Bess Williamson, Assistant Professor at SAIC, is a historian of design and material culture, focusing primarily on works and influences of the last half-century. She is particularly interested in social and political concerns in design, including environmental, labor, justice, and rights issues as they shape and are shaped by spaces and things. Her book, An Accessible America: A History of Design and Disability in the United States, is forthcoming.
Bess will visit UIC’s School of Design to discuss the ways in which universal design (or “design for all”) meets the new frontier of mass customization and flexible production. She’ll consider how new technologies that promise niche production are being used to respond in new ways to disabled and other “special” user needs. And she’ll discuss design activism and activity around disability through the lens of deep cuts and hidden tracks in music, as we consider the way these musical genres and formats might provide expanded forms and counter strategies for design. In conversation with students, faculty, and staff, the discussion will interrogate the range of possible meanings for these twin forms in music, and how they might apply to questions about the benefits of dominant and mainstream vs. subcultural work.