[viva]

[Flavia Swann]

[DESIGN HISTORY SOCIETY PROJECT]



Profession: Design Historian

Date of birth: 27 June 1944 (Flavia Bayne-Powell)
Place of birth: Kent, UK

Interviewer: Dr Sonia Ashmore
Location of recording: Interviewee’s home, Newcastle-under-Lyme, North Staffordshire



Professor Flavia Swann graduated from the Courtauld Institute in 1967. She then taught Art History at Canterbury College of Art, University of Reading and London University, before taking a full-time lectureship at North Staffordshire Polytechnic in 1974, progressing to the Head of Department post in 1975, where she launched the pioneering History of Design degree in 1976.

This was one of the first BA (Hons) in Design History. Called ‘The History of Design and the Visual Arts’, it was structured to enable students to choose two options from the following: the History of Graphic Design, the History of Ceramics, the History of Glass, the History of Fashion and Textiles, the History of Film and the History of Painting and Sculpture, before eventually specialising in one of these areas. The minimum intake was set at 24 students, and at its height a few years on, the intake reached 84 students in the first year.

She was an early member of the Design History society; one who crusaded for Design History to be taught to studio-based design courses. (There was considerable antipathy at that time towards Art History from both staff and students of practice-based courses.)

As a member of the Council for National Academic Awards for ten years both on the Art and Design History panel, and as ‘the Design Historian’ on the Graphic Design panel, at that time chaired by FHK Henrion, she was in a position to campaign for the development of Design History and for its use in studio-based courses in preference to Art History.
She was also a member of the Association of Art Historians from its inception in 1975, and served as a member of its Executive Committee from 1977–80, before becoming the Editor of the AAH Bulletin for ten years.

From 1992 to 2008, she was Professor and Dean of Faculty of Arts, Design, Media and Culture at the University of Sunderland. While in Sunderland she also became the Chief Executive of the local radio station, then called Wear FM (now Sun FM), and was a founding member of the Steering Committee for the National Glass Centre in Sunderland, where she continues to act as a consultant.
Currently she is Emeritus Professor at the University of Sunderland and Visiting Professor at Staffordshire University.

Friday 13 March 2009
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Wednesday 22 July 2009
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