Design activism has emerged in recent years as a term to denote creative practices that invoke social, political and environmental agency. Typically, it distances itself from commercial or mainstream public policy-driven approaches. Instead, it embraces marginal, non-profit or politically engaged design theories, articulations and actions.

Arguably, ´design activism´ is a response to particular contemporary conditions of geo-political change, social conditions, economic practices and environmental challenges. It nonetheless inherits a rich history that goes back as long as design itself. A number of questions therefore arise. For example, what is distinctive about design activism today as opposed to its expression in the late 1960s and 1970s, the period of pioneer modernism of the 1920s or the intentions of William Morris? Are there or have there been different qualities of design activism in different locations, according to various issues such as scale, mode of intervention, contexts of governance, and so on? How have designers attempted to reconcile ambitions toward social change with economic imperatives? What is to be learnt from the design histories of non-Western countries with respect go activism and social change?

The “2011 Design History Society International Conference” offers an important opportunity for design students, academics and practitioners to participate in the development of historical enquiry into design activism. ldo is invited to attend the congress and manage the participation of publishers in design books (Berg, Gustavo Gili and Oxford University Press)

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