Design Atlas

towards an atlas of the design profession in Britain 1930-2010

Our 80th year saw the Society embark on one of its most important and significant initiatives in the interest of the profession and the design sector. A major mapping of the profession during the 80 years of the Society’s history will ask three key questions:

  1. ‘How and why did the organisations that represent designers develop?’
  2. ‘How as the definition of a designer changed and how have the design disciplines been defined and configured over this period?’
  3. ‘What can patterns of membership reveal?.

Following a year of discussion and the award of AHRC funding, the project commenced in October 2010.

The project, a fully-funded three year studentship under the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award Scheme, is being undertaken in collaboration with the The Centre for Research & Development (Faculty of Arts) at the University of Brighton.

Leah Armstrong was granted the studentship. You can follow her progress on Design Atlas, Leah’s blog about the project.

The aim of the project ‘Towards an Atlas of the Design Professions in Britain 1930-2010’ is to explore the disciplinary reach and geographic spread of British designers over an eighty-year period. Driven by the contention that a mapping of the identities and working practices of designers might act as a model for evolving working patterns and profiles in the 21st century, this project will interrogate the membership records of the Chartered Society of Designers (CSD), the main association of professional designers in Britain, from its founding as the Society of Industrial Artists in 1930. The conjoining of resources, namely, the archive of CSD and the unique collection group that forms the University of Brighton Design Archives, presents a rich field for investigation.

The intention is to mine this data to explore how patterns of membership, mapped by place, by discipline and by gender, reveal the shifting demographics of design practice that have not been explored in any structured way hitherto. This data will be rendered as a map or series of maps that with interactive operability will present an animated picturing of these changing patterns.

The project focuses on the networks that designers build collectively, embracing the national and international design alliances of which they form a part. It also aims to explore the educational, and more personal connections established between designers, and their positioning over space and over time, from the studio and design office to their location within the city and the regions, and potentially, internationally.

The Society wishes members to engage in the research over the period of this project which will provide the foundation for future development of professional initiatives. Members with material they wish to make available to the project should contact the Society. Please note that the Society may not be able to accept all material due to space limitations.

Over the next three years news and updates will be posted to these pages and on the CSD blog.

You can also follow Leah on Twitter @designatlas.

The research will be supervised by Dr Catherine Moriarty of the Centre for Research & Development (Faculty of Arts), University of Brighton and Frank Peters, Chief Executive of the Chartered Society of Designers.