Editorial #12: Bodies of interaction

A collaborative project realized by Jan M. Sieber and Ralph Kistler
The documentary film was made by Susann Maria Hempel

In the last decades, since the computers became portable and ubiquitous, the everyday life of people changed drastically. How we communicate and socialize, the way we gather for fun or work, the concepts of entertainments and occupations changed and are still mutating. The continual introduction of innovative interfaces as experiment or as product in the market impact thoughts and actions. The relations between the human and the non-human bodies are in a constant dialogue, re-discussion and contradiction. The facts and actions in the virtual world regulate and organize in a different manner the actions in the physical world. The digital appendices alter the life in the city and its fluxes. The control of the electronic extensions of our body increasingly involve the gestures of the natural body and cause its modification.

The fact is that these digital artifacts influence our behaviors and a critique of the trigger factors must be encouraged and increased. The focus of the 12 issue of Pad journal is on the interactions between digital artifacts and human behaviors. In specific on the relations, influences, modifications between these devices and the human body viewed as physical, virtual and/or social. The body of human relate with and through artifacts in a continuous extension of their potentialities, those abilities, possibilities of action, faculties of actualization[1]. The potentiality of the human-artifacts belongs to the two individuals as well as to their relation. The potentiality of talk to someone farther than our voice can reach, the potentiality of see farther than we otherwise could, the potentiality of recall to memory and so on; as much as the potentiality of functioning in mobility, the potentiality of being carried in a pocket, the potentiality of recognizing human movements. These that we can call technical potentiality can support greater potentiality for human-artifacts activities interfering in the social and cultural context as well as the identity of the now redefined individual. The technological innovations offer a constant expansion of tools to be applied for the creation of these potentialities and the role of the designer is to understand the how of the affection of these new tools on the potentiality of our bodies, being them physical, virtual or social.

The limits of the human physical body are challenged by artifacts and redefined. As an example the race of the Natural User Interface (NUI) or Tangible User Interface (TUI) or as we can say better today the touch and gestures based interfaces, brought great innovation in the daily technologies in the form of smartphones and tablets. Although defined for their use of tactility these interface rely richly on the vision and are in many cases bare of other feedback. The topic of vision-independent technologies is addressed by M. Bengisu “From screen readers to tactons: vision-independent technologies for accessible products”. A path that start from extended accessibility conditions can be proved fruitful in specific context of use (for example complex tasks, or sport activities) as well as in more generics daily applications. The use of auditory and brain interfaces, a technology today in vast growth and daily more accessible, is a step towards the critiques of consumer electronic standards in which the issue is not yet tackled. The negative potentiality of a not-to-see open to the many potentialities of hearing, touching and feeling.

The physical body and the concept of tactons, the tactile icons, meet with the materiality of artifacts that are becoming “active” and “changing”. The research on new materials with dynamic and interactive potentialities is explored by M. Ferrara in her “Smart materials based research for tangible user interfaces”. Smart material interfaces, responsive environment and communicative clothes are the three core topic discussed in the article. The body and its physicality is a crucial perspective on the actual turn in interaction design towards materiality. Materials are getting dynamic, changing, somehow computational, the next interfaces will be physical and tangible in a totally renewed and yet to define way.

The body digitized become virtual and so the space around it. How our surrounding affect us and how can we describe them using the tools of vision of memory, and of digital representation? P. Lee Lucas sets a three perspective picture on describing a place and its alterations in “Sense of place: sense of tele-place?”. In a google-map-mediated-world where a place it is because it can be digitally reached, leaving tracks of its past in the digital world is an increasingly interesting subject that sits next to the digital archives and digital museums and galleries that are populating the Internet. Can our architectural past be digitized? What will survive now the book, the architecture or the digital representation?

The world of past digitized places can be considered a world of abandoned realities that can be inhabited only by ghosts. Virtual ghosts of people that really existed in the place and that now are not there anymore, people that didn’t survive their digital representation, or at least the representation of their spaces. These ghosts of the past can lean next to other digital ghost: the render ghosts. The concept of render ghost presented by Antonio Palacios in “An Ontology of Render Ghosts” is that of people inhabiting render spaces. The render ghosts, defined by James Bridle, are unknowns citizens of places yet to come. In opposition of the ghosts of a past city these are ghost of the future, a future that does not exist other than in the virtual representation. They are potentialities of citizens, users of a digital space that if realized will enable physical people to act inside it replacing the rendered ghost. This short circuit define ghosts from a present registered in the blueprints of a potential future. People will realize their machine dreams, will substitute their avatars, citizens will replace their own props and reiterate their representations. The virtual lose its virtuality or shows its never-virtual-purity mixing with realities of different times.

The body of social interaction is a body that relate itself through and with technologies. The time is in fact the dimension of dynamism that more affect the computational objects and their different realities. The concept of “fourth dimension” is addressed by Chiara Lecce, starting from the work of Lucy Bullivant and her 4dspace, in “The Post-digital era: towards a relational and sustainable approach”. The so called dimension of digital technologies shapes our everyday life through the object we use or as we should say the objects we live with. This population of computational artifacts is growing exponentially in experiments and installations having a wide affection on our visions but still a limited impact on our houses.

For the cover of this issue we present the project “Monkey Business” by Ralph Kistler and Jan M. Sieber. The awarded project is constituted by a toy monkey that reacts to the movement of the person in front of it. The mechanical animal duplicates the human body creating a physical dialogue that start with a greetings and doesn’t finish in a dull imitation. As the designers state “In a subtle way, the monkey asks for another move, you have never ever performed before. Playing the game, you will lose control unconsciously”. The bodies of monkey and human start replicating each other and influencing each other to the point of reaching a seamless interaction and choreographed performance. The bodies becomes one, the machine becomes human and the human becomes a monkey.

The door of contemporary is open to computational things, ghosts and shape-shifters; a world of potentialities is ready and waiting, it’s time to make things that help us to think, it’s time to make things that make us do, it’s time to make things that make us, better.


Agamben, G. (1995) Homo sacer: Il potere sovrano e la nuda vita. Torino, Giulio Einaudi.

Bridle, J. (2013, February 27). Balloons and Render Ghosts. Domus. [1-12-2014]

Bullivant, L. (2005). Architectural Design, Special Issue 4dspace: Interactive Architecture. Academy Press.

Sieber, JM. and Kristler, R. (2011) Monkey Business in:

Turkle, S. (2011). Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York, Basic Books.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. The concept of potentialities refers to the notion proposed by Giorgio Agamben in Homo Sacer.

Editorial #10: From Sicily notes about a changing reality

Number 10 of PAD is a special number. It is devoted to Sicily and, to those who, like us, come from this region of the Mediterranean or have spent there a part of their life; this number represents a moment of retrospective consideration, in the will of opening a “conversation” with the current situation, for a connection between seek of comprehension and real change of the practices.

After 10 numbers, PAD restarts from its origins. Born in Palermo in 2005, thanks to a group of researchers who have been working perpetually for the development of the design culture in Sicily, PAD has achieved an international reputation. It has left its original place in order to enter the web region, popular place that is being colonised by the Southern countries of the world, because of the possibilities of emancipation offered by the net. And nowadays PAD is immersed in a net of contacts that feed its Pages on Arts and Design.

After this premise, let’s go back to the question of this number. What is new in Sicily?

Back to the original places for a recognition of what is the current Sicilian scene of design and art, we cannot but highlight the fact that design, that until a few years ago was exclusively connected to the formation of the young at the Faculty of Architecture of Palermo, is now taking a full-bodied structure with branches in the whole region and several articulations. Industrial design courses are widespread in the Academies, with Palermo and Catania as driving forces, so are workshops, events, professional occasions, enterprises of new typology, whereas ADI Sicily, regional delegation of the Italian Association for the industrial Design, has become the reference point for the actions of design for the producing companies and the young professionals (as you will read in the interview of Alessandra Fazio to Vincenzo Castellana, President ADI Sicily).

There is also a flourishing of social enterprises (as written by Agnese Giglia) connected to creative activities linked to the territory resources, of art centres such as Farm Cultural Park of Favara (visible in Reportage) and Fiumara d’Arte in Tusa and of laboratories of ideas that help provide new ideas to the genius loci of whom Sicily is rich.

And then there is a young generation of artists and designers, born in the South but trained all around the world, that has left their home country in order to be fulfilled. They have learnt to travel, to be contaminated, they have achieved the right thinking necessary to be able to protest, to carry out a “cultural resistance”, thus spreading know-how and a new forma mentis. Willing to give a contribution to the future of their home community on location or at distance, this generation represents a new chance for a Sicily that is widespread, connected and global.
Also through their projects (as you will see in Young Sicilian design), Sicily becomes a place to be traversed and visited: destination for the cultural and enogastronomic tourism or for Pizzo-free tourism, with unique products that come in contact with their own environment, thus seeping authenticity. Moreover, one shouldn’t forget that there is also an image of Sicily that is conveyed by a product that has become global: the series Montalbano that Rai exports with the result that spectators have multiplied their visits to Sicily year after year.

In this overview that this number proposes, by presenting some case history of Sicilian design in order to reach modernity, we wish to prevent from exalting a reality that is still too complicated and contradictory. We will put our expectations into the hands of the young and of the strategic dimension of design within the Sicilian territory.
Design is a generative and epidemic activity.
The cultural tools of design and arts can give a substantial contribution to the creation of an “economy of culture”, the only economy that disposes of endless resources and potential, that can carry out projects for a sustainable and virtuous future.
Cover Photo by Sasha Vinci artist born in Modica in 1980. Today living and working in Scicli.

“Sicily…is the land where I came back voluntarily some years ago, the place where my instinct tells me to stay and work. Sicily is the centre, and it is like this that we have to imagine it. It is necessary to join forces against any kind of power obstructing the cultural evolution of this incredible territory. A real change can be triggered by the independent realities of art”. (S. V.)

What’s up? 15 young european architects

Fifteen firms of young European architects show their most relevant works and meditate on the current conditions of design production. While pragmatically anchored to the present, this generation confronts the transition to a different, more cooperative and social, existential situation: to an architecture that can overcome the obsession for individual self-representation and formal and stylistic research in order to contribute to an ecology of interaction.

WHAT’S UP? is a call to attention. An invitation to look at what is happening in the European architectural scene.
Young people’s slang is used to describe a new generation of talented architects who know how to turn the tables on prejudice and reticence.
The book was designed to arouse curiosity and stimulate architectural critique by channeling it towards the results achieved by young generations of designers; the goal is to document and testify to the organizational capabilities and cultural training of younger firms in the context of an equal and not rash comparison with colleagues who have been active for a long time, through the tools of ideas and work procedures.
The selection involves 15 European firms whose members range between 30 and 40 years of age, described with a text and the publication of two of their projects, the first one they developed and the one they consider most significant. The selection was based on anagraphical aspects but also on the firms’ contribution to the current debate on the state of architecture.
Among the various selection criteria was the number of works carried out in connection with years of activity, as well as the will to identify projects with different functions, from which heterogeneous shapes, inspirations, intentions, results, materials and colors emerge. For some States, in cases where content was equal, another selection factor was a studio’s presence in the media.
While different educational backgrounds, project methodologies and action ranges emerge from the interviews (some plan mainly sport or religious buildings, others work in the poorest areas of the world), all firms equally highlight the importance of architectural research, interdisciplinarity, professional collaboration and context.
To listen to professionals who will try to plan future cities is as interesting as recording the experience of well-known architects.
I hope it will be evident that what caused this book to develop is my belief in freedom of expression and in the enthusiasm of young generations, in their ability to change predominant values, in the sacrifices made in the name of the passion for their job, and in the courage and recklessness of so many professional choices that characterize the beginning of one’s career.
Despite the unpromising economic and political situation we face today, I believe that tenacity and talent always provide astonishing results, and that listening to inexperienced architects’ original voices and ideas can be a winning weapon to create varied and more stimulating places.

Salvatore Spataro

The same music

Every time I hear the echo of Jimi Hendrix or Pink Floyd from my son’s headphones the familiarity of recognition merges with the surprise of an unexpected continuity of taste between generations. If they had told me forty years ago I wouldn’t have ever believed it: rock music was revolutionary form, ideological belonging, affirmation of identity and opposition to the old: simply unthinkable to share aesthetic pleasure with one’s parents. Broadening the gaze, one notices the same musical phenomenons of duration, or of postmodern copy and paste, cross the most varied forms of expression, and architecture isn’t an exception. But we can’t say that general or specific conditions have remained the same. This volume, dedicated to fifteen young architecture firms, gives voice to the first generation of digital natives, fully fluent in radically new languages, comfortable in a change comparable, for its explosive potential, to the one produced by Alberti and Brunelleschi. And it’s not just a matter of tools for specific disciplines, but of a total transformation of social interactions and forms of communication. The fact that all of this hasn’t (yet?) produced a recognizable space aesthetic is an unexpected as well as significant phenomenon. Some people sense in the characteristics of the web, in the extreme precision with which search engines return exactly what you look for, in the progressive isolation in social networks constructed by “likes”, the disappearance of the fuel for innovation, of the casual collisions with the unexpected to which the pre-digital epoch constantly exposed us. Others assign an important role to the consequences of the numerous crises (environmental, economic, ideological, demographic…) and to the just as many fall backs that ensued: especially in project-based disciplines, for which the “new” is less and less a socially recognized and shared value.
These reasons being true or not, it is evident that we are in a transition phase and the best way to understand it is to listen to its protagonists. A first fact that emerges from reading this book is precisely a certain marginality of the generational issue, as if the Freudian need to eliminate fathers has all of a sudden disappeared. Perhaps the early engagement with the concreteness of construction played a role in orienting the various approaches here collected towards a healthy proactive pragmatism, for which the expression of a specific position doesn’t necessarily have to pass through the emancipation from known paradigms. Activity that, in more isolated and sheltered fields such as academia, is actually still practiced with enthusiasm (even if there, usually, they try to eliminate the fathers exhuming the grandfathers…). The ambition which instead appears to be most shared by these young working architects is simply to do their work at their best, trying to maintain a certain integrity in regards to contextual conditions. Positions vary, from idealism at the limits of ingenuity to professionally realist approaches, but all are imbued with the will to take a distance from the cynicism and individualism we usually associate with the role of architects. The widespread distrust towards archistars’ ways and goals doesn’t therefore appear to be a perfunctory statement by those who, having been excluded by the game, declare their lack of interest in playing. It’s a different orientation, less obsessively directed towards individual self-representation via the shape of constructed outcomes. For these youngsters the project isn’t anymore a heroic act, à la Howard Roark, the fictional and romantic architect played by a tough Gary Cooper in Fonte meravigliosa. It’s not the result of the rare talent of a Gehry, or of a technological persistence, that sustains its feasibility. He doesn’t even rely on the paradoxical reversal of reality through its own contradictions, a narrative device on which Rem Koolhaas and his many pupils built their success. If, in the end, we manage to recognize a generational specificity, we must look for it for it in opposites: in a different existential condition, more collaborative and social, more careful to participate in a sort of ecology of interaction, in space and time, in choices and areas of expertise. A generation not particularly oppressed by its past or anxious to shape the future, and thus quite rooted in the present, precociously aware that in a rapidly transforming world the quality of the voyage is more important that reaching goals that are less and less identifiable.

Review by Giovanni Corbellini
Padova, 5 July 2012

Editorial #09

PAD #9, the first issue in 2013, deals with matter very hot to young designers, researchers and design scholars: the evolution of design-production relationship.

In the digital era, the world travels at a very high, yet sometimes uneven, speed, and finance introduces turbulence shaking markets with unseen violence, while technology offers unbelievable opportunities of communicating and producing. How, in this context, does design practice and its relationship with production change? How does production innovate?

We put these questions to our network of correspondents throughout the Mediterranean world, and they came back proposing interesting cases, each peculiarly meaningful of a changing reality.

Many of them replied: Ely Rozenberg reports about the numerous start-ups phenomenon in Israel; Teresita Scalco about projects presented at the AdHocracy exhibition, recently held within the Istanbul Design Biennial, and their relationship with technologies; Gianni Di Matteo enters the discussion about the ‘adhocracy’ concept and its roots, telling about ‘adhocism’ as ‘the art of improvisation’ and the makers community in Africa, especially in Egypt; Ana Perković reports about design self-production in Croatia.

In the From section we also publish some interesting explorations, like: C. Bissas, V. Asfi and L. Angelou, from Greece, propose the Inaugural Flight of the papairlines sharing platform; the academic research taking place between Turkey and Italy, aimed at contributing to sustainable evolution of the agro-industrial system, which is, as known, one of the most important production systems for the development of the Mediterranean area and the whole world, as per directions of Horizon 2000, the EC tool supporting research and innovation in the 2014-2020 timeframe.

The Close Up sections offers a pragmatic reading of design-industry relationship in Italy, by means of a chronicle and three interviews to as many famous designers working in Italy, in order to understand the meaning of current situation and the re-emerging of self-production (more akin to design in Italian) phenomena.

The Reportage section, besides the usual appointment with Fabio’s eye, places some graphic and photographic readings of current events side by side with topics covered in the issue.

As a due comment, the answer to the questions we asked ourselves about the evolution of the design-production relationship comes mostly from the young design people. I say people because it’s a more and more numerous and global group, giving life to a digital and connected community, sharing tools, rules and values as well, informing social, collaboration and creative practices.

The world of internet and technologies, and their potential, is the preferred place by young people for experimenting, sharing open systems and co-working. This is perhaps such a difficult world to understand, for those who don’t live in it, but it-s the which will give a shape to the near future.

Young designers, self-producers, post-industrial craftsmen, makers, hacktivist, backyard inventors show an attitude to opening and sharing knowledge revealing a significant difference with recent traditions, in contrast to the design-firm world, which generated in Italy from the 80’s, after denying the ’68 ideologies.

Within project practice, young designers don’t restrict their competence to the aesthetical, morphological, typological and functional perspective of products, instead they open themselves to contaminations with different techniques, arts and disciplines. In this way, they carry on spontaneous processes of continuing experimentation rather than wait for the customer. This way if working in nowadays technological scenario stimulates the capability to redefine production strategies, as well as trigger self-organized and interactive processes, where the idea of process itself and the contribution of different skills become a new, flexible content, meeting to the needs of the preferred counterpart: society.

Young designers prove to drive change and innovation in all cases we’ve explored, although not always they are champions of entrepreneurship, enterprise or social-at-large development.Vision and design abilities is not enough anymore, management skills are required. And on this wish goes our greeting for the new year!

Cover photo: Studio mischer’traxler, Gradient Mashrabiya Sideboard. Photo © Fabio Gambina

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.

Editorial #08

A new cycle starts for PAD with issue n. 8.

Having mainly devoted the first seven issues to the evolution of design in the countries of the Mediterranean area, and having obtained a major nod with the inception in the ADI Index, PAD starts afresh. With issue 8, it changes its acronym in Pages on Arts & Design and dons a new package. While the journal’s focus is still on design in the Mediterranean countries, it relies on a new ‘diffuse’ network of collaborators and writers at large who will shed light on the hot issues emerging in the design field, particularly in the Maghreb and Mashrek regions.

The title inaugurating PAD’s new cycle is The Mediterranean of Women.

The design activities that women are involved in – their surveys, thoughts and words – in the Mediterranean area are the aspects forming the central theme of this issue. While it is far from easy to approach, the editorial committee considered, and still considers in its current lineup, that such theme is worth the effort.

Indeed, PAD had announced its intention to explore women’s creativity and design capabilities in the countries of the Mediterranean area as early as 2008. Issues n. 4 and n. 5 presented female designers who developed a wide range of activities (from textile to furniture designs, from jewelry to graphic design) in various regions of the area. Their work illustrated how, in the countries of the Southern as well as the Northern coast of the Mediterranean basin, the arts and crafts production typical of the Mediterranean tradition flourishes alongside expressions of full-fledged modernity, developed by women with great passion and pride.

Designers, artisans, artists, photographers, film-makers, women who have been able to integrate their creative abilities in their professional activity thus becoming agents of transformation and models for future generations. Well aware of their rights, these women challenge the stereotypes forced on them by their cultures by choosing difficult trajectories of integration and empowerment in the profession and in society. They are well-determined to question and challenge themselves, and to be an active part of the Mediterranean communities’ economical, social, and cultural development.

The issue’s first article is (Women’s) design will save the (Arab) world by Gianni di Matteo – an adaption in the female of “Design will save the (arab) world”, the provocation Ahmad Humeid – the Jordan architect and founder of Redesign Arabia, proposed in the manifesto/appeal addressed to the creative communities in his country. The article presents a good number of Arab women striving to conquer center stage in the international design scene.

The following articles present projects developed by women in various fields: agro-industrial design for the Ametlla+ design built in the Island of Mallorca explained by its author, designer Barbara Flaquer; social design for the Master dissertation of Turkish designer Eda Kose; contemporary art and use of calligraphy in the works of Arab artists who voice the words and thoughts of women and the contradictions of world and society ; academic research applied to the study of female stereotypes recurring in advertising and marketing.

This last article, by Valeria Bucchetti, is the connection introducing a focus section about the evolution of Gender Studies in the Western world. This section starts with an interview with Cheryl Buckley, a historian of British design who, while analyzing the work of female ceramists in the Midlands from 1870 through 1955, has developed a theory according to which patriarchal society is responsible for erasing women from the history of design. With permission from MIT Press, we publish Cheryl Buckley’s article Made in Patriarchy: Toward a Feminist Analysis of Women and Design, printed in Design Issues vol. III, N. 2 in 1986. We propose both the original version and the Italian translation hoping to renew interest in an issue that so far has failed to make an impact in the Mediterranean countries.

As usual, the main section is complemented by additional features.

This issue includes photographic reportages, among other things, about the Milan Furniture Fair and a report on the thriving design scene in Croatia.

The issue is completed by news from the Mediterranean presenting the numerous events that will enliven the new scene of design in the next few weeks and months.

Finally, I hope that arts and design will fill our readers’ summer and urge them to write to propose topics they care about, and recommend emerging ideas and new projects that embrace the cultural, technical, social and economical innovation the Mediterranean region so clearly needs.


Cover photo: © Fabio Gambina, Palermo, June 2012