09 / 11 – 13 / 2015
“How We Live, and How we Might Live”:
Design and the Spirit of Critical Utopianism
A conference hosted by the California College of the Arts
September 11-13, 2015, Timken Auditorium
California College of the Arts, San Francisco, California
The 2015 Annual Design History Society Conference seeks to explore this Utopian spirit in all of its many aspects, while engaging with the broadest possible definitions of “design.” The themes and research methodologies of the conference will be of relevance to scholars as well as practitioners, and it will engage historians as well as futurists. It will also build on the themes of previous Annual Design History Society conferences, which have explored design as resistance, design as a postcolonial phenomenon, and design for war and peace. We invite submissions from academics, archivists, curators, journalists, and independent researchers from every discipline, every part of the world, and at every stage of their careers.
Inherent in every act of design is a vision — however modest, however inarticulate — of a better world: We design because we believe that travel might be made more comfortable, work more efficient, information more accessible, experiences more fulfilling, spaces more convivial, and people’s lives more meaningful. By addressing the needs of the present, designers are, inescapably, envisioning the future. By definition, a vision of a better future is grounded in a critique of the present, insofar as the prevailing organization of social resources obstructs the full realization of our potential to lead productive, enjoyable, and fulfilling lives. William Morris was the first to link a critique of “How we live” to a vision of “How we might live” through the medium of design, and this impulse continues to inspire design practice today. Inspired by the spirit of critical utopianism that connects the nineteenth century reformers to the twenty-first century techno-visionaries, this multidisciplinary conference will explore the diverse ways in which designers have sought to balance critical realism with utopian idealism.