Why do things look the way they do? In order to answer this question, the historian of modern design considers a wide variety of factors including technology, politics, gender roles, national identity, psychology, and the consumer market. But production is only part of design’s complex story. Why do we acquire things, how do we use them, and what impact do these things have on us? At Bard Graduate Center, we work across disciplines to explore the meanings of designed objects, deploying many different approaches to understand and interpret anything from a paperclip to a chair–to a city square.

One of the hallmarks of BGC is the seamless integration of teaching and research. Graduate seminars are taught by the faculty who organize the seminar series, symposia, and publications and who select visiting fellows. These research events, in turn, inspire new faculty and student work. In this online series we re-present to you research at BGC as facets of faculty teaching and publishing. Themes reflect curricular foci and areas of special strength.

Meet the BGC: Susan Weber

Founder and Director Susan Weber talks about her research on under-recognized figures, which has led to exhibitions on William Kent, E.W. Godwin, Thomas Jeckyll, and James “Athenian” Stuart. She also discusses her work on the 2015 exhibition Swedish Wooden Toys.

Interview: Paul Stirton

Professor Paul Stirton and colleague Steven Heller talk to Leonard Lopate on WBAI Radio about the 2019 exhibition Jan Tschichold and the New Typography: Graphic Design Between the World Wars.

Meet the BGC: Freyja Hartzell

Professor Freyja Hartzell talks about her research on German designer Richard Riemerschmid, the collaborative nature of her teaching at BGC, and the role that objects play in her scholarship and teaching

Symposium: Re-Forming Modernism

This symposium engages with the history and legacy of the Bauhaus as a school of craft and design within the context of design reform during the modern period.

Virtual Exhibition: Eileen Gray

With this online companion to our Eileen Gray exhibition, we invite you to explore many different aspects of Gray’s career, from her celebrated projects to many lesser-known and recently rediscovered pieces on display for the first time.

Digital Interactive: Aino Marsio’s Travel Sketchbook

From the exhibition Artek and the Aaltos, this interactive is a reproduction of Aino Marsio’s sketchbook from her 1921 travels, including her time in western Finland where she made sketches, rubbings, and plans. Aino Marsio married Alvar Aalto in 1924.

West 86th: Patricio del Real

In the article “Object Lessons: Early Modernist Interiors at the Museum of Modern Art,” del Real looks at the inaugural exhibitions (1933) in MoMA’s Architecture Room, a dedicated exhibition space for its newly created Department of Architecture, headed by Philip Johnson.

Object of the Month: Poster

MA student Danielle Weindling (‘20) looks at Max Burchartz’s poster for the 1928 Tanzfestspiele, or dance festival, in Essen. She discusses how he applies the principles he had learned from Constructivist artists to his commercial work and his five key principles for a good advertisement.

Symposium: Toys and Childhood

This symposium, organized in conjunction with the 2015 exhibition Swedish Wooden Toys at the Bard Graduate Center Gallery, extends the conversation about toys as designed objects and as cultural forms to explore their relationship with notions of children and childhood.

Publications: Women Designers in the USA, 1900–2000

Pat Kirkham’s chapter “‘In a Man’s World’: Women Industrial Designers,” from the exhibition catalogue for Women Designers in the USA, 1900–2000, examines the history and role of female furniture, glass, and product designers. Download the full catalogue here for free.

Image Credits: [Symposium: Re-Forming Modernism] Theodor Bogler, Mocha Machine, slip-cast porcelain (for Älteste Volkstedter Porzellanfabrik), 1923. [Virtual Exhibition: Eileen Gray] Berenice Abbott. Eileen Gray, 1926. Silver gelatin print. National Museum of Ireland, NMIEG 2003.569. [Digital Interactive: Aino Marsio’s Travel Sketchbook] Aino Marsio’s Travel Sketchbook, 1921. Aalto Family Collection. Photograph: Bruce White. [Object of the Month: Poster] Max Burchartz, Tanzfestspiele zum 2. Deutschen Tänzerkongress Essen 1928 (Dance Festival at the Second German Dance Congress …) poster, 1928. Printed by F. W. Rohden, Essen, Germany. Photolithograph. 35 1/2 x 33 1/4 in. (90.2 x 84.5 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Jan Tschichold Collection, © 2018 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. [Symposium: Toys and Childhood] BRIO. Dachsie pull toy, introduced 1958–59. Wood, metal, plastic. Private collection. Photograph: Bruce White. [Publications: Women Designers in the USA, 1900–2000] Photograph: Bruce White.