2015 Annual Design History Society Conference

“How We Live, and How we Might Live":
Design and the Spirit of Critical Utopianism

September 11-13, 2015

California College of the Arts, San Francisco, California

Registration now!

Get the complete schedule and additional information at the Design History Society website.

California College of the Arts, which is at once the westernmost outpost of the Arts and Crafts movement and the gateway to Silicon Valley, is pleased to host the 2015 Annual Design History Society Conference.

Inherent in every act of design is a vision -- however modest, however inarticulate -- of a better world: We design because we believe that travel might be made more comfortable, work more efficient, information more accessible, experiences more fulfilling, spaces more convivial, and people’s lives more meaningful. 

By addressing the needs of the present, designers are, inescapably, envisioning the future.

By definition, a vision of a better future is grounded in a critique of the present, insofar as the prevailing organization of social resources obstructs the full realization of our potential to lead productive, enjoyable, and fulfilling lives.

William Morris was the first to link a critique of “How we live” to a vision of “How we might live” through the medium of design, and this impulse continues to inspire design practice today.

Inspired by the spirit of critical utopianism that connects the nineteenth century reformers to the twenty-first century techno-visionaries, this multidisciplinary conference will explore the diverse ways in which designers have sought to balance critical realism with utopian idealism.

About the Conference

The 2015 Annual Design History Society Conference seeks to explore this Utopian spirit in all of its many aspects, while engaging with the broadest possible definitions of “design.”

The themes and research methodologies of the conference will be of relevance to scholars as well as practitioners, and it will engage historians as well as futurists.

It will also build on the themes of previous Annual Design History Society conferences, which have explored design as resistance, design as a postcolonial phenomenon, and design for war and peace.

We invite submissions from academics, archivists, curators, journalists, and independent researchers from every discipline, every part of the world, and at every stage of their careers.


Registration now!

Please note that registration will be limited to 140 people in order maintain a rich discursive environment that is "humanscale."  

The Design History Society offers a number of bursaries (grants) to support DHS student members whose abstracts have been accepted.  

Additional information about Design History Society, its activities, and publications may be found on the Design History Society website.


The conference schedule is as follows (unless otherwise indicated, all events take place at the San Francisco campus of California College of the Arts):

THURSDAY, Sept. 10                                          

Noon-5 p.m.
Meeting of DHS Executive

10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Publishing workshop

5-6 p.m.
Joint OUP/JDH presentation

Dinner on your own; evening free

FRIDAY, Sept. 11

10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Conference registration
Book exhibits     

10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Optional tours: Facebook, Google, Stanford, IDEO (pre-registration required)

4-5:15 p.m.          
Annual General Meeting 

5:30-6:30 p.m.          
Keynote conversation: Valerie Casey with Barry Katz

6:30-8 p.m.               
opening reception (hosted by Adobe)

Dinner on your own; evening free

SATURDAY, Sept. 12

8-9 a.m.          

9-10:30 a.m.        
Simultaneous panels 

10:30-10:45 a.m.       
Coffee break 

10:45 -12:15 p.m.       
Simultaneous panels              

12:15-1:15 p.m.          
Lunch (food trucks) 

1:30-3 p.m.          
Simultaneous panels

3-3:30 p.m.          
Afternoon snacks 

3:30-5 p.m.          
Simultaneous panels 

5:15-6:15 p.m.          
Keynote address: Professor Felicity Scott, Columbia University

6:30 p.m.                  
Transport to dinner

7-10 p.m.        
Gala dinner (San Francisco Exploratorium, Pier 15)

SUNDAY, Sept. 13

9-9:30 a.m.            

9:30-10:30 a.m.          
Keynote address: Professor Fred Turner, Stanford University

10:45-12:15 p.m.         
Simultaneous panels       

12:15-1:15 p.m.          
Lunch (food trucks)

1:30-2 p.m.            
Wrap-up; introduction of 2016 convenor; farewell

Academic program

The academic program has been finalized, and can be viewed in abbreviated form here. (Note: Full titles, abstracts, bios and contact information for all presenters will appear in the printed program.) 

Unless other arrangements have been made, the default format will be 90-minute panels consisting of an introduction by an invited chair, three 20-minute papers, a concluding remark, and discussion among panelists and with the audience.

Presenters are requested to be mindful of the time that has been allocated. 

All panels will be held in seminar rooms equipped with full A/V capability.

Optional Tours

Although the visits to Google, Facebook, IDEO, and the Stanford d.school sold out quickly, it came to our attention that a number of spaces had been claimed by Bay Area locals who are not participants in the conference. We have cordially de-registered them, freeing up a few extra spaces which are expected to go fast. It should be noted that these are not generic tours, but customized visits arranged with the specific interests of the DHS community in mind.

Gala Dinner

There are spaces left for the official conference dinner, which will be held in the spectacular setting of the San Francisco Exploratorium. The conference has subsidized the cost of the dinner, which is not to be missed!

DHS Publishing Workshop

The annual DHS Publishing Workshop will be held on Thursday, September 10, on the CCA San Francisco campus, prior to the opening of the conference. Please refer to the Design History Society website for details.


We have secured a limited number of rooms at the following three local hotels:

Good Hotel

10 rooms with one queen bed @ $189

Book now »

Guests who wish to book online can access the group block using the link above or by calling the reservations department directly at 415.252.2616.

Hotel Metropolis

5 rooms with one queen bed @ $189
9 rooms with one king bed @ $209
6 rooms with two double beds @ $209

Book now »

Guests who wish to book online can access the group block using the link above or by calling the reservations department directly at 415.252.2616.

Hilton San Francisco Financial District

15 rooms with two double beds @ $229
15 rooms with one king bed @ $229
Guests who wish to book online can access the group block using the link above or by calling the reservations department directly at 415.433.6600


We invite attendees to explore the the services of the well-known San Francisco startup.

Other Hotels

The Clift San Francisco
The Kimpton Hotels
Hotel Kabuki
Hotel Vitale
Hotel Diva
W Hotel  
Parc 55
Phoenix Hotel

Supplementary activities

In addition to the academic program and designated site visits, the conference program will contain guides to the Bay Area's ample cultural and natural resources.

Additional information about Design History Society, its activities, and publications may be found at the Design History Society website.

Questions may be directed to dhs2015@cca.edu.

We look forward to seeing you in San Francisco in September.


Barry M. Katz, Academic Convenor
Professor of Industrial and Interaction Design
California College of the Arts