Senior University Lecturer
Alice Twemlow is a design historian with expertise in the history of design criticism. She is associate professor in Leiden University’s Academy of Creative and Performing Arts and helps to supervise PhDArts candidates, and research professor at the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague (KABK) where she leads the “Design and the Deep Future" readership. Previously, Twemlow directed the Design Curating & Writing Master at Design Academy Eindhoven, and founded the Design Research MA at the School of Visual Arts, New York. She is the author of Sifting the Trash: A History of Design Criticism, (MIT Press, 2017).
Trawling the Trash: Design’s Critical Engagements with Waste
When product design is considered from the perspective of the waste it will inevitably become, then, as design theorist Ben Highmore has observed, ‘it is hard not to see global warming and climate change as a consequence of a variety of design processes, design values and design products’. A gathering acknowledgment of the design’s complicity in climate change is generating demand for consideration of other moments in a product’s lifecycle, apart from its birth, such as how it might be used by someone over time, what happens after its period of usefulness is over, and when it is disposed of.
A closer examination of what happens when a designed product becomes trash, of the social behaviours, politics, infrastructures, mechanisms, and economies that shape and gather around refuse and its disposal, could surely enrich our understanding of design culture and provide a much-needed critique of currently dominant labels that mislead with their deflection of attention away from the physicality of waste, such as the supposed immateriality of information, the ‘cloud’, service design, ‘innovation culture’, and the ‘creative economy’.
Through its excavation of historical instances of design criticism’s and critical design’s attempts to surface the impact of design on the physical environment and the social psyche, and its consideration of some contemporary experimental modes of practice and speculative projects, this research seeks to offer an array of precedents for how product design and its criticism might be conducted in the future.
• Sifting the Trash: A History of Design Criticism, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, Spring 2017) (BOOK)
• “I Can’t Talk to You If You Say That: An Ideological Collision at The International Design Conference at Aspen, 1970,” Design & Culture, v. 1, issue 1, Berg, 2009
• “The Evolution of a New Televisual Language: The Sets, Title Sequences and Consumers of Ready Steady Go! 1963–1966,” Popular Design and Entertainment, Christopher Frayling and Emily King (eds.), (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009)
• 25 entries for the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design, (London: Bloomsbury, 2015)
• “The Post-it Note” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover,” Iconic Designs, ed. Grace Lees-Maffei, (London: Berg/Bloomsbury, 2014)
• “Trawling the Trash: Design’s Critical Engagements with Waste,” Workshop: Waste between the 19th and the 21st century: the price of modernity or the sign of a misdirected development?, Workshop, Center for the History of Global Development, Shanghai University, October, 2018
• “Design for Self-destruction, De-activation, and Accelerated Decomposition,” Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, University of Amsterdam, 2017
• “Sifting the Trash,” “How we live, and How we might live: Design and the Spirit of Critical Utopianism,” Design History Society Conference, San Francisco, 2015
• “I can’t talk to you if you say that: An ideological collision at the International Design Conference at Aspen, 1970,” Design Activism and Social Change, Design History Society Conference, Barcelona, 2011
design history, design criticism, design and time, design and ecology, design research, environmental humanities, design and sustainability, design theory, design studies, writing and publishing, alternative media, new media, English literature, cultural studies, design education, media studies, museum studies, amateur criticism, research-as-practice, graphic design, typography, intersections between literature and design, waste, trash, circular economies, deep futures
Twemlow has an international presence as a writer, speaker, educator, juror, examiner, critic, and conference director and moderator on all aspects of design culture.
Grants and awards
Graham Foundation Grant Recipient, 2015
Design History Society Writing Award Winner, 2018
Nominated for “Design Mind,” National Design Awards, 2009
Recipient, Surface Magazine Avant Guardian Award, 2008