The immaterial Design Practice of Insurance from 1680 to the Present.
Royal College of Art, London
Year of enrolment: 2014 -
Supervisor: Dr Angela McShane
The subject of my research is immaterial design practices and intangible products. I use these terms to refer to instances where an object of substance is not the endpoint of the design process. I have taken insurance and the insurance industry as my case study. At the point of sale, insurance is an immaterial product.
The objects of study for my research are the material by-products of the insurance industry in Britain. I am looking at the design of the objects that represent this immaterial product, and the place of these objects in the design of the service. This leads me to conduct archival research of printed ephemera including advertising, handbills, posters, forms and newspapers. I am considering this printed and graphic material in conjunction with artefacts of insurance and complementary industries, and the technology used to make them. I am also analysing how these different kinds of objects have enabled the insurance industry, historically, to collect information about its customers, and then how it has displayed, packaged or otherwise made use of that data. This encompasses the relationship of design to branding, data visualisation, management and performance. Through these, the role of design in normalising new ideas that affect how we live can be appreciated.
The late seventeenth century is my starting point as heralding a period when new kinds of consumer insurance were devised in London, in tandem with the burgeoning of a financial world consisting of banks, newspapers and entrepreneurial ‘projects’. By examining the insurance industry from this period, my project sets up a dialogue between past and present in order that historical perspectives might illuminate current design practice and theory. It allows me to trace, in one field, the move from manuscript to print to digital, and between these and other materials.
I seek collaborative endeavours with art and design practitioners that draw on the themes of my research.