Design history refers to the study of objects of design in a historical and stylistic manner as well as their contexts. In broad definition, the attributes of design history involve the cultural, economic, social, political, aesthetic and technical studies in history. Design history has designed study objects that include fashion, graphic design, crafts, industrial design, textile, interiors and product design (Fallan 48 ).
Design history integrates disapproval of the 'heroic' composition of its discipline, in reaction to the establishment of material culture, much as art history acts in response to the culture that is visual, (although visual culture has expanded the focus area of art history through the assimilation of the television, new forms of media and the film industry). Design history has managed to do this by changing its center of attention towards the acts of invention and utilization (Conway 47).
In 1960 most researchers saw the formation of the national advisory council on art education, as a result of the introduction of design history study on art education. The main aim of the organization was to make the study of design history a legitimate academic activity, and, as a result, historical perspective of the study was introduced. This introduction led to the need of buying or employing specialists from the art history field. This introduction led to a style of teaching as art historians taught in the way they only knew how to teach that using slide projectors, showing slides of art and designs materials, discussed and evaluated them. The art history lecturers then asked the art and design students to write essays (Conway 20).
The traditional approach of design history in a sequential manner, in which A begat B and B begat Z, was the main effect to the new subject. This led to the realization that assessments required a fact based regurgitation of acquired knowledge. However, it also led students to ignore discussions of the situations surrounding the creation of design and reception. Instead, the students focused on the simple facts of design history, such as who designed, what, where and when this shift focus from the main plans, of course (Fallan 86).
The method of learning history design has been enormously critiqued. Critics argue that the idea of studying a few prominent designers revered to without any questions instills an unrealistic view of the design profession. However, the association of creative and cultural skills advised the institutions against being complicit in promoting heroic view of history. It proposed that the courses should be more attuned to the needs of the design industry other than concentrating on the academic interest. Design history, as the main part of the design course, is facing an immense threat. Its survival highly relies on increased attention, which should be directed on the study of the procedures and results of design rather than the designers’ history. Design history as a practical course is rapidly turning to be a branch of cultural and social studies abandoning its roots of history (Fallan 72).