Constructing a ‘United Nations of Industrial Design’
: ICSID and the Professionalisation of Design on the World Stage, 1957-1980

  • Tania Messell

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) was founded in London in 1957, by designers representing professional organisations in 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. The creation of this professional organisation took place when the Enlightenment concept of ‘World Citizenship’ permeated political and cultural discourses, and at a time when international cooperation was regarded as the best remedy for nationalism and to prevent a Third World War. However, whilst ICSID’s founding members aimed to forge a ‘bridge of understanding’ across borders, as the designer Misha Black proposed in 1961, and the organisation attempted to act as an influential mediating niche in the Cold War and
    decolonisation context, repeated attempts to safeguard national interests, expand business networks and build legitimacy at home and abroad erupted within ICSID, whilst the entry of members from socialist and developing economies led to a growing disbelief in the Council’s centralised structure and primarily Western leadership. Drawing from transnational historical perspectives and the concept of ‘entanglement’, this investigation aims at expanding the design-historical map by shedding light on the individuals and ideas that sustained this network between 1957 and 1980. Considering ICSID as a fluctuating social space, shaped by the movements of individuals revolving between national and international circles, the thesis is structured around a selection of Congresses and General Assemblies during which the meeting of heterogeneous design cultures, diverging imperatives and politics of translation shaped the production and reception of international design standards within and beyond ICSID’s membership.
    Date of AwardSept 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton
    SupervisorJeremy Aynsley (Supervisor) & Lesley Whitworth (Supervisor)

    Cite this