Dr. Nicolas P. Maffei

Dr. Nicolas P. Maffei

Senior Lecturer, Graphic Design

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.

Dr. Nicolas P. Maffei is a member of the Created and Contested Territories group of collaborative, interactive and networking designers, artists, theorists and innovators in education, all of whom are based at Norwich University of the Arts.

Academic Journal Articles

  • 2020: ‘Obituary: Victor Margolin and food design studies’, 5(1-2), pp. 197-199.
  • 2017: ‘Perspectives on food packaging design’, co-authored with H.N.J. Schifferstein, International Journal of Food Design, 2(2), pp. 139-152
  • 2015: ‘Norman Bel Geddes: the rise and fall of subjective vision’, in ‘Special issue: ‘it’s personal: subjectivity in design history’, Fallan K. and Lees-Maffei, G. (ed.s), Design and Culture, 7(1), pp. 29-50.
  • 2013: ‘Selling gleam: making steel modern in post-war America’, Journal of Design History, 26(3), pp. 304-320.
  • 2013: ‘Historicizing shininess in design: finding meaning in an unstable phenomenon’, Journal of Design History, 26(3), Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 231-240.
  • 2012: ‘Locating design: “I have seen the future”: Norman Bel Geddes’ “Futurama” as immersive design’, Design and Culture, 4(1), London: Berg, pp. 79-82.
  • 2009: ‘Both natural and mechanical: the streamlined designs of Norman Bel Geddes’, Journal of Transport History, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 30(2) 141-167.
  • 2001: ‘Introduction’ in ‘Special issue: technology and the body’, Journal Design History, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 14(4), pp. 253-255.
  • 2000: ‘John Cotton Dana and the politics of exhibiting industrial art in the US, 1909-1929’, Journal of Design History, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 13(4), pp. 301-317.
  • 1999: ‘The work of Charles and Ray Eames’, Design Issues, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 15(1), pp. 75-79.

Monographs, Co-authored Books and Edited Collections

  • 2019: Reading graphic design in cultural context, co-authored with G. Lees-Maffei, London: Bloomsbury
  • 2018: Norman Bel Geddes: American design visionary, London: Bloomsbury Academic.
  • 2017: ‘Special issue: food design packaging’, co-edited with H.N.J. Schifferstein, International Journal of Food Design, 2(2), London: Intellect Books.
  • 2013: ‘Special issue: shininess’, co-edited with T. Fisher, Journal of Design History, 26(3), Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • 2001: ‘Special issue: technology and the body’, sole editor, Journal of Design History, 14(4), Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Book Chapters

  • 2021:‘Gleam: rebranding big steel in post-war America’, in A. Krause-Wahl, P. Löffler, Ä. Söll, Materials, practices, and the politics of shine in modern art and popular culture, London: Bloomsbury, pp. 91-105.
  • 2019: ‘Permanence and magic: super-natural metaphors of stainless steel’, in K. Fallan, The culture of nature in the history of design, New York: Routledge, pp. 175-186.
  • 2016: ‘Surveying the borders: authenticity in Mexican-American food packaging, imagery and architecture’, in Fallan, K. and Lees-Maffei, G (eds.) Designing worlds: national design histories in an age of globalization, New York: Berghahn Books, pp. 211-225.
  • 2012: ‘Practical vision and the business of design: Norman Bel Geddes incorporated’, Norman Bel Geddes designs America, Albrecht, D. (ed.), New York: Abrams, pp. 54-70.
  • 2009: ‘Transforming the audience: theatricality in the designs of Norman Bel Geddes,’ Design and Popular Entertainment, Frayling, C. and King, E (eds.), Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  • 2003: ‘The search for an American design aesthetic, from Art Deco to streamlining’, Art Deco: 1910-1939, Benton, C., Benton, T. and Wood, G, (eds.), London: Victoria and Albert Museum Publications.

Other Activities

  • Present: Member of NUA Research Committee
  • 2015-present: Editorial Board Member, International Journal of
  • 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

View more of Nic’s work on the NUA Repository