7. Design history as a tool for better design

Design History maintains and deepens perspectives in a world where everything is spinning faster and faster. It is a subject that emphasizes important cultural values that in many cases are unique and nonrenewable. Design history cares about cultural sustainability.

Design history is a relatively new discipline in the academic arena. As mass culture and consumerism has come to represent an increasingly important part of our lives the subject has undergone a rapid development. The shift from the study of iconic objects and heroic designers to more reflecting, critical and analytical interpretations allows one to speak of a new design history. In Sweden this is partly linked to the fact that design history has become accepted as an independent teaching subject at design schools and regarded as a competitive research field worthy of funding by national research councils.
It is our belief that design history allows a deeper understanding of the role of the designer and the contributions designers achieve in improving our futures. Every design project is a link in an evolutionary chain. At a time when virtually all designs must be regarded as redesign it becomes increasingly necessary for a designer to take a critical historical approach. To acquire knowledge about this evolutionary process provides the conditions necessary to be better able to relate to older material, be they good role models or more or less temporary blind tracks due to older technology, inappropriate materials, or another time's morality or aesthetic tendencies.
Research through design is rapidly gaining ground in today's design schools. This research is important and has many virtues, but could also be critiqued as introspective. Therefore, it is perhaps now more important than ever to maintain in parallel a critical and analytical research and teaching position at design schools. This track aims to bring together current interpretations of design history; interpretations that show how today's designers will benefit from a better knowledge of design history. We welcome contributions primarily from those in the humanities and social sciences engaged in research and education about design in a historical perspective. We are considering a wide range of studies. Interdisciplinary approaches are encouraged.

A short biography of convenors

Dr. Paul Atkinson is an industrial designer, design historian and a Reader in Design at Sheffield Hallam University. He has been invited to speak at a number of international conferences and has articles published in a number of journals. His recent book Computer is published by Reaktion.
Email: p.atkinson@shu.ac.uk

Dr. Lasse Brunnström teaches design history at HDK and several other Swedish design schools and has published books on e.g. Swedish industrial design, telephone design and most recently Swedish design history. Now he leads the interdisciplinary research project The (un)sustainable package.
Email: lasse.brunnstrom@hdk.gu.se

Dr. Pekka Korvenmaa is Vice Dean at the Aalto University School of Art and Design and professor of Design and Culture, Department of Design at the same university. In this field he has led several research projects and teams and supervised doctoral studies in Finland and abroad. Korvenmaa has published extensively on Finnish architectural and design history both in Finland and internationally since 1981. His most recent book is Finnish Design - A Concise History (2009).
Email: pekka.korvenmaa@aalto.fi