Do It Yourself: Democracy and Design – the exhibition


Press Release: April 2006

‘Do It Yourself: Democracy and Design’ explores the history of the DIY movement and the freedom it has given the consumer to take control of the design and manufacture of goods rather than relying on professional design and production processes. The exhibition examines the advice leaflets, manuals and guide books, retail catalogues, newspaper reports magazines and later, radio and television programmes, as often the only evidence that remains of what for many has been a significant part of everyday life.

‘Do It Yourself: Democracy and Design’ covers a period of some three centuries in total, in an eclectic mix of sections including 18th and 19th Century home crafts, 1920s and 1930s women’s magazines, the Cold War nuclear fallout shelter, the Mirror sailing dinghy, and punk fanzines. Together, these sections show how, historically, all forms of DIY have enabled the consumer to rail against the prescribed design edicts or social mores of the time, providing an accurate yardstick by which the popular aesthetics of design can be measured. These sections have been researched and written by a series of established and respected design historians across the UK and the USA, and the whole curated by Paul Atkinson. The exhibition is supported by the academic institutions of the authors, and by Oxford University Press, who are publishing a special issue of the Journal of Design History to coincide with the exhibition.

The exhibition was on display at:
design centre north, Barnsley: 5 May – 17 June 2006
Museum of Domestic Architecture and Design, Middlesex: 25 July – 10 September 2006

A gallery of photographs from the exhibition is available here:

A review article of the exhibition appeared in the Yorkshire Post Magazine, the text of which can be found here:
A PDF file of this article with images is downloadable here:


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