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Dr. Nicolas P. Maffei

I am a design historian specialising in graphic design, modernism, American design. I have written extensively about American design of the 1930s, including streamlining, as a cultural expression which combines avant-garde and popular elements. This work grew out of my PhD on the American industrial design pioneer, Norman Bel Geddes. My recent research has focused on the branding of the post-war American steel industry, exploring the use of the imagery and rhetoric of shininess to promote ‘big steel’ as modern and progressive. This work was part of a co-authored Special Issue on the meaning of ‘shininess’ in design. My present research explores the the local, national, global and hybrid nature of Tex-Mex culture focusing on the designs associated with its food: including logos, calendars, architecture and typography. My future research is for an undergraduate textbook on graphic design history focusing on the impact of digital technology on traditional graphic design forms, including the book, the poster and data visualisation.

Research Outputs

  • 2015: Section Entries: Graphic Design, Branding, Logos, Streamlining, in Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design (title tbc), Bloomsbury Academic.
  • 2015: Chapter: ‘The Combination Plate: Representing Tex-Mex Food Culture in a Global Context’ (title tbc), Designing Worlds: National Design Histories in an Age of Globalization, Grace Lees-Maffei and Kjetil Fallan (ed.s), Berghahn Books.
  • 2015: Book, co-authored with Grace Lees-Maffei: Reading Graphic Design in Cultural Context: An Introduction, Bloomsbury Academic.
  • 2014: Article: ‘Pioneer of Designer Persona: Norman Bel Geddes Incorporated’ (title tbc), Special Issue ‘It’s Personal: Subjectivity in Design History’, Grace Lees-Maffei and Kjetil Fallan (ed.s), Design and Culture, Bloomsbury Academic.
  • 2014: Chapters: ‘Mobility Scooter, A. Thieme’, ‘Streamlined Pencil Sharpener, R. Loewy’ in Iconic Design: 50 Stories about 50 Things, Grace Lees-Maffei (ed), Bloomsbury Academic.
  • 2013: Article, ‘Selling Gleam: Making Steel Modern in Post-war America’ in the Special Issue, ‘Shininess: Bringing Meaning to Light in Design’, The Journal of Design History, Oxford University Press, co-edited by Maffei and Professor Tom Fisher (Nottingham Trent University).
  • 2012: Chapter: ‘Practical Vision and the Business of Design: Norman Bel Geddes Incorporated’, in Donald Albrecht, (ed.), Norman Bel Geddes Designs America, Abrams, pp. 54-70
  • 2012: Article: ‘Locating Design: “I Have Seen the Future”: Norman Bel Geddes’ Futurama as Immersive Design, Design and Culture, Bloomsbury Academic
  • 2009: Chapter: ‘Transforming the Audience: Theatricality in the Designs of Norman Bel Geddes, 1914-1939’ in Design and Popular Entertainment (V&A/RCA Studies in Design History), Christopher Frayling and Emily King (ed.s), with Harriet Atkinson, Manchester University Press
  • 2009: Article: ‘Both Natural and Mechanical: the Streamlined Designs of Norman Bel Geddes’, Journal of Transport History, Manchester University Press

Other Activities

  • 2010-present: Peer Reviewer for Journal of Design History, Oxford University Press
  • 2008-2012: Curatorial Consultant for 2012 ‘Norman Bel Geddes Designs America’ exhibition and catalogue, Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin
  • 2009-2012: External Examiner, Design Theory, University of the Creative Arts, Rochester
  • 2001-2010: Member of the Editorial Board, Journal of Design History, Oxford University Press
  • 2004-2008: External Examiner, Design, Contextual Studies, Sheffield Hallam University
  • 2005-2008: External Examiner, Design, Contextual Studies, Bath Spa University College
Dr Nicolas Maffei

– Dr Nicolas Maffei