Take up Position: Defining Industrial Design in Postwar Belgium (1954-1970)
Proceedings of the 9th Conference of the International Committee for Design History and Design Studies
keywords Countless definitions of design have been formulated throughout history, and they have often been subject of much controversy, revealing consciously or unconsciously, a specific agenda or certain convictions. This paper examines how 'design' was understood when this term took root in Belgium and was appropriated by official circles in the postwar area. It tracks the search of state-related design institutions for an adequate definition and outlines their positioning in design networks.
... This paper then argues that the institutional foundations of Belgian design in the economic and industrial sector of the 1950s continued to influence its official understanding until the 1970s. However, influenced by international tendencies, the official design bodies struggled to break design loose of its economic base and get it recognized as a cultural and social phenomenon by the Belgian government. This paper draws on newly found archival records, adding new insights to existing accounts on Belgian design policies. 1 By examining the state-backed definition, this paper is not so much interested in the etymology of the English term 'design', but rather on how the Belgian state accentuates certain aspects of this concept in their policy shaping certain understandings of design. 2 In sum, this casus wants to provide an entry to map different processes that were important in postwar Belgium: (a) the role of the institutional framework in the formation of definitions and understandings of design, (b) the interaction between the discipline of design and the process of design institutionalization and (c) the influence of transnational and global networks in the creation of national design cultures. postwar design, definition industrial design, Belgium, design centre, design policies ) addresses the relation between the Belgian state and design and the construction of national design identities. The design historian Fredie Floré (2010) studies design organizations that focused on furniture design and that were rather located outside the institutional framework. Other literature only provides an introductory account on design policies in Belgium (Coirier 2004; Bucqoye, Daenens, and De Kooning 2001). 2 In this regard, the project Words for design edited by Fujita (2007Fujita ( -2009 proves to be vary valuable. Although the emphasis is put on the etymology of 'design' and similar vernacular terms, it also touches upon the adoption of the term in official policies.