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ADRI research seminar: Grace Lees-Maffei
Thursday 14th March at 17:30 in room G230, The Grove, Hendon Campus

ADRI research seminar with Grace Lees-Maffei (University of Hertfordshire):

Made in Italy, Made in England?

The discourse surrounding Italian design often invokes the notion, myth or unofficial brand of 'Made in Italy' as shorthand for indicating the quality and specialness of Italian design. This talk subjects 'Made in Italy' to closer interrogation. It challenges the production emphasis of 'made' with a consumption-oriented understanding of that word; in terms of meaning, products are as much 'made' through their consumption and mediation as they are through their manufacture. It also replace a focus on that which occurs 'in Italy' with a case-study analysis of what happens outside Italy (in England in this example) for better understanding the significance of Italian design. It does this through analysis of a variety of discourses from vanity publishing and press releases, to interviews with designers, manufacturers, retailers, commentators and consumers, and statistical information about sales and magazine circulation. This talk is based on Lees-Maffei's book, Made in Italy: Rethinking a Century of Italian Design, co-edited with Kjetil Fallan (University of Oslo), forthcoming with Bloomsbury Academic in 2013.

 

About the presenter:

Grace Lees-Maffei BA MA(RCA) PhD FHEA is Senior Lecturer in the History and Theory of Design and Applied Arts. Her PhD is entitled 'Modern Living? Domestic Advice Literature and Design Discourse in Postwar Britain'. She holds a Royal College of Art MA in Design History and a BA Hons in English Literature. Grace has published a number of articles on the mediation of design and contributed conference papers around the world from Cornwall to Ohio, Berkeley to Istanbul. Grace is an active member of the design history community, as a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Design History, as a regular convenor and invited chair for various conference strands, and previously as a Trustee of the Design History Society (1998-2002). Grace has been teaching in higher education since 1995. She coordinates the tVAD research group, is a practising PhD supervisor (qualified, University of Hertfordshire assessed Research Degree Supervision course), and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Grace's research interests centre upon the mediation of design and philosophies of design to consumers, through advice literature, corporate literature, advertising and magazines and she is particularly concerned with issues of demotic design, domesticity and gender. Grace's major research project has the working title 'Designing Domesticity: Advice Literature as Design Discourse in Britain and the USA, 1935-1985' for which she has been awarded AHRC Research Leave funds of £15,000 for 2007/8. In her published outcomes and her doctoral thesis, Grace demonstrates that focussed textual and visual analysis of instructional literature, in this case etiquette, homemaking and home decoration guidebooks is valuable for understanding ideal models of the consumption of design in the home in the post-war period.

Other work on mediation has involved the appeal to women in contemporary car advertising, and the way corporate literature can be used to imbue objects with personal narratives and myths of national identity using the case study of the Italian product design company Alessi. Another recent project, Dangerous Liaisons: Relationships between Design, Craft and Art, addressed the categorisation of artefacts and the discourses which surround them, proposing the utility of a method focussed on the points at which categories intersect. This project was the culmination of a long-standing interest in questions of hybridity developed during Grace's teaching for the Faculty's BA Hons Applied Arts. In sum, Grace researches what people say and write about design, the visual and textual discourses that surround objects.

Location: Room G230, The Grove, Hendon Campus, Middlesex University

Time: Thursday 14th March at 17:30

Light refreshments are available.