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Design Cultures research group

The Design Cultures research group places design, material culture and the history of design within a broad social and cultural context.

We study how social groups shape their surroundings and how they create, use and appropriate design products. We also examine how design reacts materially and symbolically to cultural, social, economic and political circumstances. We focus on how the production and consumption of design shape cultural interaction.

We explore new approaches to historicising design, taking account of institutional structures, geopolitics, environmental sustainability and activist networks. Starting from a European perspective, we follow transnational patterns to observe the complex circuits of social life shaping contemporary design practices. We draw on theoretical approaches that explain cultural dynamics: gender studies, theories of national identity, post-colonial and decolonial theories, new materialism and the interaction between materiality and visual culture.

Focus areas/methods

We study various forms of design:

  • Product design
  • Crafts
  • Graphic design
  • Fashion and dress
  • Interior design

Institutional embedding

Our group is a part of the CLUE+ Humanities Research Institute at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Within CLUE+ we work on the research field ‘Paradigms of creativity, Practices of Production, mediation, and Reception in Media, Art, Literature and Design’.


Javier Gimeno-Martínez, lecturer and senior researcher. His research addresses design and national identities and questions the established canon of western design. He is the author of Design and National Identity (2016).

Joana Ozorio de Almeida Meroz, lecturer and senior researcher. Her research addresses Dutch identity and design history in the Netherlands between 1945 and 2010. She conducts research towards the decolonization of design history.

Jane Tynan, lecturer and senior researcher. Her research concerns the politics of (self-) fashioning practices and socio-technical imaginaries in design from the late nineteenth century onwards.  She is series co-editor of Palgrave Studies in Fashion and the Body and volume editor of Uniform: Clothing and Discipline in the Modern World (2019).