About the conference

Graphic Design: History and Practice
May 19, 2014
Faculty of Design and Art of the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano
room D.103 (first floor; entrance from piazza Università 1)

Graphic Design: History and Practice is a one-day conference organised at the Faculty of Design and Art of the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano that will focus on the relationship of graphic design history and practice.

Graphic design history has always been shaped by the development of the practice of graphic design, which has affected how history has been narrated, studied, and used. In recent years, in particular, diverse phenomena such as the massification of design education and the spread of digital media have contributed to transforming designers’ approach to history, including the growing interest of students and young practitioners in historical and critical issues. The territory of graphic design history, however, has also been practised by “pure” historians, who have contributed to its understanding with their own agenda, spurred by the advancement of historical studies. Graphic design history therefore sits today at the intersection of diverse interests and directions, which show both convergences and tensions.

Up until today, the historical narrative of graphic design has been developed to a great extent by design practitioners themselves. Mainly focused on individual professionals, artefacts, and good design examples, the narratives elaborated by designers have eventually established a territory of references that, at least since the 1990s, have come to be regarded by some as too limited. Over time, however, claims have been made, by both designers and historians, for the need to expand the field of investigation and to widen the interpretive framework. Some historians in particular have argued for the importance of drawing from diverse approaches and disciplines, such as material culture and visual culture, gender studies, cultural and social history, anthropological studies etc. On the other hand, with regards to the understanding of graphic design, practitioners usually raise the issue that due to the fact that their knowledge is not rooted in practice, pure historians generally lack the kind of technical expertise and sensitivity required to analyse the processes and the work of graphic design.

This kind of tension between practitioners and pure historians can be found in different contexts where the past and present of graphic design are made to meet. In schools where graphic design is taught, for example, graphic design educators usually introduce students to a number of historical references that can sustain them in their designing activities. Whereas, historians who teach in design schools are usually confronted with the need to establish a fruitful dialogue with students who aspire to become designers, and not historians.

The conference aims to cover all these aspects by gathering international graphic design historians as well as designers who have been dealing with design history through writing, publishing, editorial and curatorial activities for a long time.
Structured in two main panels, each including speeches and a discussion, the conference will address such issues as: narratives, methods, teaching and education, preservation and curation, gender issues, digital media, national contexts, critical practice, ethics, and audience.

Invited speakers are: Richard Hollis (keynote speaker), Gerda Breuer, Esther Cleven, Annick Lantenois, Mario Piazza, Adrian Shaughnessy.

The conference will be in English.

The conference is conceived and organised by Antonino Benincasa, Giorgio Camuffo and Christian Upmeier, all associate professors of visual communication at the Faculty of Design and Art of the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Maddalena Dalla Mura, research collaborator at the same Faculty, and Carlo Vinti, researcher at the Università di Camerino.

. The conference is organised in collaboration with the research project GEC.

The conference is organised in collaboration with:
AIAPAssociazione italiana Progettazione per la comunicazione visiva
AIS/DesignAssociazione italiana Storici del design
GdDGGesellschaft für Design Geschichte

Conference attendance is free. Registration is required.
Room to be defined.

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