Do It Yourself: Democracy and Design – the publication

P. Atkinson, Do It Yourself: Democracy and Design
Special Issue of the Journal of Design History 19(1), 2006.


The theme of this special issue arose from a perceived need to generate a discourse around the interface between ‘design’ taken as a function of the activity of ‘professional’ designers and being part of an established cycle of the design, production and consumption of goods; and ‘Do It Yourself’ taken as its antithesis – a more democratic design process of self-driven, self-directed amateur design and production activity carried out more closely to the end user of the goods created. Historically, productive and creative activities of this kind have allowed consumers to actively engage with design and the design process at a number of levels, and to express a more individual aesthetic unbounded by the strictures of mass-production and passive consumption. The agencies which have mediated this interface between design and DIY – the advice leaflets, manuals and guide books, exposition and retail catalogues, newspaper reports and magazines and later, radio and television programmes are of particular interest here. They are often the only evidence of what for many has been a significant element of the fabric of their everyday life – the results of the activity itself, due to their individual and personal nature, often disappearing without trace with the passing of time.

Do It Yourself acts as a democratising agency allowing people, paradoxically, to react against the principles and edicts of design connoisseurship whilst simultaneously enabling the emulation of those above them in social hierarchies. DIY has acted as a leveller of class – overcoming the social stigma of manual labour out of sheer necessity, and permitting the working classes to engage in leisure activities from which they were previously excluded. This special issue attempts to broaden the existing work in the area by taking this aspect of design democracy as its unifying theme, and thereby expanding the notion of DIY from the narrow perspective in which it is often held.

The special issue can be accessed from Oxford University Press here:


2 Responses to “Do It Yourself: Democracy and Design – the publication”

  1. 1 mariann gergely March 27, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    Dear Mr Atkinson!

    Let me introduce myself. I am an arthistorian at the Hungarian National
    Gallery. I read about your research concerning design and democracy. I am
    specially interested in the DIY movement and its history. I think – as I
    see in the international literature in the net – that you are the most
    authentic professor who wrote publications in this subject.
    I would like to have your publications, the catalogue of the exhibition in
    England in 2006 and the Design Journal related to it.
    If you have any possibility, would you be so kind to send me (even
    electronically) your texts. We in the library of the Hungarian National
    Gallery would appreciate if we have the catalogue and the Journal issue in
    our collection.

    I hope that you would not mind my request. Thank you for your help in
    advance, sincerely Yours

    Marianna Gergely (PhD)
    chief curator
    Hungarian National Gallery
    1014 Budapest Szent Gyorgy ter 2.
    Hungary- Europe


    • 2 paulatkinsondesign April 20, 2011 at 11:01 am

      Hi Mariann
      Sorry I’ve been so long in responding. If you could email me to confirm the address to send them to, I’ll put some items in the post.
      Best wishes

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