Design Activism and Social Change (Sep 2011, Barcelona)

The Annual Conference of the Design History Society
Deadline for submission of abstracts: 31 January 2011

Papers are expected to make an original contribution to the field of design history that address the conference theme of ‘Design Activism and Social Change’.

People who are interested in presenting a paper should send an abstract for refereeing. Paper proposals will be selected by the Scientific Committee to cover a range of historical moments, geographical locations and discursive fields.

Design activism has emerged in recent years as a term to denote creative practices that invoke social, political and environmental agency. Typically, it distances itself from commercial or mainstream public policy-driven approaches. Instead, it embraces marginal, non-profit or politically engaged design theories, articulations and actions.

Arguably, ´design activism´ is a response to particular contemporary conditions of geo-political change, social conditions, economic practices and environmental challenges. It nonetheless inherits a rich history that goes back as long as design itself. A number of questions therefore arise. For example, what is distinctive about design activism today as opposed to its expression in the late 1960s and 1970s, the period of pioneer modernism of the 1920s or the intentions of William Morris? Are there or have there been different qualities of design activism in different locations, according to various issues such as scale, mode of intervention, contexts of governance, and so on? How have designers attempted to reconcile ambitions toward social change with economic imperatives? What is to be learnt from the design histories of non-Western countries with respect go activism and social change?

It welcomes the presentation of original research that helps deepen and widen our understanding of its practices and theories, contexts and discourses. The types of design expression that this conference includes, but is not limited to, are professional and non-professional industrial, graphic, craft, textile, fashion, urban, spatial, interior, digital and service design.

Each entry should incorporate the following information:

Page 1

  • Author’s(s’) full name(s), (+gender (M/F), in brackets)
  • Title
  • Position
  • Institution
  • Address for correspondence
  • Telephone
  • Fax
  • E-mail
  • Theme of the paper (see example strands below), indicating a first and second choice
  • Title of the paper
  • Five keywords

Page 2

  • Abstract of the paper. Maximum 300 words.
  • Languages: The abstract should be written in English. If the proposer wishes to give their paper in Spanish or Catalan, they should indicate this on Page 1. They may also provide their abstract in either of those languages as well as in English.
  • Abstract and later paper submissions should be sent by e- mail as a Microsoft Word or RTF document, double-spaced on A4. Preferred typeface is 11pt Times New Roman.

Please send abstract and paper submissions to the following address:

Example strands

Responses to industrialisation and alienation
Resisting capital: financialisation and alternative credit systems
Historical examples of social innovation and design
Participatory governance and co-creation
Re-imagining the city
Activist fashion
Ethical consumption
Design and the women’s movement
Design and gender
Open Source approaches
Grass roots design activism
Dissident design
DIY activism and design
Anti-design and radical design
Craft as activism
Histories of permaculture and urban agriculture
Revolutionary graphics
Appropriate and intermediate technologies
Radical futures for design history
The University and the Polytechnic as site of design activism

About Fil Salustri
I'm a design methodologist and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada. Adjectives that describe me include: secular humanist, meritocrat, and long-winded. Some people call me a positivist too, as if that were a bad thing. Go figure. My real home page is

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