Where are the objects? What is the history? Why are you writing about that? Yes, but is that design? This is a column for those who believe that their actions are not an explicit design, instead habits – unconscious acts. This column exists to show how everything you considered to be immune to design has been part of a process which is at some point subject to the hands of those who have capitalised on our malleable day-to-day. Be it your decision to get a taxi rather than catch the bus, to go on holiday in the Lake District as opposed to Barbados. We hope to push the boundaries of material culture and design history, showing that what you choose to overlook is in fact designed in a certain way. Blink, and you will miss the design that you really should be noticing.


Design can be the product of, the solution to or a tool in the implementation of conflict.This column seeks to explore the relationship between design and conflict, from early modern history to the present day. Ranging from local issues such as protests, to international crises as a result of political, social and religious conflicts, this column will expose the world of design and conflict from a design historical perspective. Objects, architecture and systems of design both influence and are influenced by such extreme conditions, aiding in our understanding of the relationship between people and their environments. Through this column we aim to investigate how design can be harnessed as resistance or exploited through submission to conflict. The correlation between design and conflict can be identified worldwide and throughout history – we welcome submissions related to all disciplines and interests to open the discussion of conflict.


Ugly Things explores why anything is considered to be ugly or of poor taste. The definitions of ‘ugly’ in the Oxford English Dictionary range from aesthetic meanings to more sinister connotations of danger and immorality. To be unattractive is often perceived as being intrinsically linked to inferior quality and moral character. This is best illustrated in Adolf Loos’ famous work Ornament and Crime in which ornamentation is shown to be unnecessary and therefore immoral and ugly by association. Contributors are welcome to discuss anything on this theme, from specific objects to aspects of design and the design process as well as aesthetic theory.


This column will explore the transnational relationships between countries, institutions, people and objects across time. We will concentrate not only on the here and now, but also on global networks from the fifteenth century onwards, when global trade first flourished. Over the course of the year we aim to encompass many geographies and themes, some wide in scope, others very niche, opening up the world of design to truly global analysis.


The idea and purpose of this column is very simple: we wish this to be a place for active exchange of opinions. Taking our cue from the originator of the op-ed piece, Herbert Bayard Swope, who declared, ‘nothing is more interesting than opinion when opinion is interesting,’ we welcome contributions from anyone, on nearly everything. Whether you have an opinion on the importance of history, your hometown museum, or the appearance of the latest iPhone — we want to know. So sharpen your pencils, and tongues, and let us hear what you have to say.

FIG. 0

The first assignment that we undertook as nascent Design Historians on the V&A/RCA MA course was an object essay based upon an item in the V&A collection, from which we learned how inextricable the history of objects are from the contexts they inhabit. Similarly, this monthly column will take a single object as its starting point and develop a Design History discourse around it. Fig. 0 will approach objects as manifest narratives rather than as fixed signifiers, revealing complex life-cycles and tales of shifting meanings and perceptions as the world changes around them. Thinking about objects in the broadest sense, from furniture to interfaces, systems to machines, this column will unpack the complex relationships of which material and immaterial culture is a product.

Click on the drop-down menu or the home page to visit the columns and read the latest posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *