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Ireland, Design and Visual Culture August 20, 2014
Reviewer: Clare Bell, Journal of Design History from Ireland  
As Ireland is noted primarily for its literary, dramatic and musical culture, Irish studies, until now, has focused largely on these specific aspects of Irish culture. Consequently, the paucity of texts discussing design, visual and material culture in Ireland - and their role in the construction of the post-partition state's evolving identity, society and culture - has left a yawning gap in the literature of these fields. In their opening chapter, which introduces us to the editorial theme and theoretical framework underpinning this collection, editors Linda King and Elaine Sisson provide us with clearly elucidated reasons as to why Ireland may have foundered in comparison to other countries in terms of both the development of design as an industry and the simultaneous growth of its associated discourses and literature. They point out that due to the destabilising effect of the political, economic and social upheaval that Ireland underwent during the period of time that the book covers (1922 - 1992), professional design practice in Ireland has 'a relatively short history'. Indeed, it could be argued that it is this suite of contributory factors that gave rise to the fact that this publication is both the first of its kind - and long overdue.

Yet, as is demonstrated in this beautifully designed and illustrated volume, Irish design is significantly less insular and somewhat more diverse than is generally assumed.Many of the essays included (all of which are constituted from original research) encompass material outlining the impact on the development and effect of the practice that American, Scandinavian, German and British design had across a variety of media. The breadth of studies encompassed in this excellent volume is wide-ranging and interdisciplinary in subject matter, and uncovers many heretofore uncharted aspects of Irish design and visual culture.

The editors also point out that from the beginning of its development, Irish design - in the course of its gradual professionalization - was predominantly focused on the promotion of services, and therefore on the communication of ideas, as opposed to the creation of objects. This was due, in large part, to the absence of an Industrial Revolution in Ireland, which led to there being in the country very little in the way of what could be described as indigenous industry. Added to this, stringent and protectionist economic policies, allied to highly conformist social policies prevalent at the inception of the Free State (whose national identity and self-image drew upon the utopian vision of an agrarian, rural nation as opposed to a metropolitan, urban state), prevailed. As a legacy of the nineteenth-century, cultural nationalism and the forces of social conservatism - informed by the overwhelming Catholic hegemony that dominated the first half of the twentieth century - took some time to recede, as did their paralysing economic and social effects.

And yet, whilst overcoming these restrictive circumstances, each of these essays illuminates how the transformative role of design and designed objects was central to the development of Ireland's modernization and the negotiation of the ensuing cultural response - which was necessarily enmeshed in the country's economic and social development.

The rigorous analytical and theoretical lens through which all the topics in the book are explored is tightly focused on modernity and related discourses: national and cultural identity.Despite this, the study loses nothing of the richness of its depth of field. What does become clear is that designed artefacts were not just passive receptacles or surfaces onto which the materialization of modernity was projected, but they also acted as potent and active agents in the hastening and negotiation of its arrival. Nevertheless, this process was not a linear one. Written by an assembly of authors, each of whom is outstanding in their field, the paradoxes, complexities and contradictions intrinsic to the processes of decolonization and the assimilation of modernity through design are meticulously described. From the utilization of German Expressionism in 1920s Irish theatre and stage design in order to disrupt the rise of social conservatism (Elaine Sisson), through the construction of a state sponsored German designed and engineered hydro-electrical power plant (Sorcha O'Brien), to the input of Dutch designers in poster advertising for the national carrier, Aer Lingus (Linda King), each explores the limitations inherent in the concept of modernity itself, effectively highlighting the significance of locally synthesised, syncretic assimilations of modernization that must be taken into account when evaluating ensuing and specific cultural responses.

Although the editors mention that the editorial decision to leave Northern Ireland out of the geographical area covered in this collection was a difficult one, there is no sense of omission here, as Ciaran Swan's contribution on how the evolution of printed visualizations of the border between the south and Northern Ireland reflected shifting political concerns over time neatly bounds and resolves the issue of delimiting the content to southern Ireland. A current underlying many of the pieces is a sense of the deep-rooted tensions prevalent during the development of a contradistinctive identity from Great Britain in the newly autonomous, post-partition state. In particular, Michael Flanagan, in his account of the highly conservative and religious objectives pursued by the Christian Brothers through their publication of Our Boys magazine, stresses the irony of the adoption of modern printing techniques and production values by the Brothers in their attempt to challenge the potential threat of cultural dominance arising from the increasing popularity in the south of brightly coloured and illustrated boys' papers from Britain. Cumann na nGaedhael were presented with a similar quandary, as Brian O Conchubhair explains, in their determined effort to conserve tradition through the preservation of the Irish language and their quest to publish numerous books and texts disseminated through their publishing house,An Gum.

Paul Caffrey's detailed piece on coinage issued for the Free State assesses the difficulty in commissioning the design of a new currency intended to address both a national and international audience, a theme that Anna Moran also probes in her analysis of the increasingly outward-looking marketing and design strategies employed by the state sponsored Kilkenny Design Workshops (in the 1960s), that targeted potential customers both at home, but more significantly, in America. This development reflected Ireland's growing industrial confidence and Mike Cronin's history of the St Patrick's Day industrial parade which ran from the 1950s until the end of the 1960s, effectively serves as a narrative and index of the evolving economic and industrial concerns of the state, simultaneously tracing the country's gradual modernization.

This transition is echoed in Ellen Rowley's fascinating piece on the influence of American modernism on the architecture of Dublin city, from the 1940s until the 1970s. She reveals many of the issues implicit in importing international architectural forms, questioning the wisdom of replacing one cultural hegemony for another in the form of American corporate and cultural imperialism,assessing its residual legacy and impact on the country's capital city.

The continual dialogue between past and future is a consistent thread throughout the book, and yet the permeability of the seam dividing and binding the two is gently teased out by Mary Ann Bolger in her sensitively observed study of Irish Catholic memorial cards. This highly recommended book concludes appropriately with Maeve Connolly's examination of the contemporary expression of liminal temporalities in the neo-Celtic artworks of Jim Fitzpatrick, revealing fragmented glimpses of imagined futures, and - as Luke Gibbons writes in his foreword - 'of worlds yet to come'.

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Ireland, Design and Visual Culture July 29, 2013
Reviewer: Derval Tubridy  
Given that Ireland is traditionally associated with the spoken and written word, Linda King's and Elaine Sisson's edition Ireland, Design and Visual Culture: Negotiating Modernity, 1922-1992 (CorkUP [2011]) is a valuable intervention into the evaluation of Irish culture in the twentieth century, particularly as it comes to terms with the decolonial experience.  Ireland, Design and Visual Culture traces, with an astute and nuanced eye, the ways in which the newly independent Ireland used visual culture as a means of dealing with an imperial legacy, developing a cohesive national identity and identifying itself as a modern and progressive culture. The varied and perceptive essays in this collection attest to the fact that not all of these aims were achieved. They identify the fault lines between secular and religious moralities, technology and the agrarian, tradition and modernity. The complex relations between the individual, society and emerging concepts of the politic are analysed with acuity in this strong collection. The Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory, 2013, Oxford University Press

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The nationalist movement that led to the establish January 9, 2013
Reviewer: GEAR ID TUATHAIGH English Historical Review from Republic of Ireland  
The nationalist movement that led to the establishment of an Irish Free State  in 1922 was  at least in its revolutionary phase  strongly driven by an impulse  of cultural revival  which produced a remarkable body of literature and drama   a programme for the restoration of the long retreating Irish language as the  main vernacular  and a more general commitment to nativist arts  crafts  and cultural practices. There was a tension at the core of the cultural revival  movement between  on the one hand  a nostalgic  conservative  preservationist  and sometimes reactionary instinct  valorising the rural  the primitive and  the simple  and denouncing the rootless city  mass produced goods  and  sensational popular literature  and  on the other  an innovative  experimental  instinct  embracing the modern world and seeking to use the native cultural  resources as the raw material for creating new cultural forms.  The new Free State  as it turned out  was dominated from an early stage by  a highly conformist Catholic bourgeoisie  socially conservative  deferential to  church authority and teaching in respect of morals and the norms of social  behaviour  and essentially dependent on the church to provide a system of  education and health care within the state. Though the Free State persisted  with a largely free trade economic policy throughout the 1920s  the signs of  social conservatism and cultural timidity appeared early: censorship of films  and literature came within the first decade of the establishment of the new state.  With the ascendancy of de Valera and his aggressively protectionist policies  from 1932  independent Ireland became heavily introspective and confessional  in its official culture. Leading writers and artists became  to varying degrees   dissident witnesses  alienated from the dominant cultural  tone  of the new  state. Many simply went into exile.  Within the dominant historiography of modern Ireland  the war years   1939 45  are generally identified as the climax of this era of protectionist zeal   in cultural as well as economic matters. The strains of wartime isolation in  neutral Ireland were felt in all aspects of the national life. Signs of increasing  popular impatience  and of new ideas  initiatives and institutions  multiply  from the later 1940s. The economic new departure of Lemass Whitaker  a new  direction towards a free trading open economy  actively seeking direct foreign  investment   was matched by a more comprehensive glasnost  as Irish social  and cultural life became enthusiastically  if not always with discrimination   more open to international influences. If recent historiography suggests that  the introspection and cultural torpor of the early decades after 1922 has been  exaggerated  the significance of the general reorientation of Irish society from  the end of the 1950s is not seriously disputed.  Until relatively recently  studies of Irish cultural engagement with  modernity have been largely concerned with the stellar literary innovators   notably Joyce  or with clusters of avant garde painters and representational  artists. This current volume of essays  edited by Linda King and Elaine Sisson   however  is a welcome addition to an emerging body of scholarly work on  design  the material and the visual in Irish popular culture. The essays  provide  an opportunity to explore   how modernist ideas were moulded and adapted  to Irish cultural specificities   p. 36 . There are thirteen essays in all  with a  short  perceptive introduction by Luke Gibbons   covering design aspects  of such early projections of national identity as stamps and coinage  and the  monumental engineering  statement  of the Shannon hydroelectric station at  Ardnacrusha  together with the design of state subsidised publication of books  in the Irish language  and the public spectacle of the St Patrick s Day parade.  More unusual  non state  examples discussed include comics and poster  art  design in the theatre  where the 1920s saw precocious experimentation  with German Expressionist forms in Dublin   and the popular  memorial  card   commemorating dead persons. From the post war period  the most  important essays are those concerning the design of posters and other tourist   branding  issues for the national airline  Aer Lingus; the influential Kilkenny  Design Workshop project  1963 ; and Ellen Rowley s particularly insightful  exploration of  the influence of Americanised Modernism on the Culture of  Dublin s Architecture  1945 75   where the return of a group of Irish architects  who had studied in Chicago under Mies or in Philadelphia under Louis  Kahn coincided with the socio economic modernisation project of Lemass   resulting in what Rowley describes as the triumph of  American aestheticised  architectural modernism .  While there is no attempt in this volume to impose a thesis on such a  wide miscellany of case studies  the collection invites a number of general  observations. The collection broadly reinforces the chronological division  between pre war and post war Ireland  with the period from c.1945 to the later  1950s witnessing a marked quickening of new initiatives in art  design and ideas  that would result in Irish design becoming  more outwardly focused from the  1950s as discourses of leisure  consumption and urbanization became more  widely embraced   p. 34 . Thomas Bodkin s Report on the Arts in Ireland  1949   was indeed  a landmark state initiative in rehabilitating Irish visual culture ; yet   as late as 1962  the report of a group of six Scandanavian consultants on Design  in Ireland was still highly critical of the general poverty of Irish design culture.  Claims that Ireland represents a case of  national modernism  must be  cautiously assessed in the light of the evidence of the majority of the casestudies  presented here  which confirm that external influences were decisive  in determining the timing and depth of the engagement of Ireland s design  culture with the currents of modernity: Dutch  migr  designers  steeped in  the Bauhaus tradition  fashioned the Aer Lingus image; Irish architects trained  in the USA transformed the visual culture of  building  in urban Ireland from  the 1950s; Scandanavian critics were the midwives to the birth of the Kilkenny  Design Workshop. In short  the indigenous energies available for ensuring that  Irish visual and design culture would respond creatively to the challenges of  modernity should not be exaggerated.  This is a substantial collection that makes a significant contribution to the  history of ideas as well as to the specifically design focused aspects of Irish  cultural studies. The essays are individually valuable and original and  for the  most part  lucid and accessible to scholars of all relevant disciplines.

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Irish scholarly studies of images and objects have July 5, 2012
Reviewer: Ann Wilson for Artefact the journal of the Irish from Republic of Ireland  
Irish scholarly studies of images and objects have tended to concentrate on a limited  range of artefacts  often documenting them with the aim of raising the profile of  individual practitioners or groups  or the status of Irish art  craft or design. To this end   aesthetic merit and individual creativity were highly valued  artistic lineages were  established  distinctively Irish characteristics were highlighted and the biographical  monograph was a popular form. This approach ignored the fact that anonymous   mass produced  aesthetically insignificant images and objects can often have very  important and interesting social roles  which is not to say that authored  one off works  of art cannot also   and that therefore an examination of images and objects in terms of  the work they do in society can yield very valuable insights not only into the images  and objects  but also the society in which they functioned.    During the 1990s  the idea that images and objects could provide an enhanced  understanding of the past began to permeate Irish studies  although the approach  was tentative  and often consisted of comparing images to texts in a way that yielded  nothing particularly new. Since then there has been an increase in scholarship in  this area  influenced by major developments internationally in the areas of Visual  and Material Culture and Design History. This multi author volume of essays  with  an introduction by Luke Gibbons  presents a selection of the most up to date and  sophisticated Irish research on images and objects  and the social roles they played in  twentieth century Ireland  and as such is very welcome.    The essays deal with visual and material culture and professional design practice  in Ireland from 1922 to about 1992  from the establishment of the state to the sudden  increase in prosperity which became known as the Celtic Tiger. The new Free State  faced enormous challenges  emerging as it did from violent armed struggle  including  a painful civil war  and difficult social and economic decisions which necessitated  the careful navigation of discourses of tradition and modernity  nationalism and  internationalism. The essays only examine the situation in the twenty six county  southern state  a wise editorial decision  as another similarly sized volume would be  needed for an analysis of the very different six county state of Northern Ireland.    The authors examine a wide and diverse range of images and artefacts  unconcerned  with their place in the cultural hierarchy. These include publicity material for the  building of a hydroelectric power station at Ardnacrusha  Co Clare  popularly known  as the Shannon Scheme  and for the national airline Aer Lingus; American shop  displays promoting the Kilkenny Design Workshops; Catholic memorial cards; book  covers for Irish language publications; theatre set designs; architect designed buildings  and  undesigned  suburban residential projects; coinage; St Patrick s Day parades;  images of the partition of the country and of psychedelic neo Celtic fantasies and  plates from the Christian Brothers  periodical Our Boys. Many of the essays concentrate  on popular forms  although professional design practice  and its contribution to the  cultural construction of Ireland and Irishness  is also examined. The essays transcend  disciplinary barriers and the authors draw freely  as needed  on concepts such as  the  imagined community  of Benedict Anderson  the  invented traditions  of Eric  Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger  the  myth  and  punctum  of Roland Barthes  and  the  thick description  of Clifford Geertz  as well as a range of ideas associated with  postcolonial studies.    A recurring theme of several essays is the use of visual and material culture to  reconcile the cherished concept of traditional rural Ireland with the modernisation  necessary for industrial and economic development. This is an important aspect of   for instance  Sorcha O Brien s analysis of the discourse surrounding the Shannon  Scheme in the 1920s  Linda King s discussion of Aer Lingus posters and Anna  Moran s investigation of the Kilkenny Design Workshop displays in America.  Modernisation was associated with both modernism and internationalism  and  the ongoing contribution of foreign and/or modernist expertise and ideas to Irish  visual and material culture is very evident during the period of study   German  Expressionist influences on theatre set design; an English designer for the Free State  coinage; Dutch graphic designers advertising Ireland for Aer Lingus; Scandinavian  influences on Kilkenny Design Workshops; German expertise called on for the  Shannon Scheme; American style modernism for architecture; and American  psychedelia for images of Celtic Ireland.    There also seems to have been a strong sense of the potential power of images  and objects to construct an Irish identity  apart from that dictated by economic  policy. Thus Ciar n Swan discusses the difficulties of visualising a partitioned  Ireland  and how governments had to tread a fine line between recognising  the reality of the border and legitimating it. Michael Flanagan shows how the  periodical Our Boys was used as a weapon against popular British literature  in the preservation of an Irish Catholic identity  and Brian   Conchubhair  examines the kind of Gaelic Ireland constructed by the covers of Irish language  books. Images and objects also functioned as agents of reassurance in an era of  change and uncertainty. Thus the publicity for the Shannon Scheme presented  technological development in terms of the familiar  and  on a personal level  the   invented traditions  associated with mass produced memorial cards  as discussed  by Mary Ann Bolger  served to provide a sense of security and continuity in the  face of death  as well as assert personal and religious identity. Images could also  be harnessed for very different purposes  however  as Elaine Sisson shows in her  discussion of how German Expressionist influences were used in theatre designin  the 1920s  to communicate the tensions and moods of the dramas but also their  often anti establishment messages  which appealed to disillusioned audiences in  post revolutionary Ireland.    This book demonstrates how the examination of a broad range of visual and  material culture using appropriate theoretical models can provide very rewarding  insights. The essays reveal a lively engagement with international modernity and  modernist discourse in Ireland throughout the period 1922   92  and a creative  appropriation of techniques and approaches as needed. This generated a visual and  material culture and growing professional design practice which was a complex  mixture of the conservative and the radical  the traditional and innovative  the national  and the international. This view of twentieth century Irish culture contradicts  or at  least reshapes in more nuanced form  some of the received constructions derived from  studying other material.    As if to draw the reader s attention to the importance of image and object as well  as text  this book is also a beautiful object of material culture in its own right. Designed  by David Smith  it is a pleasure to handle and browse through  and  very importantly   contains an excellent selection of very high quality images. The editors  authors   Cork University Press and the School of Creative Arts in IADT deserve great credit  for ensuring that this previously neglected area of scholarship in Ireland is getting  published  and so well. It is heartening to know that so many scholars are producing  such lively and interesting work in this area.

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The design of objects offers a powerful way of und June 26, 2012
Reviewer: Stuart MacDonald Emeritus Professor Gray s Sch from Republic of Ireland  
The design of objects offers a powerful way of understanding modernity. But objects are not innocent. That is especially true of the newly emerged Irish State and postcolonial attempts to distinguish itself from British influence using the tools of modernist design in nation building and national identity. Negotiating modernity is very apt given the State s need to navigate modernism by way of a censorious combination of risk averse officialdom and conservative Catholicism. As Luke Gibbons notes in the introduction to this book  tradition as represented by craft was integrated with modern manufacture  with an ever present need to orientate the dream world of Celtic mythology. Modernism is sometimes phrased as though it were similarly structured everywhere  impervious to internal and external conditions. This collection of skilfully edited essays informs us otherwise  throwing light on a hitherto obscure historiography. Not only is there an illuminating narrative thread  readers are given insights into the tensions inherent in modernism and postcolonialism away from the mainstream. Links with advances in vocational education  professional design and the design economy discourse are also made. The book navigates the material culture of theatre design  graphics  comics  architecture  festivals  industrial design and ephemera. The editors demonstrate in their opening chapter that it is simplistic to see the decades following Ireland s political birth just as a succession of unrelated episodes with divergent influences and shifting identities . the twists and turns evident in King and Sissons  navigation of Irish modernity do suggest that there may be  National Modernisms   not one homogenous modernism.

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This book is beautifully designed by Atelier David January 23, 2012
Reviewer: Angela Rolfe Architecture Ireland from Republic of Ireland  
This book is beautifully designed by Atelier David Smith  giving clarity and coherence to diverse subject matter and will  in time  become an important reference of design history of the early 21st century. While the book is not essential for the practice of architecture  it gives an essential fundamental context fo all designers working in Ireland.

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This book is beautifully designed by Atelier David January 10, 2012
Reviewer: Angela Rolfe Architecture Ireland from Republic of Ireland  
This book is beautifully designed by Atelier David Smith  giving clarity and coherence to diverse subject matter and will  in time  become an important reference of design history of the early 21st century. While this book is not essential for the practice of architecture  it gives an essential fundamental context for all designers working in Ireland.

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As a design historian I have always been fascinat November 30, 2011
Reviewer: Russell Flinchum DCrit MFA Design Criticism Sc from Republic of Ireland  
As a design historian  I have always been fascinated by the topic of nationalism in design.  Ireland  Design and Visual Culture: Negotiating Modernity  1922 1992  uses comparisons with  other nationalisms   including German  Scandinavian and American  to demonstrate how Irish identity was crafted. This book makes for a sometimes complex but rewarding read. It has set a high standard for future work on Irish design  and will benefit anyone who is concerned with the details of how an  identity  is manufactured  whether it is national  corporate  or personal

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Linda King and Elaine Sisson s edition of thirteen November 22, 2011
Reviewer: Art Libraries Society of North America from Republic of Ireland  
Linda King and Elaine Sisson s edition of thirteen new scholarly essays addresses Irish design s sometimes fraught relationship with twentieth century modernism. The book brings together work by an authoritative group of visual culture scholars from diverse academic disciplines to investigate how Irish visual culture both reflected and influenced the development of Ireland as an independent state in the twentieth century.    The free state s impact on twentieth century Irish design and vice versa is something just beginning to be studied and described in design history. Modernism in Ireland has been examined much more widely in literary studies  the recent Irish Modernism in the Reimagining Ireland series  Peter Lang  2010   for instance  explores similar themes with some material culture but mainly from the more usual textual perspective . Here  King and Sisson s book contains several essays on graphic design that examine politics via book covers  posters  and advertising  and generally fewer investigations into other traditional design fields like furniture  fashion  and industrial design  although there is one chapter on the Kilkenny Design Workshops. Instead of including work on well documented instances of Irish modern design  such as the designer and architect Eileen Gray   Ireland  Design and Visual Culture concentrates on newer avenues of material culture research: new coinage  street parades  and Irish Catholic memorial cards. The international modernist influence in Ireland  a more familiar theme  is also covered in essays on theater design in the 1920s  for the German Expressionist influence  and later twentieth century architecture  for the American modern influence .    The book itself  a nicely produced hardcover with jacket  can also be seen as an example of the international design s community s influence in Ireland today. Some might find the bright  neon orange on white layout distracting or difficult to read; others will appreciate this aspect as part of the book s overall high concept design  which was created for Cork U.P. by the design firm Atelier David Smith. Depending on their subjects  some essays are more heavily illustrated than others  but the illustrations included in the volume are all high quality images produced in full color and easy to study in the book s generous 9   x 7  trim size.    Ireland  Design and Visual Culture will best serve advanced visual/material culture scholars; it is not a general or introductory level text  and a basic understanding of Irish political history will also aid its readers. There is a detailed bibliography and supporting notes section  and an extensive index. Although art museum or general fine arts libraries may not find it an essential purchase  this title proves a welcome addition to the multi disciplinary fields of material culture  design  and Irish studies  and is strongly recommended for all academic libraries that support history of design programs and visual or material culture departments.    Karyn Hinkle  Reader Services Librarian  Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts  Design History  Material Culture  hinkle@bgc.bard.edu

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This book is long overdue. The first comprehensiv October 10, 2011
Reviewer: Simon Cowell Editor Architecture Design Archi from Republic of Ireland  
This book is long overdue. The first comprehensive collection of scholarly essays on 20th century Irish design and visual culture  whose trajectory was inextricably bound up with the development of Ireland as an independent state    Ireland  Design and Visual Culture: Negotiating Modernity 1922 C1992   takes an engaging interdisciplinary approach to the critical examination of how Irish modernity was shaped within  and communicated by  such creative discourses as architecture  advertising  currency  illustration  industrial design  print ephemera  public spectacle and theatre design... the book has a pleasingly broad purview in terms of its objects of analysis  and includes discussions of the German engineered  Irish built Shannon Hydro Electric Scheme of the late 1920s  Aer Lingus tourist posters of the 1950s  and US department store promotions of Irish design from the mid 1960s to mid 1970s. Moreover    Ireland  Design and Visual Culture   is in itself a striking visual piece  thanks to its designer  leading Irish creative David Smith .

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