Design Culture Salon 13: How does age influence cultures of design?

Friday 9 January 2015

Clore 55, British Galleries
Victoria and Albert Museum

Creativity; intuition; innovation; experimentation: these words commonly punctuate design narratives in practice, research and in the media. They are also all, interestingly, most associated with youth culture. The designer’s career cycle appears to move in new directions with age. Design institutions such as D&AD promote the dynamism of the ‘new generation’ through its ‘New Blood’ scheme. So, what does this tell us about the relationship between age and design culture? How meaningful is this generational view of design practice? How is the career narrative of the designer framed in relation to cultures of age? To what extent is design a youthful skill, characterized by intuition and innovation, or is there a place for ‘design wisdom’ in contemporary society?

Chair: Malcolm Garrett, Graphic designer and Master of the Faculty of RDIs


Professor Sean Nixon, Head of Sociology, University of Essex

Joseph Smith, Designer, Artist and Co-Founder of Makerversity

Alasdair Scott, Partner at C3UK

Susan Benn, Founder and President of Performance Arts Labs (PAL ltd)

This event is free, but booking is required.
To join the guest list, please contact Leah Armstrong (l.armstrong[at]

Sean Nixon is Professor and Head of the Department of Sociology at the University of Essex. He has published extensively on the subject of advertising, the cultural economy and creativity. His most recent publications include Hard Sell: Advertising, Affluence and Trans-Atlantic Relations circa 1951-69 and in 2013, he co-edited the second collection of Representation: Cultural Representation and Signifying Practices with Stuart Hall and Jessica Evans. He is currently working on an Australian Research council funded project with colleagues at the University of Melbourne, UWS and Brown University. It explores the exporting of American advertising practices and techniques to Australia in the late twentieth century. It will focus the mediating role played by British advertising in this transfer of knowledge and expertise between the ‘advanced’ world of American advertising and the subaltern Australian industry. As a first step, he is researching the importing of the so-called ‘creative revolution’ associated with NY advertising in the 1950s and 60s into London advertising.

Joseph Smith is a designer and artist. Driven by making things and making things happen, Joseph’s work is largely focused around product, interaction and service design ­ working for himself, leading studios and inside large organisations. Projects have taken a variety of forms from new businesses, services and products in the real world, to more speculative research focused work. Most recently he co­founded of Makerversity, a digital manufacturing and learning company based at Somerset House in London.

Alasdair Scott is Partner at C3UK, a consultancy which builds mobile channels, content and services for the retail, entertainment and transport markets. An interactive veteran, Scott has been at the forefront of interactive media since 1988, working on a diverse range of digital platforms from CD-ROM and Interactive Television to Broadband Internet, Mobile Apps and WiFi services. Leading mobile-specific projects in Europe, North American and Asia Pacific since 2003, Alasdair has helped organisations such as Boeing, Pepsi, Landrover, Apple, Virgin, Amex, Universal and the London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games on breakthrough digital out-of-home experiences. His work has been recognized and awarded by BBC, BAFTA, Campaign, Creative Review, D&AD, Music Week and Time Magazine.  Scott is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts and a Fellow at the Royal Institution.

Susan Benn spent 25 years (1987-2012) as founder artist director of PAL (Performing Arts Labs ltd). PAL labs attracted a wide range of exceptional talents making original work in the arts, sciences and in education. PAL intensive residential laboratories worked across disciplines, sectors and borders in the UK, Europe, India and Africa. In recognition of PAL’s achievement Susan received an award of over a million pounds from NESTA in 2000 to further develop PAL. Prior to Pal Susan had been a successful textile designer, children’s book editor and publisher and reportage photographer she studied weaving at Cranbrook and Michigan, textiles design at the Royal College of Art and received a Masters Degree from Sir Anthony Blunt at the Courtauld Institute of Art. Susan is currently co-founder and International Advisor of the Southasian Children’s Cinema Forum ( and board member of Strong Back Productions ( she is developing two personal photographic projects one in her home town of Detroit Michigan and the other in Ahmedabad, Gujurat. Her Indian project involves a small collection of locally made ‘work shirts’ which will be launched this March.

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