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Do it yourself: democracy and design

Atkinson, Paul (2006) Do it yourself: democracy and design. Journal of design history, 19 (1). pp. 1-10. ISSN 1741-7279

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Abstract

Introduction:
The theme of this special issue arose from a perceived
need to generate a discourse around the interface
between ‘ design ’ taken as a function of the activity
of ‘ professional ’ designers and being part of an
established cycle of the design, production and consumption
of goods; and ‘ Do It Yourself ’ taken as its
antithesis — a more democratic design process of selfdriven,
self-directed amateur design and production
activity carried out more closely to the end user of
the goods created...

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Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © The Author [2006]
Uncontrolled Keywords: democracy design
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
N Fine Arts > NC Drawing Design Illustration
Schools: School of Art, Design and Architecture
References:

Judy Attfi eld’s work on DIY in Wild Things: The Material
Culture of Everyday Life ; Stephen M Gelber’s work on leisure
in Hobbies: Leisure and the Culture of Work in America ; Carolyn
Goldstein’s Do It Yourself: Home Improvement in 20th-century
America and Penny Sparke’s As Long As It’s Pink: The Sexual
Politics of Taste.
2 Oral testimony on people entertaining in order to show off,
fuelling a ‘ keep up with the Jones ’ approach in J. Dent, (Dir)
‘ The DIY Pioneers ’ , part one of ‘All Mod Cons.’ First broadcast
21 July 1997 , BBC2.
3 G. Lees-Maffei & L. Sandino, (ed) ( 2004 ) ‘ Dangerous Liaisons:
Relationships Between Design, Craft and Art ’ , Journal of Design
History , vol. 17 no. 3.
4 P. Greenhalgh, ‘ The History of Craft ’ , in P. Dormer ( 1997 )
The Culture of Craft , Manchester University Press, p. 21.
5 S. Johnson ( 1773 ) A Dictionary of the English Language, cited in
Greenhalgh, op. cit., p. 22.
6 J. Dent, op. cit.
7 S. M. Gelber ( 1999 ) Hobbies: Leisure and the Culture of Work in
America , Columbia University Press, p. 4.
8 Ibid, p. 2.
9 Ibid, p. 28.
10 J. Walvin, ‘ Children ’ s Pleasures’ in J. K. Walton & J. Walvin
(eds.) ( 1983 ) Leisure in Britain 1780 – 1939 , Manchester University
Press, pp. 228 – 241. Between 1801 and 1914, census
returns show that children under 14 formed one third of the
population of Great Britain, and between 1841 to 1901, the
number of children almost doubled to 10 million. (Walton &
Walvin p. 228.)
11 Ibid.
12 Anon, ‘ The New Poor – Making the Best of It ’ in The Times,
May 11, 1920 p. 19.
13 Sir Thomas Barlow, Director of Civilian Clothing writing in
Harper’s Bazaar, cited in McDowell, C ( 1997 ) Forties Fashion
and the New Look , Bloomsbury, p. 93.
14 J. Dent, op. cit.
15 P. Hunot ( 1946 ) Man About the House , Pilot Press, p. 13.
16 C. M. Goldstein ( 1998 ) Do It Yourself: Home Improvement in
20th-century America , Princeton Architectural Press, p. 31.
17 Commentary in ‘Demob Happy’, one of The Lost Decade series
of television programmes. First broadcast 30 Oct 2005 ,
BBC4.
18 J. Dent, op. cit.
19 J. E. Wheeler ( 1935 ) The Practical Man’s Book of Things to Make
and Do , Odhams Press Ltd., pp. 5 – 6.
20 P. Dalton, ‘ Housewives, Leisure Crafts and Ideology:
De-skilling in Consumer Craft ’ in G. Elinor et al. (eds.) ( 1987 )
Women and Craft , Virago Press, p. 32.
21 J. McCracken ( 2001 ) Taste and the Household: The Domestic
Aesthetic and Moral Reasoning , State University of New York
Press, p. 261.
22 S. M. Gelber, op. cit., p. 33.
23 J. E. Wheeler op. cit ., p. 3.
24 For an in-depth account of this phenomenon see C. Brooks,
‘ The Amateur Mechanic and the Modern Movement ’ in
Conference on Twentieth Century Design History ( 1977 ) Leisure
in the Twentieth Century, Design Council Publications,
pp. 24 – 31, and also J. Dent, op. cit.
25 R. Samuel ( 1994 ) Theatres of Memory, Vol. 1: Past and Present in
Contemporary Culture , Verso, p. 52.
26 Boswell, cited in D. Johnson, ‘ The History and Development
of Do-It-Yourself ’ in Conference on Twentieth Century Design
History op. cit., p. 68.
27 Ibid.
28 A 1954 article in Time magazine discussed the range of new
tools and materials fuelling the DIY boom, including ready
glued wallpaper, rollers with paint reservoirs, spray paint and
plastic tiles. (Anon, ‘ The Shoulder Trade ’ in Time magazine,
Aug 2, 1954.)
29 Apparently, Black & Decker had an early success with a drill for
home use after noticing staff borrowed industrial drills to do
maintenance jobs around the home. (Goldstein, op. cit., p. 49).
30 In 1954 , it was reported that 70% of wallpapers were sold
through retail outlets: ‘ a statement of some sociological
signifi cance that ought to be of particular interest to the
professional decorators ’ (Anon, ‘ “ Do It Yourself ” Display —
Hints for Handymen in the Home ’ in The Times , Sep 10,
1954 p. 10) while in 1957, the Housing Committee of St.
Marylebone Council recommended paying tenants for DIY
decorating work to save costs — causing a protest from the
National Society of Painters (Anon, ‘ Do It Yourself Pay -
ments ’ in The Times , Feb 18, 1957 p. 5).
31 Anon, ‘ Do-It-Yourself is Big Business ’ in New York Times ,
Jun 10, 1956 .
Paul Atkinson
10
32 For example, see B. Phillips, ‘ Help for Do-It-Yourself Builders ’
in The Times , May 25, 1983 p. 27. However, the notion of
self building of properties was by no means a new one — ‘ in
England the fi rst Building Societies were set up as mutual
self help societies in the 18th Century to provide fi nance for
self builders. Once homes were completed the societies
were closed down and were, therefore, known as “ terminat ing
building societies ” . ’ (M. Daligan, Walter Segal Self Build
Trust ( http://www.mondodesigno.com/segal.html accessed
5 Oct 2005).
33 D. Johnson, op. cit., p. 70.
34 As Triggs mentions, prior to the availability of photocopiers,
science fi ction and comic fanzines were produced on Gestetner
duplicators. Even though the photocopier was invented as early
as 1938 by Chester Carlson, the fi rst available machine did not
appear until 1959. It became widely adopted by business in the
early 1970s when cost reductions in technology allowed a
number of competitors to enter the fi eld. See www.xerox.com
and www.InventHelp.com/Chester-Carlson-and-the-Invention-
of-the-Photocopier.asp (both accessed 13 Oct 2005).
35 A. J. Clarke, ‘ The Aesthetics of Social Aspiration ’ in Miller, D.
(ed.) ( 2001 ) Home Possessions: Material Culture Behind Closed
Doors , Berg, p. 23.
36 Ibid, p. 42.
37 D. Slater ( 1997 ) Consumer Culture and Modernity , Polity Press.
38 R. Brown ( 2005 ) ‘ Narrativity in Home Design and Home-
Making: The Personally Derived Space ’ , unpublished conference
paper presented at Locating Design , Design History Society
Conference, London Metropolitan University, September 2005.
39 Ibid.
40 P. Hunot, op. cit., p. 15.
41 Margaret Mead cited in S. M. Gelber, op. cit., p. 268.
42 Anon, ‘ The Shoulder Trade ’ in Time magazine, Aug 2, 1954 .
43 J. Dent, op. cit.
44 S. MacDonald, & J. Porter ( 1990 ) Putting on the Style: Setting
Up Home in the 1950s , The Geffrye Museum. David
Attenborough and Simon Vaughn also commented on expected
gender roles, and discussed the fact that during the
Second World War it was common for men, especially sailors,
to knit in their spare time (‘Demob Happy’, one of The
Lost Decade series of television programmes. First broadcast
30 Oct 2005, BBC4).
45 P. Sparke ( 1995 ) As Long As It’s Pink: The Sexual Politics of
Taste , Harper Collins, p. 171.
46 Anon, ‘ “ Do It Yourself ” Display – Hints for Handymen in the
Home ’ in The Times , Sep 10, 1954 p. 10. See also D. Johnson,
op. cit., p. 69.
47 D. Barker ‘ Barry Bucknell: DIY Hero to Postwar Women ’ in
The Guardian , Feb. 27, 2003 .
48 A. Partington ‘ The Designer Housewife in the 1950s ’ in
J. Attfi eld & P. Kirkham (eds.) ( 1989 ) A View from the Interior:
Feminism, Women and Design , The Women’s Press, p. 211.
49 Goldstein, op. cit., pp. 67 – 82.

Depositing User: Sara Taylor
Date Deposited: 22 Feb 2007
Last Modified: 21 Aug 2015 08:08
URI: http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/id/eprint/132

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