Brussels 2010

Design & Craft: A History
of Convergences and Divergences

Themes / Papers
Thematic sessions

The title of the ICDHS conference of 2010, "Design and Craft: A History of Convergences and Divergences", expresses the central theme of the conference: the complex relation between design and craft.

This topic will be studied in nine thematic sessions:

1. The impact of international organisations
Since the foundation of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) in 1957, design as a cultural/economic discipline as well as the profession of designer are framed in an international perspective. The International Council of Graphic Design Associations (ICOGRADA) and the World Craft Council (WCC) emerged later on to coordinate graphic design and craft on an international scale. How have these organisations contributed to the definition of these disciplines? How have they demarcated design in its general sense from related disciplines such as illustration and fashion?

2. Craft and tourism
Craft is often regarded as an embodiment of the essential, archaic characteristics of a region. This is exemplified by the way craft functions as souvenirs of a region. How was this connection established? Has the promotion of local craft further integrated these products into the daily life in a certain region or has it instead restricted them to the tourist market?

3. Towards an Aesthetic of objects
Traditionally, the subject of Aesthetics is fine art. Does the discipline of design in the specification of its semantic framework – from which use cannot be separated from contemplation – have its own Aesthetics? Will an Aesthetics for daily life be possible, which faces the history of objects as a 'second skin' of the consuming and enjoying individual? The aim of this session will be to highlight the relations of a disciplinary triangle – art, design, craft – through the aesthetic evocation of the object and the experience of its beauty. Unfolding the knowledge of the aesthetics experience of daily life will contribute to a reflection about the conditions of Aesthetics to deal with the history of the objects.

4. Design criticism, a lost profession?
The field of design criticism and criticism of craft seems to have been fairly uneventful during the past few decades. Moreover, since the 1980s design publications increasingly seem to resemble sales catalogues or lifestyle magazines, rarely based on well-founded reflection. Nevertheless, there have been periods in the 20th century when this was entirely different. In the sixties, for example, authors such as the British Reyner Banham developed an impressive body of work in the field of design criticism. In Belgium there were also critics who primarily focused on design and craft, such as Karel Elno or Leon-Louis Sosset. Why do writers with such a profile appear to be a dying breed these days? In other disciplines, including visual arts, performing arts and architecture, criticism does seem to have maintained its respectable status.

5. Revival of traditional techniques
The impact of 'industrial design' on craft is complex: the emergence of industrial design was not entirely negative and could actually be regarded as a boost. In response to the dissemination of industrial design, traditional craftsmanship such as tapestries, silverware and stained glass windows experienced a revival. Simultaneously, industrial processes became inspired by age-old techniques in order to diversify the products. This raises a number of interesting questions. Has this revival ever yielded 'new' products? Has this nostalgic undercurrent led to innovation or did it only concern the continuation of a tradition?

6. Craft, design and postmodernity
The cross-fertilisation between design, production techniques used in craft, production on a limited scale and art-oriented design production reached a peak in the 1980s during the postmodernist period. The cultural status of design and designers experienced a revolution and the hierarchical relations between design, craft and art became more complex. Which role did craft play in this evolution? Did craft become more widely acknowledged? Or has it, on the other hand, given design a place in the field of art?

7. Fashion and craft
Fashion seems to have a separate status compared to design and craft, yet it is unmistakably related to both these disciplines. Some fashion designers transform recycled materials and second-hand clothes into new items of clothing. This reinterpretation of haute couture correlates with the design processes in craft. What remains typical of haute couture is the labour-intensive craftsmanship and the production of unique items available only on a limited scale. In this sense, luxury does not relate to the use of precious materials, but is to be interpreted as the number of working hours that are invested into the production of a certain piece of clothing. In addition to the use of traditional techniques associated with craft, fashion sometimes has the potential to restore certain folk trends. Has this ability of fashion to set trends triggered a revival of craft or vice versa? Has it rekindled the appreciation of craft and folklore?

8. Ruptures and Continuities: The Historiographic Understanding of Craft and Design

9. Craft and Technological Innovation


1. "Design Centres" and design exhibitions
Shortly after World War II design centres were founded in several countries, including Belgium, Israel, Japan and Greece, following the example of the London Design Centre. These permanent exhibition spaces for 'well'-designed products were often funded by government bodies. The proliferation of these exhibition spaces in the sixties and their downfall during the eighties warrants a comparative study of this phenomenon. Which role has the economic and political context played in this evolution? As exhibition spaces the design centres were midway between a museum and a trade fair. Have these hybrid exhibition spaces affected the evolution of design museums?

2. Craft and gender


Check the full list of papers in the program below: