Harry Ransom Center hosts new exhibition, “The Rise of Everyday Design”

Evan Hearn

Everything from postcards to blueprints and designs for stained-glass windows are on display at the Harry Ransom Center in an exhibit showcasing an art movement nearly 200 years in the making. 

Through July 14, the Harry Ransom Center is hosting the exhibition “The Rise of Everyday Design,” featuring the people and ideas which contributed to the Arts and Crafts movement of both Britain and America during the 19th and 20th centuries. 

In the 1800s, British artists began to create anti-industrialization themed works in reaction to the dehumanization of everyday lives and feeling of disconnect from nature. These works eventually grew into the Arts and Crafts movement. The exhibition traces the history and evolution of the movement from its British roots in the 1850s to its impact on architecture and design in 1970s America.


The exhibition was organized and curated by Monica Penick, a design and creative technologies associate professor, and architecture professor Christopher Long.

“The exhibition’s distinction is its emphasis on the Arts and Crafts’ transformation from a movement that made handcrafted objects for the well-to-do to a popular phenomenon of mass-manufactured, inexpensive pieces sold through retail outlets like Sears, Roebuck & Co.,” Penick said in a Harry Ransom Center press release. “The Arts and Crafts idea persisted long after it is usually said to have expired.”

Design junior Jason Ramirez took a self-guided tour of the exhibition for his History of Design class and said he found the different exhibit components to be interesting and useful for design students. 

“A lot of what we do in this class is looking at past examples of design history,” Ramirez said. “And (the objects in this exhibition) helped future designers learn from and improve upon past iterations of design.” 

For many of the designers showcased, such as William Morris, John Ruskin and Lucy Crane, design was a tool to overcome the faults of their society. Design senior Adraint Bereal said design is still very meaningful in today’s world.

“For me, it’s about the whole problem-solving aspect,” Bereal said. “From rebranding a food company to creating a startup … it’s always resourceful. It is so useful across so many mediums. And it’s also heavily backed up by research, which I don’t think is highlighted enough.”

For those wishing to take a more in-depth look at the exhibition, the Harry Ransom Center offers free guided tours daily at noon, Thursdays at 6 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.