Gareth Williams is Head of the Department of Design in the School of Art and Design and Professor of Design, appointed in January 2016. His teaching and research interests are in contemporary design practices (mostly related to furniture and related product design), and particularly how they are represented in museums.
Gareth graduated from Hull University with a Drama and English BA Hons degree, followed by a Russian Studies MA from Sussex University. In 2016 he gained his PhD from Kingston University with the title 'Towards a Theory of Performative Design, writing about design and designers since 1990'.
He began his career as a curator of twentieth century and contemporary furniture and product design at the Victoria and Albert Museum where he curated several innovative contemporary design exhibitions and published extensively about aspects of contemporary design.
In 2009 Gareth moved to the Royal College of Art as Senior Tutor in the world-renowned Design Products programme, and from 2013 as Reader in Design Curating.
Since 2011 Gareth has been a trustee of the Gabo Trust for Sculpture Conservation, and from 2016 a member of the advisory board for MoDA, the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture at Middlesex University.
2009-2014 Senior Tutor, Design Products and Reader in Design Curating Royal College of Art
1990-2008 Curator, Department of Furniture, Textiles and Fashion Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Learning & Teaching Interests
I am particularly interested in the ways in which new design practices emerge from higher education and how they are received and represented by cultural arbiters, for example in museums, or act as agents of cultural diplomacy. In 2010 I co-authored a successful bid for two research studentships to the AHRC around this subject, Emerging Design Practice, paradigms and parameters.
With colleagues at Kingston University I am engaged with an ongoing research project about the future of graduate art and design exhibitions (degree shows); who they are for, how they serve their stakeholders, and how new art and design disciplines are represented.
Research Outputs & Interests
I submitted four outputs for the REF2014; two monographs, a chapter and an exhibition. I am part of the supervision team for various research students examining aspects of contemporary design practice and design history.
Selected curated projects
Temporary exhibitions and displays
Kaleidoscope, 20th anniversary display, 100% Design, London, September 2014
Show RCA 2012, Royal College of Art, London, June 2012
Show RCA 2011, Royal College of Art, London, June 2011
Design Products Collection, Royal College of Art, September 2010; Ventura Lambrate, Milan, April 2011; The Baltic, Gateshead, November 2011
Telling Tales, fantasy and fear in contemporary design, Victoria and Albert Museum, 14 July – 18 October 2009
100% Milan, 100% Design, London, September 2006
Matali Crasset, Victoria and Albert Museum, March – April 2003
Milan in a Van, Victoria and Albert Museum, April – June 2002
Placebo (with Contemporary Team), Victoria and Albert Museum, 2001
Brand.New (with Jane Pavitt), Victoria and Albert Museum, 2000
Ron Arad Before and After Now (with Sorrel Hershberg), Victoria and Albert Museum, 2000
Swell, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1998
…not so simple, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1997
Green Furniture: Ecological Design, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1996
Late-Twentieth Century Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2008
Europe and America 1800-1900, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2006
Architecture Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2004
Gareth Williams, 2012, 21 Twenty-one, 21 designers for twenty-first century Britain, V&A Publishing, London, 192pp
Gareth Williams, 2009, Telling Tales, fantasy and fear in contemporary design, V&A Publishing, London, 128pp
Gareth Williams, 2006, The Furniture Machine, furniture since 1990, V&A Publications, 176pp
Gareth Williams, 2000, Branded? Products and their personalities, V&A Publications, 94pp
Articles and chapters in edited books
Gareth Williams, 2016, ‘Contemporary designers, cultural diplomacy and the museum without walls’, in Design Objects and the Museum, edited by Elizabeth Farrelly and Joanna Weddell, Berg/Bloomsbury, London, pp97-104
Gareth Williams, 2013, ‘Curating emerging design practice’, in Museums and higher education working together, challenges and opportunities, edited by Anne Boddington, Jos Boys and Catherine Speight, Ashgate, Farnham, pp91-101
Gareth Williams, 2010, ‘Order from disorder’, in The Book of Job, edited by Ian Luna, Lauren A. Gould and Studio Job, Rizzoli, New York, pp.235-8
Gareth Williams, 2010, ‘On the problematic relationship between institutions and critical design thinking’, in In case of design – inject critical thinking, edited by Frida Jeppsson, published by Frida Jeppsson, Stockholm, pp.26-29
Gareth Williams, 2006, entries 070, 083, 183, 308, 374, 448, 477, 497, 551, 719, 818, 861, 865, 890, 902, 909, 956, 964, 977, in Phaidon Design Classics, Phaidon, New York and London
Gareth Williams, 2004, ‘Trafalgar Square – creating the nation’s square’, in Exploring Architecture, buildings meaning and making, edited by Eleanor Gawne and Michael Snodin, V&A Publications, London, pp.170-1
Gareth Williams, 2004, ‘Collaborative design’, in Jerwood Applied Arts Prize 2004 Furniture, Crafts Council, London, pp.28-31
Gareth Williams, 2004, 2nd edition 2006, ‘Use it again’, in Simply Droog, 10 + 1 years of creating innovation and discussion, edited by Renny Ramakers, Droog, Amsterdam, pp.23-34
Gareth Williams, 2004, ‘Christine Keeler chair’ in Things, a spectrum of photography 1850-2001, edited by Mark Haworth-Booth, V&A Publications / Jonathan Cape, London, pp204-5
Gareth Williams, 2003, ‘The mixed messages of the colour black’, in Black Bazaar, design dilemmas, edited by Ineke Hans and Ed van Hinte, 010 Publishers, Rotterdam, no pagination
Gareth Williams, 2003, ‘Air Chair 1997-1999’ in The Origin of Things, sketches, models, prototypes, edited by Thimo te Duits, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen / NAi Publishers, Rotterdam, pp.234-241
Gareth Williams, 2003, ‘What if?’, in Design and Designers, Matali Crasset, Pyramyd, Paris, pp.5-11
Gareth Williams, 2002, ‘Creating Lasting Values’, in The Persistence of Craft, the applied arts today, edited by Paul Greenhalgh, A&C Black / Crafts Council, London, pp.61-72
Gareth Williams, 2000, ‘Hello Kitty’ and ‘The Point of Purchase?’ in Brand.New, edited by Jane Pavitt, V&A Publications, London, pp.180-1 and pp.184-213
Gareth Williams, 2000, contributor, Matthew Hilton, furniture for our time, edited by Catherine McDermott, Lund Humphries / Geffrye Museum, London, pp.26-7
Gareth Williams, 1998, ‘Software’ in Swell, Verlag Form, Frankfurt, pp.19-27
Gareth Williams, 1996, ‘Desk’, pp.180-1; ‘Casablanca Sideboard’, pp.220-1; ‘Little Heavy Chair’, pp.224-5, in Western Furniture 1350 to the present day, edited by Christopher Wilk, Philip Wilson Publishers / V&A
Refereed and published conference proceedings
Sorrel Hershberg and Gareth Williams, 2000, ‘Friendly membranes and multi-taskers: the body and contemporary furniture’, in The Body Politic, the role of the body in contemporary craft, pp.58-70, Crafts Council and University of Northumbria, University of Northumbria 14-16 September 1999.