Recent Research

Major research projects in the department of Design History and Theory: ‘Design Anthropology:  Industrial Design and Development’ FWF (Austrian Science Fund) 2024–2027 led by Principal Investigator Alison J. Clarke  explores the legacies and histories of Cold War experiments in social science and design; ‘Victor J. Papanek: Émigré Culture Networks and the Founding of Social Design’ FWF (Austrian Science Fund) 2013–2018, also led by Principal Investigator Alison J. Clarke  traced the intellectual networks connected to the creation of the 1970s socially responsible and humanist design movements – related project outputs include the international travelling exhibition and related catalogue Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design (2018–2021) co-edited and co-curated by Alison J. Clarke with Vitra Design Museum in cooperation with Barcelona Design Museum, and Clarke’s monograph Victor Papanek: Design for the Real World (MIT Press, 2021).

‘Transnational School Construction’ FWF (Austrian Science Fund) 2020–2024 led by Principal Investigator Dr. Maja Lorbek, based in the department of Design History and Theory, considers  transnational school construction and the modus operandi of the UIA Commission on School Constructions. The FWF Elise Richter Post-Doctoral project 2019-2023, ‘Professionalisation and its Discontents: Design, 1930–1980’ was led by Dr. Leah Armstrong and considered design as a ‘new profession’ formed in the middle of the twentieth century.

PhD candidate Elif Süsler-Rohringer and her colleagues have been awarded a ÖAW DOC-Team Fellowship (2022–2025) for their research project ‘Stay and Tell: memory objects and narratives of appropriation: Tracing social change in text, photographs and patterns within personal archives’. A post-Doctoral Fellowship Grant financed by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) and facilitated by OeAD, Austria supports Dr. Ufaq Inaam’s project exploring existing design paradigms in industry and academia of the Global South.

Doctoral Research Students

Supervisor Alison J. Clarke

Eva Gjessing, MA Architect, Ph.D. Fellow in Edu. Theory and Curriculum Studies, Material Culture
University of Aarhus, Arts.

School Design, Community and Care

The research project focus on welfare architecture and social sustainability. It shares light on how Danish School Design 2015-2020 materialize and produce new practices and everyday life in school. During the last decades the political purpose of school building in Denmark has changed from being an embracement of national pedagogical ideas to being the remedy of promoting a global vision of school. This vision is elaborated by pedagogical consultants in programs for future schools in Denmark relaunching the open-plan school from the 1970s though bigger in size and differently organized. The research applies critical theory to scrutinize the dialectics between school programs, didactical practices in school and the users experiences of community and care with the practices.

Heng Zhi, Mag.Des.Ind.
Design Curator, Vitra Design Museum

Redefining Design – Reflective Design Activities in Contemporary China

China’s creative energy seems driven by the inseparable forces of affluence and the desire for recognition; ever more accelerated mass production, high-speed construction of spectacular architecture on a huge scale and the speculation of artists in auctions and galleries. Diving underneath the widespread understanding of this creative process, this research explores the reflective design activities developing in the contemporary Chinese metropolis as an exploration of the process of (anti-)homogenization in a significant emerging culture.


Tabea Rude, MA
Curator/Conservator, Vienna Clock Museum, Vienna City Museums Group/WIENMUSEUM

Electrical Clock Design in early 20th century Austria: Technology, Craft, Dissolution and Globalisation

Horology and timekeeping played an increasingly important part in everyday life during the early 20th century, especially within the fields of transport and information and communications networks. The demand for ever more precise and synchronised time, the First World War, and the resulting dissolution of the multinational Austro-Hungarian state into independent states had major repercussions on the economy, industrialisation, globalisation and social developments. This research investigates the effects of these major changes on the clock- and watchmaking craft and, in particular, on the field of electrical clocks and synchronising systems and their designs.

Elif Süsler-Rohringer, MA MA

Cut, trace, design, repeat: People and Patterns in Flux 1970–2000

This research project focuses on the creative dimension of labor migration in the textile industries between Turkey, Germany and Austria, highlighting that cultural exchanges between these countries were not linear and one-sided, but entangled. It examines the creative adaptations of design in conjunction with migrants’ transnational fashion experiences from the tailors’ and dressmakers’ perspective. It aims to investigate these sartorial exchanges and transfers of knowledge, as well as gaps and disjunctures from the 1970s to the 2000s. To do that it deals with two kinds of mobilities creating intersections; displacement and globally circulating design models (i.e. commercial paper patterns for clothing). It traces both transfers and the lack thereof through a combination of an actor-centered approach with a socially embedded media analysis.

Detail from a paper pattern, 1990s (Elif Süsler-Rohringer)

Completed Doctorates

Image series on traditional medicine, Lahore, Pakistan (Ufaq Inaam)

Ufaq Inaam, M.Phil, MFA (Graphic Design) Gold Medalist
Doctoral Scholarship – Higher Education Commission Pakistan
Lecturer (on leave), Design Department, College of Art & Design, Punjab University, Lahore, Pakistan

Informal Economies of Design: Material and Visual Culture of Traditional Medicine in Popular Urban Spaces of Lahore, Pakistan.

From the collage of ephemeral therapeutic posters to the electric visuals of traditional medicine, of Pakistan’s Lahore metropolis are filled with the exuberance of transient and informal graphic design.

This doctoral research project explores how a particular ubiquitous graphic identity is formed through the consumption of modern and traditional simultaneously and how religion is materialized in the commercial construction of objects. Founded on visual ethnography, which is instituted on biographies of advertising graphics in popular urban spaces and aesthetics of domestic spaces, this study reports the relativity of consuming the desired ‘modern-ness’ and how a specific class acts as an agency of consumption of a traditional kind of modernity. The research focuses on the exploration of overlooked economy of vernacular Pakistani design, in which creative culture is thriving and holds exceptional individuality.

Kathrina Dankl, Dr. phil. DI (FH)
Managing Director, Studio Dankl and Ass. Prof. Design School Kolding, Denmark

Very Experienced People: An Ethnography of Design, the Elderly and Style

External Examiner: Prof. Jeremy Myerson, Director Helen Hamlyn Centre RCA, UK

Elisabeth Petermann, Dr. phil.

Unravelling the Culture of Trend Forecasting: An ethnographic study of the legitimising, representing, mediating, and value-generating practices of the European trend industry

External Examiner: Prof. Joanne Entwistle, King’s College London, UK

Martina Grünewald, Dr. phil. BBA, MA
Promotio sub auspiciis, Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Applied Arts Vienna

Doing Design, Practising Thrift – Material Culture and the Social Construction of Value at Auctions in Vienna

External Examiner: Prof. Harvey Molotch, New York University, USA

Özlem Savas, MSc, PhD
Ass. Prof. Design and Communication, Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey

Taste Diaspora: The Aesthetic and Material Practice of Belonging

External Examiner: Prof. John Storey, University of Sunderland, UKDI

Sandra Dittenberger, Mag. Dr. phil.
Univ.-Prof. New Design University, St. Pölten

Lived Mobility – The Experience of Personal Mobility

External Examiner: Prof. Ina Wagner, Technical University Vienna

Anna Weiß, Mag. Dr. phil.
Univ.-Ass. Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna

Hyper-Domesticity: Gender and the Contemporary Interior

External Examiner: Edelbert Köb, Former Director MUMOK