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Design and Industries Association


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(DIA)

(established 1915)

Inspired by the agenda and prolific activities of the Deutscher Werkbund (DWB), which had been established in Germany in 1907 to improve standards of design in manufacturing industry and everyday life, the DIA was established in London in 1915 with similar aims. The DIA sought to promote better understanding between manufacturers, designers, and retailers and to foster ‘a more intelligent understanding amongst the public for what is best and soundest in design’. However, it attracted neither the membership numbers nor the influence of its German counterpart and often oscillated between being an organization unable to free itself from the principles of the Arts and Crafts Movement and a body committed to the promotion of an emphatically 20th‐century industrial aesthetic. The founder members of the DIA included Harold Stabler, Ambrose Heal, Cecil Brewer, and Harry Peach, all of whom had been impressed by the range of products and buildings on display at the Deutscher Werkbund exhibition in Cologne in 1914. Early DIA exhibitions were devoted to printing, textiles, and household goods and the Association also organized seminars and lectures on design matters. In its early phases it also geared itself to promoting design in everyday life, as in the 1920 exhibition of Household Things at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, which comprised eight furnished rooms, and the publication, in the same year, of a report on the labour‐saving home. From 1922 the DIA developed its profile through the publication, an equivalent to the DWB's Jahrbücher, with essays and captioned photographs of objects that were seen to embrace ideas of ‘Good Design’. The DIA also sought to involve itself with wider issues of town and environmental planning, in line with many of the activities of the Campaign for the Preservation of Rural England (CPRE). This included the publication of a series of Cautionary Guides that campaigned against the intrusive nature of badly placed advertising hoardings, petrol stations, and other insensitively designed elements of the urban and rural landscape. The DIA also published a number of journals, although readership was limited and all went through difficult times. Design in Industry was launched in 1932, but lasted for only two issues; Design for To‐Day ran from 1933 to 1935; and Trends in Everyday Life lasted for only two issues in 1936. Such a patchy performance ran in tandem with DIA membership, which in 1932 was only 602 and peaked at 865 in 1935. During the Second World War the DIA worked closely with the Army Bureau of Current Affairs, organizing exhibitions that travelled to schools on army buses. From 1942 it also organized a series of Design Round the Clock exhibitions, showing photographs of objects that people used throughout the working day, both at home and at work, as well as commuting. All photographs were captioned outlining the aspects of ‘Good Design’ in the objects portrayed. After the war the impact of the DIA was to some extent compromised by the establishment of the state‐funded Council of Industrial Design in 1944 and its Design Centre, established in central London in 1956, though both shared a similar outlook epitomized by the DIA's booklet Enemies of Design (1946). Nonetheless, it organized a Register Your Choice exhibition at Charing Cross Underground Station in 1953 in which two contrasting room settings were displayed, one of modern design, the other displaying popular styles, with both being comparable in cost. The public were asked to register their choice, with 60 per cent preferring the modern setting. As with a number of other bodies in Britain and overseas, the DIA's impact in terms of design reform in industry and the market place became increasingly muted with the emergence of Postmodernism, Pop, and Punk and other alternatives that reflected the increasingly diverse tastes of consumers.

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Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.


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