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

Since the formation of the modern design disciplines, the predominant technologies have continuously been a driving force behind the conceptualisation, method, and outcome of the design practice. 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 to examine the impact of technology on the making of design. 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, this course locates design in the field of tension between technological progress and constraints, and demonstrates the strong link between designers’ engagement with the prevailing technologies and their vision of reform, beauty, and social change.

Course language: German

Winter Semester 2021

Theory and History of Design I:

The Democratisation of Design: Ideology, Branding, and the Open Design Process

Pro-seminar

Heng Zhi

Throughout modern design history, democratising good design has been a significant endeavour for generations of designers. From the utopian idea of design for democracy embedded in the early modernist movement, through to the mid-Century functionalist design as a response to austerity and consumer demand, to the ‘democratic design’ campaign popularized by Ikea, the democratisation of design is providing increasing number of people with access to designed goods, but also risks becoming a commercial slogan trivialising the burden it causes to the environment. Meanwhile, fast-developing digital tools and artificial intelligence are allowing more and more ‘non-experts’ to engage in the customisation and the production of design. The design process seems to be more open and democratic than ever. With movements such as Open Design and Participatory Design, the idea of design as an elitist discipline is facing dissolution. This seminar investigates both the democratisation of design in terms of accessibility to design products, and in terms of the democratisation of the innovation process. The students are invited to contemplate about the social, cultural, and ecological impact of the democratisation of design as both an ideological orientation and a branding strategy, and about the role of professional designers in times when everybody can design.

Course language: German

Winter Semester 2021

Material Culture I:

Design and Dwelling

Seminar

Michelle Jackson-Beckett and Alison J. Clarke

In the era of Covid-19 when people around the world are forced to spend most waking hours at home, the question of a healthy and happy living and working space––especially on small, contingent, or shared scales––continues to be a relevant issue. This course considers the material culture of modern dwelling through twentieth-century and contemporary perspectives across themes of gender, race, accessibility, style, politics, and climate change, explored through a variety of sources, including news media, film, literature, fashion, product design and home furnishings, architecture, interiors, and urban planning. Students will explore histories of interior design beyond a traditional canon, considering not only aesthetics, taste, and consumption, but also diverse theoretical and social interpretations of dwelling and material culture. The course will offer students alternative perspectives on the perennial question famously posed at the 1927 German Werkbund exhibition, Die Wohnung: “how should we live?” With widespread work-from-home burnout, sky-rocketing housing costs, and the continued fallout of the Great Recession, this question “how should we live?” is perhaps even more urgent today than it was in 1927.

Course language: English

Winter Semester 2021

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. Moreover, it introduces design students to theories, debates and methods from various research fields to cultivate critical thinking toward ethics, aesthetics, and cultural appropriation in the design process.

Course language: English

Winter Semester 2021

Kolloquium für Master- und Doktoratsstudierende

Alison J. Clarke

Course language: English

Winter Semester 2021