A CREAM, University of Westminster conference

18 and 19 April 2024, Chiltern Hall, University of Westminster Marylebone Campus, NW1 5LS.

Design is a key element of all sorts of television, but frequently neglected in academic studies. In 2003, Piers D. Britton and Simon J. Barker wrote ‘No serious, sustained examination of the role of scenic or costume design in the medium has been attempted’ (p.1). Almost 20 years later, Britton wrote ‘Scholarly analysis of almost any form of design for the screen… is still a relatively new phenomenon’ (2021: 10). This conference seeks to examine various aspects of television design, including set design, set dressing, redressing locations, connections between real space and onscreen place, relationships between set design and costume design, and the interpersonal relationships and institutional structures which inform design for television. 

The organisers feel that input from professionals is vital to understanding how television design works, and therefore there will be at least one panel of industry practitioners to discuss their experience of television design. In addition, the organisers will offer an accompanying display of documents, artefacts and costumes related to television design. 

Early critical orthodoxies around television have assumed it is a medium lacking in any distinctive visual aesthetic. However, more recent work by scholars such as Steven Peacock, Brett Mills and Helen Wheatley has drawn attention to television’s aesthetic. As Wheatley (2016) argues, television has always been visual and has always been spectacular. This conference therefore aims to draw attention to the visual and aesthetic qualities of television design. 

Keynote speaker: Helen Wheatley, University of Warwick. 

Along with extended presentations from University of Westminster researchers Jane Barnwell and John Wyver.  


Please direct any questions to the conference organisers: 

Dr Christopher Hogg – (University of Westminster) 

Dr Douglas McNaughton – (University of Brighton) 


Upstairs Downton: The Class Boundary When Filming in Stately Homes – Rosemary Alexander-Jones 

Layers of ‘lost’ New York: Production design and period drama’s spatial imaginary – Faye Woods

‘How to produce by a false thing the effects of a true’: asyndetic spaces in The Mayor of Casterbridge (1978/2003) – Douglas McNaughton

Designed for Women? The aesthetics of domesticity in early (pre- and post-war) British television made for women – Kevin Geddes and Mary Irwin 

In front of a live studio audience: Authenticity, authority, and liveness in production design for non-fiction television – Geraint D’Arcy 

Shifting the Scenery. Natasha Kroll: “display man” and set designer – Lesley Whitworth 

Irma Vep’s Spectral Mutations: The Black Catsuit and Its Implied Vampiric Attributes. – Juan Miguel Pardo Garrido

Creating Characters and Priming Performances: The Under-appreciated Role of Costume and Make-up Workers in UK Television Production 1950-2000 – Vanessa Jackson

‘You’re not progressive enough for this!’: Queer codes and costume for Sex and the City/And Just Like That’s Miranda – Kate McNicholas Smith

Predicting Set Production Limitations and Possibilities through Production Practices: A comparison of South Korean and Egyptian television – Maria Andrea Etienne 

Dirty walls and peeling paint: the set design of public hospitals in the Brazilian television series Under Pressure – Mariana Schwartz 

Set Design as Involuntary Memory Cue: Pushing Daisies, WandaVision, and 1970s Sitcoms – Jennifer Gillan 

Design and Reflexivity in Irwin Allen’s 1960s Adventure Series – Jonathan Bignell

Interior Makeover Programmes: Strategies Behind the Camera – Neville Knott

The Beginnings of Scenic Design on British Television, 1928-1939 – John Wyver

The Designer’s Story – a model for the analysis and appreciation of screen design – Jane Barnwell

There will be a Q&A with the members of the Production Design Research & Education Network (PD-REN)

Further speakers to be announced