- cause of the economic, social, and ideological effects of sexual difference in a western, patriarchal culture, women have spoken and acted from a different place within that society and culture. “[13] By their failure to acknowledge patriarchy, design historians ignore the real nature of women’s role in design, both for women designing outside of mainstream industrial design and for those few who have found employment within it. Both produce designs formed within patriarchy. Fourth, historians must take note of the value system which gives privilege to exchange-value over use-value, because at a very simple level, as Elizabeth Bird has pointed out, “the objects women produce have been consumed by being used, rather than preserved as a store of exchange-value. Pots get broken and textiles wear out.”[14] Historians must also beware of regarding the professional site of production more highly than the domestic site of production, because this inevitably leads to a focus on the value of design as it contributes to the capitalist system. This is problematic, irrespective of the sex of the designer, as it excludes an important area of design production from history. Finally, historians should heed Sheila Rowbotham’s point, in Hidden From History: “[U]nbiased history simply makes no declaration of its bias, which is deeply rooted in existing society reflecting the views of the people of influence. ” [15] Central to a feminist critique of design history is a redefinition of what constitutes design. To date, design historians have esteemed more highly and deemed more worthy of analysis the creators of mass-produced objects. Subsequently, they have argued that “design history … is a study of mass-produced objects. “[16] Feminists have challenged this definition as prejudging the nature of design by emphasizing only one mode of production and thereby excluding craft production. This challenge is complicated by the development of craft history as an academic discipline distinct from design history, although, to date, craft historians have not dealt adequately with women’s craftwork.[17] In fact, it has been dealt with in a cursory way and mirrors the approach of design historians by seizing upon a few famous names.[18] Arguably, if a feminist approach to women’s design production is to be articulated, it must cut across these exclusive definitions of design and craft to show that women used craft modes of production for specific reasons, not merely because they were biologically predisposed toward them. To exclude craft from design history is, in effect, to exclude from design history much of what women designed. For many women, craft modes of production were the only means of production available, because they had access neither to the factories of the new industrial system nor to the training offered by the new design schools. Indeed, craft allowed women an opportunity to express their creative and artistic skills outside of the male-dominated design profession. As a mode of production, it was easily adapted to the domestic setting and therefore compatible with traditional female roles.[19] Women as consumers and objects To date, most historical analysis has dealt solely with the role of women designers, even though women interact with design in a variety of ways. Feminist design historians have thereby adopted the methodologies of mainstream design history, which esteems the activities of designers and emphasizes their role as agents of history. (As I describe in the next section, there are serious problems inherent in this methodological technique.) Most important for this discussion is the point that design is a collective process involving groups of people beside the designer. In order to deter- mine the meaning of a given design at a specific historical moment, it is necessary to examine these other groups. Probably the most historically neglected group is the consumer; indeed, it can be no accident that the consumer is often perceived by design organizations, retailers, and advertisers to be female. Just as patriarchy informs the historian’s assumptions about women designers’ skills, so it defines the designer’s perceptions of women’s needs as consumers. Two basic ideas inform the designer’s assumptions about women consumers. First, women’s primary role is in domestic service to husband, children, and home; and second, domestic appliances make women’s lives easier. The first assumption stems from the central classification of patriarchy – the sexual division of labor. As Heidi Hartmann has argued, “the sexual division of labor is … the underpinning of sexual subcultures in which men and women experience life differently; it is the material base of male power which is exercised (in our society), not just in not doing housework and in securing superior employment, but psychologically as well.”[20] According to Hartmann, the sexual division of labor is not static, but in a state of flux, changing as required by economic, political, and social developments.[21] A relatively constant feature of the sexual division of labor, however, is the delineation of women’s role as housewives and as carers for the family. This role is basically the same one that the Victorian social critic John Ruskin identified and glorified in his writings.[22] As a result of this sexual division of labor, designers assume that women are the sole users of home appliances. Product advertising presents women as housewives who use domestic appliances and family-oriented products. When British advertisers make the rare representation of women driving motorcars, it is significant that they are not shown speeding along in a Porsche. Rather, they are shown parking their modest and c onvenient hatchback near the supermarket. Design historians have played their part in reinforcing women’s position in the sexual division of labor. In Reyner Banham’s well- known celebration of the first machine age, he identified two sexes – men and housewives. Banham defined the female sex as house- wives whose lives are transformed by “woman-controlled machinery,” such as vacuum cleaners.[23] Informing this paean to woman-controlled appliances is the belief that these products make women’s lives easier. Banham, like other historians and theorists of design, fails to acknowledge that designs take on different meanings for the consumer than those designated by the designer, the manufacturer, and the advertiser. Philippa Goodall has outlined the reasons for these shifts of meaning.[24] She cites the microwave oven and freezer as products designed ostensibly to lighten household chores but which have ultimately created more work. Both products have been widely introduced into the home under the pretext of convenience. The question, however, is convenience for whom – the housewife or the family? Convenience to the family means having rapid access to food at all times. To the housewife, this is not convenience. It is instead a duty, a duty to provide food at all times, even when the shops are shut or the market closed and most of the family has already eaten. Goodall argues that, “In numerous such ways women’s work is increased, the qualitative demands raised. The tyranny of the whiter-than- white-wash is now for many a daily event, rather than a weekly one. ‘Simplicity,’ ‘convenience,’ ‘serving the loved ones better’ are slogans motivating and directing our work as consumers and producers. “[25] Advertising serves to enforce the meaning of design as defined by the designer or manufacturer. It stereotypes women as mothers, cleaners, cooks, and nurses in order to define and direct the market. In effect, the category woman, as constituted in patriarchy, is appropriated by advertising. Woman is either the subject of patriarchal assumptions about women’s role and needs as consumers, or the object in sexist advertising. As Jane Root has argued in relation to representations of women in TV advertising, “Women are often made absurdly ecstatic by very simple products, as though a new brand of floor cleaner or deodorant really could make all the difference to a lifetime.”[26] Advertising creates both an ideal use for a product and an ideal user. The actuality of the use and user are unimportant when confronted with a powerful fantasy – the immaculate designer kitchen with superwoman in control, combining with ease the roles of careerist and perfect wife. Like television and cinema, advertising appropriates women’s bodies. Women are objects to be viewed; they are sexualized things whose status is determined by how they look. “These advertisements help to endorse the powerful male attitude that women are passive bodies to be endlessly looked at, waiting to have their sexual attractiveness matched with active male sexual desire. “[27] It is clear that analyses of patriarchy and the issue of gender are central to the debate concerning women’s role in design.[28] Historians should map out the operation of patriarchy and make gender as a social construct distinct from sex as a biological condition. Gender is embodied in historical and contemporary representations of women as consumers, objects, and designers; but it does not remain fixed, having changed historically. They must remember that as a consequence of patriarchy, the experiences of male and female designers and consumers have been quite different. Design historians should outline the way that patriarchal definitions of women’s roles and design needs, which have originated in the sexual division of labor, have shaped design in the past and present. A feminist critique of design history must confront the problem of patriarchy, at the same time addressing itself to the exclusion of women in the historiographic methods used by design historians. Though many of these methods are problematic for design history in general, not just a feminist design history, feminist intervention, as in other disciplines, has demarcated the basic ones. Rozsika Parker described them as “the rules of the game.”[29] The rules of the game Methodologically, the pivot of contemporary design history is the designer, whose central role has been legitimized by art historical precedent in which the figure of the artist is all-important. Some art historians, such as Nicos Hadjinicolaou, T. J. Clark, and Griselda Pollock, have done so; the last wrote, “The central figure of art historical discourse is the artist, who is presented as an ineffable ideal which complements the bourgeois myth of a universal, classless man . . . our general culture is furthermore permeated with ideas about the individual nature of creativity, how genius will always overcome social obstacles. “[30] Numerous biographies of designers have focused the production and meaning of design on the contribution of the individual. In this approach, design history mirrors art history in its role as attributor and authenticator. First, it attaches meaning to a name, thereby simplifying the historical process (by de-emphasizing production and consumption) and at the same time making the role of the individual all-important (by aiding and simplifying attribution). Second, as a direct consequence of this first strategy, historians have analyzed the design in terms of the designers’ ideas and intentions and in terms of the formal arrangement of elements (just as formalist art history analyzes a painting or sculpture), rather than as a social product. The design is thereby isolated from its material origins and function, and if it conforms to dominant definitions of “good” design, it and its designer are obvious candidates for the history books. At this point, the design has been firmly positioned within the confines of the individual designer’s oeuvre, aiding attribution and authentication of the design as art object and simplifying historical analysis.[31] The history of design is reduced to a history of the designer, and the design is seen to mean and represent what the designer identifies. Extraordinary designs are judged in terms of creativity and individual extraordinariness. This is problematic for women, because “creativity has been appropriated as an ideological component of masculinity, while femininity has been constructed as man’s and, therefore, the artist’s negative. “[32] The notion that the meaning of design objects is singular and is determined by the designer is simplistic, ignoring the fact that design is a process of representation. It represents political, economic, and cultural power and values within the different spaces occupied, through engagement with different subjects. Its meaning is therefore polysemic and involves the interaction of design and recipient. Designs, as cultural products, have meanings encoded in them which are decoded by producers, advertisers, and consumers according to their own cultural codes. “All these codes and subcodes are applied to the message in the light of general framework of cultural references; in other words, the way the message is read depends on the receiver’s own cultural codes.”[33] These cultural codes are not absolute and are not controlled by the designer’s intentions. Indeed, these intentions are constrained by the existing codes of form and representation, which shape cultural products. In effect, the designer has to use these to design. The dominant codes of design are both esthetic and social; the former “operate as mediating influences between ideology and particular works by interposing themselves as sets of rules and conventions which shape cultural products and which must be used by artists and cultural producers;”[34] the latter are governed by modes of production, circulation, and use within a specific social situation. The codes or signs by which design is understood and constituted, in an industrial, capitalist society such as our own, are the product of bourgeois, patriarchal ideology. This ideology seeks to obscure its codes by presenting its designs as neutral and ideology-free and the receiver of these codes as universally constituted, that is, the singular and unproblematic user or producer. “[T]he reluctance to declare its codes characterizes bourgeois society and the culture issuing from it; both demand signs which do not look like signs.”[35]This obscureness presents problems for the historian who attempts to take account of the designer or consumer as gendered individuals with specific class allegiances who then bring particular sets of meaning to designs. The focus on the designer as the person who assigns meaning to design is seriously challenged by developments in the fields of sociology, film studies, and linguistics, where debates on author- ship have arisen. These critiques have questioned the centrality of the author as a fixed point of meaning. As Roland Barthes put it, “A text’s unity lies not in its origins but in its destination . .. the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the author. “[36] The centrality of the designer as the person who determines meaning in design is undermined by the complex nature of design development, production, and consumption, a process involving numerous people who precede the act of production, others who mediate between production and consumption, and those who use the design. The success or failure of a designer’s initial concept depends on the existence of agencies and organizations which can facilitate the development, manufacture, and retailing of a specific design for a distinct market. Design, then, is a collective process; its meaning can only be determined by an examination of the interaction of individuals, groups, and organizations within specific societal structures. The monograph, the primary method used by historians to focus on the designer, is an inadequate vehicle for exploring the complexity of design production and consumption. It is especially inadequate for feminist design historians in that the concentration on an individual designer excludes from the history books un- named, unattributed, or collectively produced design. Historical casualties of this exclusion are the numerous craft works produced by women in their own homes, often in collaboration with other women.[37] Nor can women’s relationship with design as consumers and as objects of representation figure in the construction of the monograph. The recent critiques of authorship have proved useful to feminist design historians by highlighting the inadequacy of the monograph as a method of analyzing design and by showing that designers do not design merely by courtesy of innate genius, but that they have been constituted in language, ideology, and social relations. The designer can usefully be considered as the first of many who will affix meaning to design.[38] From this discussion emerge two other important points for analyzing women’s relationship to design. First, women’s cultural codes are produced within the context of patriarchy. Their expectations, needs, and desires as both designers and consumers are constructed within a patriarchy which, as I have argued, pre- scribes a subservient and dependent role to women. The other side of that point is that the codes of design, as used by the designer, are produced within patriarchy to express the needs of the dominant group. They are, therefore, male codes. As Philippa Goodall has observed, “We live in a world designed by men. It is not for nothing that the expression ‘man-made’ refers to a vast range of objects that have been fashioned from physical material.”[39] In Making Space: Women and the Man-Made Environment, the Matrix group of feminist architects argue that male architects and planners design urban and domestic spaces using a language which defines women’s role according to patriarchal values: “[T]he physical patterning of this ‘natural’ setting contains many assumptions about women’s role outside the home. It leads, for instance, to housing layouts based on ‘rural’ meandering paths which imply that the journeys of women … are without presence …. The implication is that journeys that are not fast or in straight lines are not really going anywhere.”[40] Matrix point out that this patriarchal design language has implications for women training to be architects, as well as for those who use buildings. Women architects are expected to adopt values and codes of form and representation formulated within the context of patriarchy. They are expected to “acquire an outlook similar to that of middle-class males, the dominant group in the architectural profession. “[41] The second point is this: to legitimize this process of cultural coding, the language of design is presented as a universal truth. Exclusive definitions of good and bad design are constructed, based almost entirely on esthetics. These definitions serve to isolate design products from the material and ideological conditions of production and consumption. Inevitably, these definitions also serve the interests of the dominant group, which attempts to dis- guise its interests with the mask of universality. Design historians have played a central role in the acceptance and reiteration of these definitions of good design, presenting them as unproblematic. As Rosalind Coward explained, these are in fact “nothing other than the individual expression of general class taste and the particular ideas promoted in that class.”[42] Pierre Bourdieu has argued that taste is determined through specific social conditions, such as education level, social class, and gender.[43] He has shown that dominant groups retain their positions of power and enhance their status by specific mechanisms, one of which is to invent the “esthetic” category as a universal entity. The esthetic theory which informed these dominant notions of good design and good taste, and which legitimized the analysis of design as distinct objects, was modernism. The theory of modernism has had an enormous impact on design history by emphasizing both formal and technical innovation and experimentation as the significant features of design. Although designers now operate in a postmodernist context, many design historians unconsciously adopt modernist criteria when deciding what should enter the his- tory books. The concept of differentness is still privileged by historians, thus revealing the structural relationship between historians and the designs they promote within capitalism. Innovative and new designs have a crucial role to play in capitalist production, a system that demands greater production and consumption stimulated by designer-created difference and codified by design historians and theorists. The theory of modernism has had significant implications for historical evaluations of both mass-produced design, which is traditional in style, form, material, or production techniques, and for craft. These evaluations are largely nonexistent because design that is not innovative and experimental has rarely been analyzed by design historians.[44] Women’s design, which often falls under the label of traditional, has been especially ignored.[45] Another area of design associated with women to have fared badly in the hands of modernist design historians is fashion design, arguably the most extreme manifestation of modernism, in that throughout the twentieth century it has been continuously innovative and experimental. Like modernist art and design, its meaning is tied to that of its predecessors. It is therefore possible (though highly undesirable) to analyze fashion in purely formal terms, and here the problem lies. Unlike other modernist cultural forms, fashion makes no claims to represent universal truth and good taste.[46] Indeed, the converse is true, in that fashion subverts dominant notions of good design by eagerly accepting what was previously considered ugly. It undermines universal concepts of quality and taste, and it foregrounds the relativism in notions of beauty. Furthermore, fashion as an impo rtant area of design is trivialized because of its association with women. It is seen as a marginal design activity because it caters to women’s socially constructed needs and desires.[47] For these reasons, design historians have tended to avoid the study of fashion.[48] Women and design as a subject of study highlights a whole set of issues and problems that must be confronted by historians if a feminist design history is to be articulated. The desire for a feminist design history grows increasingly urgent as we acknowledge the paucity of histories of women and design that have taken proper account of patriarchal notions of women’s skills as designers, the stereotyped perceptions of women’s needs as consumers, and the exploitative representation of women’s bodies in advertising. It is crucial that these historical analyses of women and their relationship with design are based on feminism. Without recourse to feminist theory to delineate the operation of patriarchy, and to feminist history to map out women’s past, it is impossible to understand fully the way women interact with design and the way historians have recorded that interaction. Attempts to analyze women’s involvement in design that do not take issue with gender, the sexual division of labor, assumptions about femininity, and the hierarchy that exists in design, are doomed to failure.[49] Feminist design historians must advance on two fronts. First, we must analyze the material and ideological operation of patriarchy in relation to women and design. This effort must be combined with an examination of the relationship between capitalism (if we are discussing design in capitalist societies) and patriarchy at specific historical conjunctures to reveal how women’s role in design is defined. Second, we must critically assess “the rules of the game” to understand why design historians have excluded women from the history books, and then to enable us to develop a history that does not automatically exclude women. This history must acknowledge the various locales where design operated and the various groups involved with its production and consumption. It must reject the temptation to analyze the individual designer as sole determiner of meaning in design. Finally, historians must not lose sight of their central objective: To develop and expand the body of historical research which seeks to account for women’s relationship to design and then set this research firmly within a historical framework of feminist design.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. See, for example, Nikolaus Pevsner, Pioneers of Modern Design: From William Morris to Walter Gropius (London: Pen- guin, 1975); Reyner Banham, Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (London: Architectural Press, 1975); Fiona MacCarthy, A History of British Design, 1830-1970 (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1979); Open Univer- sity, History of Architecture and Design 1890- 1939 (Milton Keynes: Open Uni- versity, 1975); John Heskett, Industrial Design (London: Thames and Hudson, 1980). In these basic textbooks of design history, two or three women are consis- tently mentioned. Some books, such as those forming the Open University series, acknowledge more women de- signers, although in all cases the work of the women who make it into the history books could be described as modernist. More recently, Adrian Forty has acknowledged a few more women in his book Objects of Desire: Design and Society 1750-1980 (London: Thames and Hudson, 1986). Some historians have been careful to declare their biases when analyzing a particular period. For exam- ple, Penny Sparke, in the preface to her book, An Introduction to Design and Culture in the Twentieth Century (London: Allen and Unwin, 1986), states, “I should also declare my bias where its subject matter is concerned. As I am dealing solely with the period after 1900, and with design in its most democratic sense, my main concern is with the relationship of design with mass-produc- tion industry” (p. xvi). She explains that she does not find craft or fashion irrelevant; indeed, she argues that they are extremely important. However, she focuses on specific areas of design and their relationship to one mode of production.
  2. Consider as an example the near silence about women’s involvement in the Bauhaus. Although women were trained and taught at the Bauhaus, the vast literature on the subject makes scant reference to their presence. (I include here Gillian Naylor’s recent updated version of her early book on the Bauhaus.) We know a great deal about Marcel Breuer, Walter Gropius, Laszl6 Moholy-Nagy, Johannes Itten, and Wassily Kandinsky, but how much do we know about their female counterparts?
  3. The Irish-born designer Eileen Gray has been defined by her gender as a feminine designer. Unlike her contemporary Le Corbusier, her work has been consigned to the so-called decorative arts. It is only more recently that historians have noted her role in the European avantgarde as a modernist designer and architect. Margaret Macdonald and Louise Powell are examples of women designers whose work has been subsumed under their husband’s names. Louise Powell was a pottery designer at Josiah Wedgwood and Sons in the early twentieth century. She worked with her husband Alfred Powell, and, until recently, he alone was credited with their joint contribution to new design development at Wedgwood. Margaret Macdonald is another woman designer whose work has been ignored in the history books. When she is acknowledged, it is only to account for a decorative element in work produced by her husband Charles Rennie Mackintosh, which debt is inconvenient to a historical analysis of Mackintosh as a fullfledged modernist. See, for example, Thomas Howarth, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Modern Movement (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977).
  4. See, for example, Kate Millet, Sexual Politics (London: Abacus, 1972); Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch (London: Granada, 1981);Juliet Mitchell, Psychoanalysis and Feminism (London: Penguin, 1975); Michele Barrett, Women’s Oppression Today: Problems in Marxist Feminist Analysis (London: Verso, 1980).
  5. See, for example, Sheila Rowbotham, Hidden From History (London: Pluto Press, 1980); Jill Liddington and Jill Norris, One Hand Tied Behind Us: The Rise of the Women’s Suffrage Movement (London: Virago, 1978); Judith L. Newton, Mary P. Ryan, and Judith R. Walkowitz, eds., Sex and Class in Women’s History (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983).
  6. Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock, Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981), 3.
  7. Griselda Pollock, “Vision, Voice and Power: Feminist Art History and Marx- ism,” Block 6 (1982): 5. Conferences have been organized on the theme of “Women and Design” at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 1983; Leicester University, 1985; and Central School of Art and Design, London, 1986. Several papers have been published from these conferences, including Cheryl Buckley, “Women Designers in the North Staffordshire Pottery Industry,” Woman’s Art Journal (Fall 1984/ Winter 1985): 11-15; Anthea Callen, “The Sexual Division of Labour in the Arts and Crafts Movement,” Woman’s Art Journal (Fall 1984/Winter 1985): 1-6; Lynne Walker, “The Entry of Women into the Architectural Profession in Britain,” Woman’s Art Journal (Spring/ Summer 1986): 13-18. See also issues of Feminist Art News that concentrate on Women and Design: Textiles and Fash- ion in Vol. 1, No. 9 and Design in Vol. 2, No. 3. One can also consult Tag Gronberg and Judy Attfield, eds. A Resource Book on Women Working in Design (London: The London Institute, Central School of Art and Design, 1986). The editors of this book were the organizers of the Cen- tral School’s 1986 “Women and Design” conference.
  8. Patriarchy as a concept has been defined by various feminist theorists. An early definition is found in Millet, Sexual Politics, 25: “Our society … is a patriarchy. The fact is evident at once if one recalls that the military, industry, technology, universities, science, political offices, finances – in short, every avenue of power within society, including the coercive force of the police, is in entirely male hands.” The central problem with this definition of patriarchy is that it is a universal and trans-historical form of oppression that is being described. It presents specific problems for a Marxist feminist approach located in historical analysis. Sheila Rowbotham has argued in her essay “The Trouble with Patriarchy,” New Statesman 98 (1979): 970, that this “implies a universal form of oppression which returns us to biology.” A useful definition of patriarchy that attempts to overcome this problem of universal oppression is outlined by Griselda Pollock: “patriarchy does not refer to the static, oppressive domination of one sex over another, but a web of psycho-social relationships which institute a socially significant difference on the axis of sex, which is so deeply located in our very sense of lived, sexual identity that it appears to us as natural and unalterable,” in “Vision, Voice and Power,” 10.
  9. This debate is especially useful for the development of a feminist approach to design history and design practice within Western capitalist countries. (This paper does not aim to examine manifestations of patriarchy in non-capitalist countries, nor does it aim to examine design history and practice in those countries.) For useful discussions of the relationship between patriarchy and capitalism, see, for example, Heidi Hartmann, “Capitalism, Patriarchy and Job Segregation by Sex,” in Martha Blaxall and Barbara Regan, Women and the Workplace: The Implications of Occupational Segregation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), 137-169. Also, Rowbotham, “The Trouble with Patriar- chy,” 970-971.
  10. Sherry B. Ortner, “Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?” Feminist Studies 2 (Fall 1972): 5-31.
  11. See Parker and Pollock, Old Mistresses, 68-71, for an interesting account of how women’s domestic designs can be upgraded to fine art status by dissociating them from home production and the gender of the maker.
  12. Fewer than one percent of industrial designers working in Britain today are women. From research carried out by the Design Innovation Group, Open University, Milton Keynes, Britain, from 1979 onward.
  13. Parker and Pollock, Old Mistresses, 49.
  14. Elizabeth Bird, “Threading the Beads: Women Designers and the Glasgow Style 1890-1920,” unpublished conference paper, 1983.
  15. Rowbotham, Hidden From History, xvii.
  16. Attributed to Penny Sparke in Anne Massey’s review of the 1983 Women in Design conference at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, in Design History Society Newsletter 20 (January 1984): 8. This view has been reinforced by Stephen Bayley, director of the Boilerhouse project at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and is quoted by Judy Attfield in “Feminist Designs on Design History,” Feminist Art News 2 (No. 3): 22. More recently, Clive Dilnot has addressed the issue of the diversity of meanings of design and the designer. See “The State of Design History, Part I: Mapping the Field,” Design Issues I/1 (Spring 1984): 4-23, and “The State of Design History, Part II: Problems and Possibilities,” Design Issues 1/2 (Fall 1984): 3-20.
  17. In his discussion of craft history, Philip Wood does not consider the issue of gender. See Philip Wood, “Defining Craft History,” Design History Society News- letter 24 (February 1985): 27-31.
  18. This can be seen in two ways. First, Edward Lucie-Smith, in his survey book The Story of Craft (London: Phaidon, 1981) makes few references to women beyond the usual handful, for example, Vanessa Bell, Marion Dorn, Elizabeth Fritsch, Jessie Newberry. Second, some craft historians, like their colleagues in design history, have written monographs of major women craftpersons. For example, see Margot Coatts, A Weaver’s Life: Ethel Mairet 1872-1952 (London: Crafts Council, 1983). Although such a monograph is informative and provides a much needed account of the work of an important woman craftworker, as I explain later, the monograph is a problematic vehicle for writing design or craft history.
  19. This is especially true of textiles (knitted, woven, quilted, appliqued, and embroidered). Some women, however, such as Katherine Pleydell Bouverie and Norah Bradon (contemporaries of Michael Cardew and Bernard Leach in the British studio pottery movement) or Jessie Newberry and May Morris, developed craft modes of production for philosophical reasons. These women had the financial independence, social background, and educational training to do so.
  20. Heidi Hartmann, “The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism: Toward a More Progressive Union,” in Lydia Sargent, Women and Revolution. The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism (London: Pluto Press, 1981), 16.
  21. A good illustration of this process of flux can be seen during wartime when female labor is required to meet the shortages resulting from male conscription. Women are employed in work normally considered the preserve of men, for example engineering, ship-building, munitions. In peacetime this process is reversed, and women are encouraged back into the traditional female roles of housewives and mothers as prescribed by patriarchy.
  22. For example, John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies, (London: Collins, 1913). More recently, successive British governments have reiterated the importance of the woman’s role in the preservation of the family. For example, the Conservative party social services spokesman, Patrick Jenkin, told the Conservative annual conference in 1977, “the pressure on young wives to go out to work devalues motherhood itself …. Parenthood is a very skilled task indeed, and it must be our aim to restore it to the place of hon- our it deserves.” Quoted from Anna Coote and Beatrix Campbell, Sweet Freedom: The Struggle for Women’s Liberation (London: Picador, 1982), 85. 23) Banham, Theory and Design in the First Machine Age, 10.
  23. Banham, Theory and Design in the First Machine Age, 10.
  24. Philippa Goodall, “Design and Gender,” Block 9 (1983): 50-61.
  25. Goodall, “Design and Gender”, 53.
  26. Jane Root, Pictures of Women: Sexuality (London: Pandora Press, 1984), 55.
  27. Root, Pictures of Women: Sexuality, 68.
  28. See Millet, Sexual Politics, 29-31, for discussion of gender.
  29. Quoted by Pollock in “Vision, Voice and Power,” 5.
  30. Pollock, “Vision, Voice and Power,” 3.
  31. Note the saleroom prices of design objects, especially the “classics,” such as furniture by Charles R. Mackintosh or pottery by Keith Murray.
  32. Pollock, ‘Vision, Voice and Power,” 4.
  33. Janet Wolff, The Social Production of Art (London: Macmillan, 1981), 109.
  34. Wolff, The Social Production of Art, 64-65.
  35. Roland Barthes, “Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narratives,” Image, Music, Text (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977), 116.
  36. Barthes, “The Death of the Author,” Image, Music, Text, 148.
  37. This type of craftwork is still produced by women today; note particularly the production of knitted textiles in Britain.
  38. Here I do not intend to deny the possibility of an autonomous realm of creativity; rather, I want to suggest that the designers’ meanings are combined with a series of meanings gained from the interaction of the design with other groups and agencies. To understand design at a specific historical moment requires rather more from the historian than an analysis of what the designer thought.
  39. Goodall, “Design and Gender,” 50.
  40. Matrix, Making Space: Women and the Man-Made Environment (Lond on: Pluto Press, 1984), 47.
  41. Matrix, Making Space, 11.
  42. Rosalind Coward, Female Desire: Women’s Sexuality Today (London: Virago, 1984), 65.
  43. See, for example, Pierre Bourdieu, ‘The Aristocracy of Culture,” Media, Culture and Society 2 (1980): 225-254; also, Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979).
  44. This type of historical account does exist at the level of doctoral theses. Unfortunately, they rarely seem to get published. More recently, there is some evidence that things are changing, for example Fran Hannah’s book Ceramics (London: Bell and Hyman, 1986).
  45. Consider, for example, the work of the women designers at Josiah Wedgwood and Sons in the 1920s and 1930s. These designers produced work ranging in its style of decoration and shape from traditional to moderne. Most historians have given these designers little acknowledgment in the history books, choosing instead to concentrate on the formally and technically innovative work of the designer Keith Murray, whose work fits neatly into a modernist analysis of pottery design.
  46. This point must be qualified in that several designers – notably Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld – have declared themselves to be uninterested in fashion and more interested in “classic” style. See the Metropolitan Museum of Art catalog, Yves Saint Laurent (New York, 1983), 17. The implications of this are clear: These designers are distancing themselves from the transitory nature of fashion and are instead aligning themselves with universal style and good taste.
  47. See Elizabeth Wilson, Adorned in Dreams: Fashion and Modernity (London: Virago, 1985), for a full discussion of these issues.
  48. Note that fashion design is not included in any of the basic surveys of nineteenth and twentieth-century design history, even though it is undoubtedly the product of social, technical, political, and cultural developments which parallel other areas of design.
  49. See Isabelle Anscombe, A Woman’s Touch. Women in Design from 1860 to the Present Day (London: Virago, 1984). This is an example of such an account. See my review in Art History. Journal of the Association of Art Historians Vol. 9, No. 3 (September 1986): 400-403.