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Student Showcase Archive
Show RCA 2019

Eva Kasser

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The Functionalism Debate: Connecting the divided Germany. On the Theoretical Education of Industrial Design in the former German Democratic Republic and Federal Republic Germany, with a special focus on the period before Germany's Reunification

This dissertation compares design theory for the field of product design taught in the former Federal Republic of Germany to that taught in the German Democratic Republic, with a special focus on the period before Germany’s reunification. Despite the differences between the ideological, political economic, and social conditions of West Germany and socialist East Germany, they share some common ground. Similar approaches to design theory were pursued at the West German University of Art and Design Offenbach, on the one hand, and the School of Industrial Design Burg Giebichenstein Halle, on the other. This concordance in theoretical approaches can be seen as a result of the debate on functionalism, which was conducted in the West German magazine form in the late 1960s. Since it related to both industrial mass-production and the development of an affluent society, the debate had a great impact on design practitioners and theorists in both Republics. Jochen Gros’ Product Semantics can be seen as an extended functionalism in which the object is no longer isolated but viewed in an object-user relationship, based on the objects’ semiotic and semantic meaning functions. Horst Oehlke's approach, on the other hand, places this object-user relationship in a strong connection to its social-systemic context according to socialist ideologies.


  • School

    School of Arts & Humanities


    MA History of Design

  • Contact

  • Eva Kasser is a design historian with a background in art history and German literature, currently working as a research and project associate at Collection and Galerie Bruno Bischofberger in Männedorf-Zurich, Switzerland. Eva's research focuses on design theory and education and their transnational exchange mainly between Germany, Austria and Switzerland, in order to contribute establishing the Germanophone design discipline within the international discourse.

    Her dissertation addresses the design theoretical discourse during the Cold War period in both socialist East Germany and capitalist West Germany, assessing how the design theoretical understandings, which were characterised by different cultural, economic, ideological and political stands, intersected in both republics.

  • Previous degrees

  • MA History of Design, Royal College of Art in London, 2018; BA (Double Major) Art History and German Literature and Linguistics, University of Zurich, 2017
  • Experiences

  • Project and research associate, Collection and Gallery Bruno Bischofberger, Männedorf-Zurich, 2014 – present; Assistant, Department of Modern German Literature, University of Zurich, 2012 – 2015; Assistant, Dean’s Office, Philosophy Faculty, University of Zurich, 2014 – 2015; Assistant, Barbara Seiler Gallery, Zurich, 2013
  • Awards

  • Gillian Naylor Essay Prize, 2018
  • Sponsors

  • Gillian Naylor Essay Prize, 2018
Royal College of Art