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Featured Designers

Althea McNish

Image Credit: Design Council Archive, University of Brighton Design Archives


Althea McNish (1924-2020), whose life and work spanned two centuries, was a highly influential textile designer known for her vibrant, colourful contributions to the British textiles industry. McNish was born in Trinidad, moved to London in the 1950s and, accomplished in art, fashion and textiles, went on to design fabrics and furnishings for Liberty, Dior, Heal's and Hull Traders. She was one of the first designers of African-Caribbean descent to achieve international recognition and her unique aesthetic and sense of colour can be seen in memorable designs such as Golden Harvest, Painted Desert and Grenada. Many of her designs are widely recognised today. In ‘Althea McNish and the British-African Diaspora’, in Pop Art and Design, Christina Checinska interviews Althea’s partner, John Weiss, discussing her work and her enduring influence in the industry.

© Sang-Soo Ahn

Sang-soo Ahn

Korean graphic designer Sang-soo Ahn is best known for his development of four major Hangul (Korean alphabet) fonts, including the Ahnsangsoo Font in 1985. Read more about Ahn’s life and work in Yunah Lee’s overview in the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design, and understand his work in the context of South Korean communication design in Chae Lee’s article in the Encyclopedia of East Asian Design.

Portrait of Eva Zeisel (Courtesy Brigitte Lacombe, c. 2000)

Eva Zeisel

The Hungarian-American industrial and ceramic designer Eva Zeisel was born in 1906. She was the first female potter to train in a Budapest craft guild, and lived in both Germany and Russia before spending 16 months in a Soviet prison, on the false charge of plotting to assasinate Stalin. Once freed from prison and living in Vienna, she was again obliged to leave her country of residence, this time because of the growth of the Austrian Nazi Party, and she fled to London and then New York with her new husband, Hans Zeisel. In the US Eva re-established herself as a designer, teaching at the Pratt Institute and presenting an exhibition at MoMA. Zeisel lived in the US until her death in 2011, aged 105. Read more about Zeisel's life and work in the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design.

Portrait of Walter Gropius © Getty Images / Ullstein bild Dtl. / Contributor

Walter Gropius

One of the twentieth century's most influential architects and design educators, Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus in 1919. Read an overview of his career from the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design and extracts from his foundational writings 'Theory and Organisation of the Bauhaus' and 'Bauhaus Dessau: Principles of Bauhaus Production'.

Portrait of Anni Albers © Gobonobo (talk | contribs)

Anni Albers

Anni Albers was a German-American weaver and textile designer. Born in Berlin in 1899, she went on to study at the Bauhaus. Discouraged from taking certain classes, Albers enrolled in the weaving workshop and made textiles her key form of artistic expression. After marrying Josef Albers in 1925, she wrote and taught at the Bauhaus for several years; you can read her article 'Design: Anonymous and Timeless' in our series of Critical and Primary Sources. The Albers emigrated to the United States when the Nazis came to power in Germany, taking up posts at the newly-created Black Mountain College. Anni Albers' creative practice, and her promotion of weaving, had a profound and long-lasting impact on American textile design.

Antoni Gaudí's Casa Milà in Barcelona © Getty / Volanthevist

Antoni Gaudí

Gaudí's most famous works include Casa Milà (pictured here), Casa Batlló and Park Güell, though the Sagrada Família is widely considered to be his greatest masterpiece. You can read about Gaudí's unique take on Art Nouveau in Clive's Edwards entry on Modernismo in the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design, and to appreciate his work in context, see Victor Margolin's writing on Spain in the World History of Design.

Portrait of Lucienne Day © Design Council/University of Brighton Design Archive

Lucienne Day

Lucienne Day was a leading British textile designer. She was made Royal Designer for Industry in 1962 and became the first female Master of the Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry in 1987. Her abstract pattern-making brought modern elegance into the post-War British home, and her groundbreaking textile print 'Calyx' featured in the 1951 Festival of Britain. You can read more about Day's pioneering career in Francesca Baseby's short biography of her in the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design, and for more information on her textile designs, see Jessica Kelly and Ness Wood's entry on Heal and Son.

Charles and Ray Eames in their stuio © Getty / George Platt Lynes / Contributor

Charles and Ray Eames

Charles and Ray Eames were an American husband and wife design team who did much to define the aesthetics of postwar modernity, particularly in the United States, through the success of their plywood moulding system and various design projects. You can read more about the Eames' pioneering work in Robert Chester's overview of their careers in the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design, or for detail on the various prizes their designs won, see the sections on design education and the role of designers in Victor Margolin's World History of Design.

Themes in Focus

Combination tool
Combination tool (The National Archives)

DIY and Modern Making

For all the difficulties of self-isolation and social distancing, during the pandemic many people have been building, upcycling, painting and all things home-made. Whether practiced in order to combat boredom or stress, or to adapt to a new way of living, DIY has been increasingly popular. In his article in the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design, Giuseppe Salvia looks at the history of DIY, covering the motivations and strategies for it, the challenges faced and the development of the practice over time. Within ‘Casting Things as Partners in Design’, her chapter in Relating to Things, Elissa Giaccardi discusses the potential of modern-day DIY and contemporary maker culture, exploring how technology has aided the revival of interest in self-made products.

Sign showing people must keep 1.5 metres distance

Design and Care

The pandemic has also challenged our systems in society. Having encouraged designers to reconsider practices and collaborations with organizations, facilities and health services, there is an urge to think about design as a practice of care, explored by Laurene Vaughan in Designing Cultures of Care. Organizations also need to acknowledge the variety of needs and challenges faced by those working at home, as not everyone has access to an ideal workstation. In her contribution to Making Disability ModernJennifer Kaufmann-Buhler looks at office design and disability over the last few decades, exploring the politics and logistics of ergonomic design.

Valet chair for folding clothesValet chair (Designmusem Danmark: The Danish Chair exhibition)

Emotion and Objects

What does furniture mean to us and how do we engage with these designed objects in our homes? How do designers take this into consideration? In recent times, many of us may have been compelled to cast a creative eye on our homes and fill the space with meaningful objects. In his book Moving Objects, Damon Taylor explored the history of emotive design, examining the power of design and the relationships we have with objects that serve far more than functional purposes. Looking at the work of Droog designers like Jurgen Bey and Hella Jongerius, the Campana brothers, Marten Baas, Mathias Bengtsson and others, Taylor explores contemporary issues of how we live with objects in our homes and what design can really do. He also addresses how and why we ascribe value to certain objects in 'Valuing Emotive Design', particularly how the emotional influence of an object can relate to its value. But how do we value design after a pandemic? How do we now value objects, people, labour, environments, and systems? The pandemic has forced us to reassess our ideas about what we value, what moves us and what we should cherish moving forward.

Front cover of Designing the French Interior (Cover: Bloomsbury Publishing)

The bedroom as sanctuary

In her chapter in Designing the French Interior: The Modern Home and Mass Media, Fae Brauer explores how the bedroom in fin-de-siècle France came to be seen as a sanctuary from the stressful conditions of the metropolitan city, but also as a site of psychological self-exploration, self-projection, and self-fashioning.

Japan - Japanese Women pose for a photogrpah with babies

The modern Japanese home

In 1920s Japan, the home became the site for a modernization program sponsored by the Japanese government. In his book Modern Asian Design, D.J. Huppatz describes how Japanese citizens were encouraged to shun traditional living practices and organization of space in favor of ‘a modern home centered on the nuclear (rather than extended) family, and on design principles such as functionality, simplicity, and efficiency.’ In place of the flexible, minimal spaces of a traditional Japanese interior, this Westernized home featured partitioned rooms with discrete functions and fixed furniture.

Vintage Living Room

Retro homes

Home can also be a site to display individual taste through design choices. In her book Retro Style, Sarah Elsie Baker interviews ‘retro enthusiasts’ about the meanings and values represented by domestic furniture and decorative objects.


Home as "a place where things can go wrong"

Sometimes home can have more uneasy connotations. In The Architecture of David Lynch Richard Martin writes: ‘In Lynch’s films, images of home hold immense power. A single shot of Henry’s apartment in Eraserhead, the Palmer residence in Fire Walk With Me or the Madison house in Lost Highway is enough to induce rich associations… For Lynch, our most familiar surroundings inevitably contain unhomely elements. Home, he contends, is “a place where things can go wrong.”’

Front cover of the Encyclopedia of East Asian Design (Cover: Bloomsbury Publishing)

Design in East Asia: Introducing the Encyclopedia of East Asian Design

This is the first comprehensive publication to focus on East Asian design and its histories. Although definitions of design in Asia are multiple, fluid, and historically contingent, the disparate cultures within this vast landmass have long produced arts and crafts, interior, graphic, and design objects for domestic, regional and global consumption. The encyclopedia provides in-depth, critically informed coverage of these practices, products, and the interpretive issues pertaining to them. The work is organised by country to reflect specific regional and national histories and geographies. Within these geographies, traditions, histories, theories, and practices as well as key issues in modern and contemporary design are considered. The topics covered in this volume range from ceramics, textiles and interiors to architectural, environmental and sustainable design. You can read the introduction to this volume here.

Image of a handgun. © Getty Images / PM Images

When Design is Difficult

This important new area of design academia addresses the moral complexity of designed objects and systems. Guns, for instance, are created by designers. What is the correct ethical framework for such a designer to work within? Euthanasia - although an experience rather than an object - is a similarly controversial designed thing. In their edited collection Tricky Design, Tom Fisher and Lorraine Gamman explore the moral complexities which design can in turn both help and hinder.

Network diagram © Getty Images / Chuanchai Pundej / EyeEm

Changing Design

The definition of a 'designed object' has changed vastly in recent years. Thus, phones, laptops and fitness trackers do not take a purely physical form - they are networked, dynamic, and often capable of learning from us just as much as we - their users - are from them. This transformation in the meaning of 'designed objects' led Johan Redström and Heather Wiltse to produce their new title Changing Things. In it they address critical questions which have assumed a fresh urgency in the context of these rapidly developing forms, and they propose a radical new system for understanding and relating to objects.

Students Working on Projects at the Bauhaus studio in Chicago. © Getty Images / Bettmann / Contributor

Women of the Bauhaus

Many, although not all, women students at the Bauhaus were apprenticed in the weaving workshops, where makers such as Anni Albers developed techniques that were both formally and artistically innovative. In their study of women at the Bauhaus, Patrick Rössler and Anke Blümm reveal how women also made an important contribution in a range of areas including photography, printmaking, drawing, and even in the male-dominated field of architecture.

Film still from 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (Stanley Kubrick, 1968). Courtesy Everett Collection / Mary Evans

Stanley Kubrick and Film Design

The films of the legendary director Stanley Kubrick are testament to his holistic and perfectionist approach, and throughout his career, he collaborated with key figures from the worlds of fashion, production and graphic design to create unforgettable cinematic spectacles. The production designer Ken Adam created both the NORAD control room in Dr Strangelove (1964) and the loving recreation of eighteenth-century England of Barry Lyndon (1975). Saul Bass designed the opening and closing sequences of Kubrick's Spartacus (1960) and the film poster for The Shining (1980). Read Pat Kirkham's account of Saul and his partner Elaine Bass's work in film design, and how Bass's background in graphic design for advertising influenced his distinctive use of striking symbols, modern typography and hand lettering. Kubrick's totalising vision and attention to detail is evident in his 1968 masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey, on which Kubrick collaborated with production designer Anthony Masters and art director Ernest Archer, from the stunning sets of the spaceship USS Discovery One down to the cutlery used by its astronauts, which was designed by Arne Jacobsen for the restaurant of the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen.

Image of a contented woman © Tim Robberts / Getty Images

Design and Wellbeing

The Bloomsbury Design Library features a range of books and articles which consider the relationship between design and wellbeing. Gretchen C. Rinnert's 'Designing for a Better Patient Experience' showcases how designing better doctor-patient communication can mitigate unnecessary anxiety and discomfort for hospital patients, while Jonathan Chapman's 'Emotionally Sustaining Design' explores the way in which designed objects inspire and alter our emotions, sometimes radically. The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design also features a range of relevant articles; see the entries on care, comfort, health and safety design and healthcare design.

Front cover of Developing Citizen Designers by Elizabeth Resnick (cover: Bloomsbury Publishing)

Developing Citizen Designers

Elizabeth Resnick's Developing Citizen Designers sets out to empower students, educators and designers in the early stages of their careers to learn and practise design in a socially responsible manner. Developing Citizen Designers is a practically and pedagogically focused book, with each chapter addressing a particular area or issue within design practice and education, with an overview framing essay, interviews with practitioners and educators, and assignment briefs through which the reader can understand the process by which a design project is briefed, developed, and the outcomes assessed.

Image of the famous modernist torchbearer lamps at Helsinki Railway Station, Finland © Getty / PHAS / contributor

Modernism in Scandinavia

Bloomsbury Design Library features a wealth of scholarship on Scandinavian design. Charlotte Ashby's Modernism in Scandinavia and Kjetil Fallan's Scandinavian Design both provide critical overviews of the region and its designerly output as a whole, focusing on the eventful twentieth century. Mark Mussari's Danish Modern focuses on Denmark between the pivotal years 1930-1960 and Sara Kristoffersson's Design by IKEA explores the style and influence of the internationally renowned Swedish brand.

Image of girls at play © Getty / Popperfoto / Contributor

Design and 'Play'

The Bloomsbury Design Library features an impressive range of texts relating to the theme of play. You can read about the Swedish toy manufacturer Brio, Mattel, the US company which created Barbie and various iconic toys and brands, including Rubik's cubes and Hello Kitty. The notion of toys such as dolls and soldiers enforcing particular gendered roles is now widespread - you can read about this in Kate Hepworth's fascinating article on gender and design objects in the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design.

Design Case Studies

Marshmallow Sofa

OBJECT FOCUS: the Marshmallow sofa

Originally marketed as the Marshmallow love seat #5670, the Marshmallow sofa was designed by Irving Harper at George Nelson Associates’s New York City studio and manufactured by Herman Miller. The sofa’s playful design features 18 circular ‘marshmallow’ cushions, which can be covered in fabric, vinyl or leather in bright colors, arranged over a metal frame, in such a way that they appear to float on air. For sale from 1956 until the mid-1960s, the sofa was revived as part of the Herman Miller Classics range and continues in production today.

Getty Images


From record-breaking bullet trains to beautiful Buddhist temples and kimono, Japan is a country with a rich and diverse design tradition. The Encyclopedia of East Asian Design features 39 articles addressing the history of Japanese crafts and design, from pre-modern times to the 21st century, covering aesthetics, colour and pattern, calligraphy, ceramics, metalwork, architecture, interactive design, and much more. Read Ellis Tinios and Christine Guth’s article on printing in pre-modern Japan, and Hiroshi Narumi’s overview of contemporary Japanese popular culture.

Sphere Cutlery by Izabel Lam. © Philadelphia Museum of Art

OBJECT FOCUS: Izabel Lam's sphere cutlery

Hong Kong-born American designer Izabel Lam created her silver-plated sphere cutlery range in 1990. Lam is known for designing, producing, and selling contemporary dinnerware, cutlery, and tabletop accessories. Her range aims to satisfy 'the challenge of the compromise of creativity and commerce' and her creations 'encompass the nuances of material and movement, the perfection of imperfection, function with attention to detail, and simplicity molded by the human touch'.

Installation view of The Danish Chair exhibition at the Designmuseum Danmark


The Danish Chair tells the story of how Danish design turned into an international mega-brand, and draws a picture of the 20th-century Danish success story and export adventure known as Danish Modern. The chair is the closest item of furniture to a human being. It affects and reflects the body it has to carry with arms, legs, a seat and a back. It is the acid test of designers and a favourite object of design historians. The chair is also one of the most culture-bearing design objects. It reveals everything about the age and the society in which it was created. It invests the person sitting in it with status and identity. Discover a myriad of chairs in this unique exhibition.

Image of a passport. © Getty Images / Tetra Images


Passports are small but powerful designed objects. In his study The Design Politics of the Passport, Mahmoud Keshavarz reveals the social, political and material practices associated to the passport. Combining design studies with ethnographic research among undocumented migrants and passport forgers, Keshavarz shows how the world is designed to be strikingly open and hospitable to some, yet highly confined and demarcated for others. He also demonstrates how those who are affected by such injustices dissent from their situation through the same capacity of design and artifice.

Image of three red Lego bricks © Getty / Jay Colton


The famous architectural toy Lego derives its name from the Danish phrase 'leg godt' meaning 'play well', and is manufactured by the eponymous Danish company The Lego Group. First put on sale in 1932, the toy went through several early reinventions. Perhaps the most significant of these was in the late 1940s. In 1947 Lego's creator Ole Kirk Christiansen bought the first injection-molding machine in Denmark and two years later starting using it to produce his bricks. This use of innovative technology propelled Lego on its way to becoming the internationally recognised brand it is today.

Pull-out cards providing instructions on how to use a dishwasher and thermostat, in both English and Spanish (Photo: Lisa Rosowsky)

The 'Welcome Home' Project

The 'Welcome Home' project - as featured in Developing Citizen Designers - provides an example of how design can be used to improve wellbeing. Professor Lisa Rosowsky and a group of graphic design students at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design were tasked with designing a booklet to help new tenants moving into new 'green' housing developments feel comfortable and safe in their accommodation, and to encourage them to live more sustainably. The information was presented in a highly visual way to cater for different levels of literacy, and was written in both English and Spanish to improve its accessibility. The project was an unqualified success and the booklet has been in print since 2011.

Learning Resources

Exterior of the Bauhaus Museum in Dessau, Germany. © Getty Images / Sean Gallup / Staff

The Bauhaus

The Bauhaus was an avant-garde school of design and architecture founded in Germany in 1919, hugely influential in the fourteen years before it was forced to close by the Nazi regime. The school's pedagogical approach was based on workshops, in which students received training in a wide range of applied arts disciplines. The Bauhaus became associated with a modernist aesthetic in which form and function were equally valued, and with a utopian project to transform society by design. Clive Edwards' bibliographic guide and lesson plan provide useful resources to learning and teaching about the Bauhaus.

An IKEA store in New Jersey, USA © Getty / SOPA Images / contributor

Scandinavian Modernism

Through our featured lesson plan and bibliographic guide on Scandinavian modernism, students can learn about the importance of national style to European modernisms, the commercialisation of Swedish design, and the concept of 'design heroes' such as Alvar Aalto and Arne Jacobsen.