Courses

Design History and Theory is offered at introductory and advanced levels to students across design disciplines. The courses are designed to engage with and reflect upon emergent practices and discourses in contemporary design.

Introduction to Theory and History of Design I

The Making and Shaping of Design: Between Craft and Automation

Lecture series

Heng Zhi

This course locates design in the field of tension between technological progress and constraints, and examines the impact of technology on the making of modern design. While the industry has striven to develop ever-more powerful tools to advance automation and obtain efficiency, craft has persisted to be a vital aspect of the field and a source of critical positions and resistance. This lecture series visits some of the key moments in design history from the Arts and Crafts Movement to the Bauhaus workshop, from the Maker Movement to the emphasis on the hand-made in Dutch design, and from the post-war functionalist design for mass-production to the automation of design process through artificial intelligence, demonstrating the strong link between designers’ engagement with the prevailing technologies and their vision of reform, beauty, and social change.

Course language: German

Winter Semester 2022/23

Theory and History of Design I

Revisiting Taste in Design

Pro-seminar

Heng Zhi

Why are kitsch objects and low-cost plastic chairs considered bad taste? Or are they? How and when did the debate about good and bad taste in design emerge? Why did the governments of the UK, Sweden, and the USA actively promote the notion of “good design” in the post-war period and what remains of these campaigns today? This seminar explores the concept of taste in the history of design by tracing the modernist vision of “non-taste”, through the state efforts in disseminating good design taste after the Second World War, to the recent phenomenon of algorithms taking on the role of the tastemaker. It discusses Bourdieu’s seminal book Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste as a key moment in taking aesthetic choices into account for the analysis of social classes and power relations. By interpreting and challenging Bourdieu’s theory in the present context of design, this course makes clear that in spite of the claim by some designers of an era “after taste”, taste stays relevant as a central issue for the design world, though manifested in much more subtle and multi-layered ways. Students are encouraged to explore the complexity and the multiplicity of taste as a subject by participating in the discussion in the course and researching on selected case studies.

Course language: German

Winter Semester 2022/23

Material Culture I

“Matter Out of Place”: Design and Discard Studies

Seminar

Nargess Khodabakhshi and Alison J. Clarke

Designers today increasingly grapple with urgent issues of waste and climate change while confronting mistakes made by past generations. In this course, students explore how waste shapes the world through an expanded view of discard studies and material culture in twentieth-century history and contemporary contexts. Students will analyze not only the material stuff that humans throw away, but also the wider political, social, and economic systems at play in the creation, concealment, and disposal of waste. In the 1960s, the British social anthropologist Mary Douglas coined the phrase “matter out of place” to describe dirt and pollution. Students will consider this concept in design practice, including issues of conservation and sustainability, social taboos, and purity. The course covers a range of topics including obsolescence, bioclimatic design, media archaeology and tech waste, circular economies of design, and the material culture of waste beyond our planet: space debris. Students will engage with design criticism, digital exhibitions, public history projects, news media, video, and film sources.

Course language: English

Winter Semester 2022/23

Design and Diversity

The Dilemma of Creativity and Cultural Appropriation

Pro-seminar

Nargess Khodabakhshi

The development of postcolonial theories in the 1980s to 1990s impacted theoretical debates in design, arts and cultural studies, criticizing the Eurocentric narratives of the history of culture, arts, and design. As a result, institutionalized initiatives and literacy developed worldwide to open up new perspectives for the theory and terminology of design. In this regard, critical studies pose radical questions of a linear, westernized and, also sexist and classicist understanding of design history and theory. This critical approach, specifically through the rapid digitization since the 2000s, imposes a paradigm shift within the design’s educational, economic and practical fields. “Design and Diversity Pro-Seminar” addresses a gap within this shift, focusing on the dilemma of creativity and cultural appropriation for design educators, practitioners and industries.

Course language: English

Winter Semester 2022/23

Kolloquium für Master- und Doktoratsstudierende

Alison J. Clarke

Course language: English

Winter Semester 2022/23