Design Research: History, Theory, Practice - Histories for Future-focused Thinking









Design Research in the east: at universities and the board of industrial design of the gdr between 1960s and 1990

Sylvia Wölfel, Christian Wölfel 

Technical University of Berlin, Dresden University of Technology

Keywords: design history, design research history, GDR, functionalism


This paper focuses on design research in the GDR. There, the Board of Industrial Design (Amt für industrielle Formgestaltung, AIF), a commission reporting directly to the government, promoted and subsidized design research that was adequate to the policy of the board. Besides, the (state-owned) industry, universities as well as art and design schools closely cooperated on design research projects. The economic design policy of the GDR has largely been developed in the PhD thesis of the board's head Martin Kelm, who pursued his functionalist approach to design at different levels. On the other hand, there was critique and a public debate about the design approach in the GDR and in the Soviet bloc in general, accompanied by constant exchange between designers and design researchers of the GDR and the Federal Republic of Germany. With the recurring interest in functionalism, the East German design approach is getting more attention. Furthermore, teachers and academic approaches of design research survived the political (and economic) turnaround of 1990 and are now part of the pan-German design landscape. 

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Cite this paper: Wölfel, S., Wölfel, C. (2016). Design Research in the East – at Universities and the Board of Industrial Design of the GDR between the 1960s and 1990. Proceedings of DRS 2016, Design Research Society 50th Anniversary Conference. Brighton, UK, 27–30 June 2016.

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