The Authority of Everyday Objects: A Cultural History of West German Industrial Design

By Paul Betts | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
Design, Liberalism, and the State
The German Design Council

On April 4, 1951, the Rat für Formgebung, or German Design Council, was established by West Germany's Bundestag as a new government agency charged with promoting “the best possible form of German products. ” The creation of this national design council capped a hard-fought campaign by the German Werkbund to enlist government assistance in popularizing “good form” design. Called upon to protect the “competitive interests of both German industry and handicrafts as well as German consumers, ” the council represented Bonn's first and only attempt to wed the economic and cultural life of West German industrial commodities. 1 But unlike the Werkbund or the Ulm Institute of Design, the German Design Council has attracted virtually no scholarly consideration. What marginal attention it has received has been quite negative: more often than not the council has been characterized as a colorless pawn of government and industry. 2 This chapter seeks to establish the Design Council's special importance within the larger history of West German culture. Above all, the council perfectly illustrated the perceived Cold War linkages among liberalism, the state, and modern design. How and to what extent the Design Council helped promote West Germany's cultural identity as a species of international modernism in design venues and international cultural fairs are central issues in this chapter. The council's significance, however, was not limited to converting design into diplomacy. Equally revealing were its internal conflicts over the greater end of industrial design, its copyright reform campaign, and its bid for professionalization. Each case pointed up the inherent desire and difficulty associated with reconciling culture and commerce. Analysis thus reveals the German Design Council as a key instance in the broader crusade to

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The Authority of Everyday Objects: A Cultural History of West German Industrial Design
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction - Design, the Cold War, and West German Culture 1
  • Chapter One - Nazi Modernism Reconsidered 23
  • Chapter Two - The New German Werkbund 73
  • Chapter Three - The Promise and Peril of Organic Design 109
  • Chapter Four - The Ulm Institute of Design 139
  • Chapter Five - The German Design Council 178
  • Chapter Six - Design and Domesticity 212
  • Conclusion - The Return of History as Design 249
  • Notes 265
  • Bibliography 319
  • Index 339
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