Promoting Industrial Design on the World Stage: The International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, 1957-1980
The International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) was founded in London in 1957, by designers representing professional organisations from Europe and the United States, to raise the professional status of designers, to establish international standards for the profession and to develop industrial design education (Constitution 1959). The creation of this professional organisation took place when the Enlightenment concept of “World Citizenship” permeated political and cultural discourses, and international cooperation was regarded as ‘the best alternative to the perils of racism, nationalism and nuclear annihilation’ (Sluga 2010).
However, whilst ICSID’s founding members aimed at forging a ‘bridge of understanding’ across borders as the designer Misha Black stated in 1961, repeated attempts to safeguard national interests and conflicting design ideologies erupted within the organisation, and the entry of members from Socialist and developing economies led to a growing disbelief in the council’s centralised structure and primarily Western leadership. As a result, ICSID’s design promotion, whilst grounded in a universalising rhetoric, evolved from a narrative of cultural modernisation to a multifaceted design conception, reflecting the profession’s repeated attempts to gain the recognition of governments, international agencies and the general public, in a society transformed by new technologies, shrinking distances and rising influence of non-governmental organisations.
Drawing from institutional theory and global history methodology, this research aims at capturing the complex interplay between international concerns and local practice, which, as it reveals, constituted a crucial dynamic in the professionalisation of design. Finally, considering ICSID as a fluctuating social space, shaped by the movements of individuals evolving between national and international circles, the thesis is structured around a selection of congresses, travelling exhibitions and publications, through which a new understanding of design was developed and received by ICSID’s widening audience.
Explore the impact of ICSID’s promotional activities on the organisation’s members, the design community and the general public
Offer a much-needed historical account of ICSID’s early years
Expand the design historical map through the study of the organisation’s transnational network and activities