Brussels 2010

Design & Craft: A History
of Convergences and Divergences

After Brussels

Astrid Skjerven
Professor PhD
Department of Product Design
Akershus University College

Since its birth at the turn of the century ICDHS has manifested itself as a forward looking and ambitious organization, aiming to comprise the theory and history of design on a global basis. This meant a fresh and completely different approach to the field, and one of its greatest challenges ever. In addition to its main activity, the conferences, ICDHS has initiated the publication of a new journal, Design and Culture, which brings interesting research contributions from all parts of the world.

The organization seems to be able to adapt to current trends and fields of interest. The first conferences were characterized by its geopolitical platform. The last one in Brussels this year, arranged in cooperation with the Design History Society, indicated a broadening of the scope. The theme was the relation between design and crafts. Through its many contributions it clearly demonstrated the outdatedness of the traditional view of the two disciplines as being contradictory, and the relevance of crafts in today's Post Fordist society. In addition it embraced the field of practice, letting it into the academic nest of theory and history. In spite of the uneven quality of the papers, spanning from brilliant to bad, the conference and its social venue constituted a vibrant and inspiring event. The presence and accessibility of the members of the Scientific Board and the Organizing Committee also contributed to the positive atmosphere.

ICDHS has managed to become one of the most important arenas of discourse for the global design community. This status makes it necessary to take up the question of how it should develop to keep up its aim and high standards. One of the main problems is the conception of the discipline of design itself. On the one hand it is being questioned by the new research contributions from cultures outside the Western world. On the other hand, the traditional definition is threatened by dissolution by the all-comprising conception of the so called creative industries.

It is also a matter of organization. Until now ICDHS has managed very well as an informal network, taking advantage of the enthusiasm and creativity of such organic bodies. Its increasing age and authority, and the need for renewal, might make it relevant to consider a more formal structure.

Brussels gave some indications of what the future will bring. As members and supporters we should give ICDHS the right push. The next opportunity is São Paulo.