Ms Kerry Meakin

Research project: The Pioneers of Window Display in the U.K. and Ireland 1909-1959


Design history literature has given due attention to the development of the department store in the latter half of the 19th century and the early 20th century as they perfectly embodied the social and cultural changes taking place at the time. Because of this, early department stores have been a subject of much research, particularly regarding the fields of consumption, sociology, anthropology and the histories of business and retailing. However, there has been scant research undertaken on the protagonists responsible for the emergence of window display as an applied art and the methodologies they developed.  Therefore, the subject area of this thesis is the display professionals who practised in the UK and Ireland between 1909-1959, the fundamental principles used in the creation of their displays and how they developed their skills, either by on the job training or via academic institutions.

My original contribution to knowledge takes a historiographic approach to explore, research and discuss the emergence of window display as a career in the UK and Ireland from 1909 to1959. A combination of methods, such as exploring primary resources, archives and journals are used to research the evolution of display and modes of education. Transatlantic and continental conversations were enabled by trade journals and travel to conventions where display tactics were analysed, shared and contested, encouraging a truly global approach to the development of techniques and teaching and learning. This thesis examines this interchange and exchange of practices, models, techniques, ideas, teaching methods.

This research points out how certain visual motifs and forms migrated from the fine art sector to commercial art during the early half of the twentieth century and the effect this had on window display, it elaborates on the implications of these transitions to the discipline. Commercial art was inspired by contemporary modernistic painting and sculpture and assigned a marketing rationale. The forms and patterns inspired by modernist methods such as cubism and constructivism allowed for clarity in presenting goods to the consumer. This thesis will lead to the first narrative to offer a particularly focused and comprehensive insight into the pioneers, history and emergence of window display as an applied art form.

  • Research degree: PhD
  • Title of project: The Pioneers of Window Display in the U.K. and Ireland 1909-1959
  • Other research supervisor: Dr Patricia Lara-Betancourt


Having started off as an 'apprentice' window dresser at the tender age of seventeen, I now find myself teaching and developing the practice in a third level institution as the Programme Chair of the BA Visual Merchandising and Display at the Dublin Institute of Technology. This has led to an interest in discovering why there is a dearth of available historical material regarding Window Display. It is hoped that my research will lead to a bank of knowledge that can be used by design historians and those interested in the subject matter to enable teaching and promote awareness of this undermined applied art. 

Areas of research interest

  • The pioneers of Window Display in the U.K. and Ireland 1909-1959
  • History of Department Stores
  • Modernity and Modernism
  • British Display Association
  • Art Deco
  • Surrealism
  • Natasha Kroll
  • Selfridges
  • Arthur V. Fraser
  • Edward Goldsman


  • BA (Hons) Interior Design and Furniture, College of Arts and Tourism, Dublin Institute of Technology
  • MA in Higher Education, LTTC, Dublin Institute of Technology

Funding or awards received

  • Research Fellow RAFT project, Dublin Institute of Technology
  • Research Fellow IdeaCamp, Dublin Institute of Technology


Article ‘On Creativity' in InPrint 2011.

Paper ‘How Can We Nurture and Develop Creativity in First Year Design Students' in Irish Journal of Academic Practice 2012.

Conference papers

Presented paper at INTED (International Technology, Education and Development Conference) Valencia, March 2011: The Benefits of Work Placement in Tertiary Design Education.

Presented paper at ELIA (European League of Institutes of Art) Teachers Academy, Porto, July 2012: Developing and Nurturing Creativity in First Year Design Students.

Presented joint paper at ELIA Teachers Academy Amsterdam, June 2013: A Digital Learning Experience in Tertiary Design Education.

Verbal presentation at CUMULUS conference in NCAD, Dublin Oct 2013: A Digital Learning Experience in Tertiary Design Education.

Verbal presentation at LIN conference, Dublin Nov 2013: 1st week of term creative class ‘The Wallet Project'.

Presented paper at IJADE (International Journal of Art and Design Education), Chester, November 2013: Redesigning Studio Apartments for Sheltered Accommodation using Colour Theory.

Presented joint paper at Higher Education in Transformation Symposium, Dublin Castle, March 2015, The Tri-Party Partnership: An Investigation into the Existing Support Structures within a DIT Work Placement.