Uta Brandes is a German design expert, theoretician and author. From 1995 to 2015 she was Professor of Gender and Design and Design Research at the Koeln International School of Design. She is co-founder of the international Gender Design Network/iGDN and the chair of iGDN Germany. Together with Michael Erlhoff, she is co-founder and director of bedesign, an office for design consultancy, concept development and design research, based in Cologne, Germany.
Uta Brandes studied at the University of Hanover, first in the areas of English language and literature studies, political science and sports, then sociology and psychology (MA). She went on to do her PhD under the supervision of Dr. Oskar Negt and Prof. Dr. Regina Becker-Schmidt.
During her studies she worked as a high school teacher and as assistant producer at the Staatstheater Hanover. From 1973 to 1983 she was co-editor of an experimental arts, literature, music, architecture and design magazine called zweitschrift. zweitschrift published original works by, among others, John Cage, Christo, Ernst Jandl, Martin Kippenberger, Friederike Mayröcker, Alessandro Mendini, Cesar Pelli, Haus-Rucker-Co, Valie Export, Peter Weibel and Lawrence Weiner. After her studies she became a research assistant at the University of Hanover, working on a research project sponsored by the German Research Foundation. Later she was appointed deputy director of the research institute Women and Society.
After moving to Frankfurt, she became Deputy Secretary of State at the Hessian State Chancellery in Wiesbaden. However, after six months she handed in her notice and preferred to work as a freelance author for broadcasting stations, magazines and publishing houses. During this time, she was also involved in the foundation of the Deutscher Journalistinnen Bund (Association of Female Journalists).
Towards the end of the 1980s, she became the first director of the Swiss Design Center Langenthal and she also participated in the foundation of the German Designerinnen Forum (Female Designers’ Forum).
At the beginning of the 1990s, she developed a new concept for the event area at the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bonn and subsequently was appointed director of this department where she continued to organise conferences (e.g. The Future of our Senses), short operas and experimental music performances.
From 1995 to 2015, she was Professor of Gender and Design and Design Research at the Koeln International School of Design. It was the first design professorship to explicitly include “Gender” in the title. From 2000 to 2006, together with Michael Erlhoff, she organised the St. Moritz Design Summit.
In 2013 she co-founded the international Gender Design Network/iGDN in New York (together with Simone Douglas). Since then, she has been the chair of iGDN Germany. Together with Michael Erlhoff, in 2017, she initiated the iphiGenia Gender Design Award/iGDA and, since then, has also been a member of the iGDA jury.
Furthermore, together with Michael Erlhoff, she is co-founder and director of bedesign, an office for design consultancy, concept development and design research, based in Cologne, Germany. She is a founding member of the German Association for Design Theory and Research, a supervisor for design-related PhD projects and a frequent guest lecturer and workshop host at international universities (e.g. Tokyo, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Taipei, Hong Kong and New York).
She has written and edited many books and essays on design and gender-related subjects.
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