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Translating & Writing Modern Design Histories

Published date
29 May 2019
Image courtesy of UAL

Translating and Writing Modern Design Histories in East Asia for the Global World.

Principal Investigator: Yuko Kikuchi
Co-Investigators: Wessie Ling (COI at Northumbria University) and Yunah Lee (University of Brighton)

Project summary

This project developed a network of native design historians in East Asia (Japan, Korea, PRC, Hong Kong and Taiwan). The central concern was the re-examination of East Asian design histories from their local perspectives, as a counterpoint to prevailing Anglophone, western interpretations.

This new engagement with the subject area enhanced both local and global understanding and created new frameworks for future debate. It also developed emerging design history studies in the region, and translated the already established cases (ie Japan) to make them beneficial for English readers. It is hoped that a better understanding of the other world would stimulate the development of comparative studies, further joint research and international funding.


Main Activities: This project has created/will create the following forums for discussion and exchange of ideas as well as publications to formulate a network of design historians working in three design disciplines: craft/product, graphics and fashion in East Asia.

  1. Two conference panels on ‘Authentic Design? Transnationalism and Modernities in Modern East Asian Design Development’ at the Association for Cultural Studies – 8th Crossroads Conference at Lingnang University, Hong Kong in June 2010.
  2. Publication of ‘Design History and Study in East Asia –Japan, China (PRC, Hong Kong and Taiwan), Korea’ (re: focus design Part 1, 2, 3) in Journal of Design History, 24-3 (2011), 24-4 (2011), 25-1 (2012).
  3. Design History Society Symposium ‘Design Histories and Studies in East Asia: Toward a Creation of a global/transnational framework for design histories’ (PDF 160KB) at University of Brighton in November 2011.
  4. Conference panel ‘Writings on Modern Design Histories for the Global World: Issues and Perspectives from Modern Design Histories in East Asia’ at the Association for Asian Studies conference, Toronto in March 2012.
  5. Workshop ‘Oriental Modernity: Modern Design Development in East Asia, 1920-1990 – Translating and Writing Modern Design Histories in East Asia for the Global World’ at York Centre for Asian Research, York University in March 2012.
  6. Symposium ‘Oriental Modernity: Design in East Asia 1920-1990’ in conjunction with a 10th anniversary of Design History Workshop Japan and an exhibition ‘Japanese Crossing Borders―Asia as Dreamed by Craftspeople, 1910s–1945’ exhibition and an accompanying symposium ‘Design History in East Asia 1920-90’ at MOMA Tokyo in July 2012.
  7. Conference panel ‘The Question of “Global”: Issues and Perspectives from Modern Design Histories in East Asia’ for ICDHS São Paulo in September 2012.
  8. Symposium and workshop at the National Yunlin University of Science and Technology, Taiwan in June 2013.
  9. Symposium in London in May 2014.
  10. Creation of a website for depository of papers, images, resources and an annotated bibliography.

Further information

College: CCW
Primary Funder: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Funding period: June 2012 - May 2014
Key partners include: Northumbria University and University of Brighton