Design School: The Future of the Project
Is design the best tool available to us to make sense of the contemporary, complex modern world? If so, how might a design school best prepare future designers for this world? This publication records the proceedings of three research summits on the future of the design school. Funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and in partnership with Imagination, Lancaster University, Charles Sturt University, Australia, and the Design Museum, London it explores these questions and others from the perspective of the changing landscape of university design education.
In an era of digital production and disruption this chapter probes how design might now best labour under a philosophy of nothing. Nothing is a pronoun for something and nothing is now the derivative project for design. As such design requires a new form of inquiry to produce new insights and a new working philosophy from the design of nothing. Design was inserted into the digital stage called social commerce as an essential component for the production and exchange of nothing and lies at the core of service. That is, the production of nothing requires, and produces, nothing but the logistics of nothing. The design and production of nothing has disrupted the philosophy of design – its histories, its apprenticeship to the project for a ‘better world’, Simon’s (The Sciences of the Artificial, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1969) ‘preferred state’, its devotion to fashion, and so on, and having dismantled ‘industry’, nothing has produced its most beguiling product yet, the fixation of capital production without a product. In the era of the production of nothing design, a discipline of now questionable utility, product of the derivative, operating in conditional space, has collapsed its scope into the belief in universal innovation, and must now develop a new operative philosophy.
As media attention has become a dominating force within the design economy, visibility became the combustible that fuels the current design industry. Designed objects were once real products, but are now often prototypes, props to be exhibited and photographed, whose role is to fill space in the media, raise the media profile of their creators and convey the name of brokers, sponsors and partners. As a result celebrated design objects are now rare pieces that are highly visible in the virtual media, while they are virtually absent from the conventional market. For industry, this trajectory of design makes them props to fill space in the media, raise the media profile of their creators and ‘brand’ the name of brokers, sponsors and partners. Today a designer has to be successful in the media in order to attract industry attention. This paper observes the way designers make virtue of their visibility in mediated contexts, thus redefining the industrial model of design practice. Simultaneously, the paper looks at the way the media makes use of its influence in a new virtual design context, producing informed speculations for the evolution of design activities. And in order to contextualize this evolution the paper follows a trajectory from the history of design to build a background to this foreground.
This paper reports on the experiences gathered from an international collaborative workshop where participants were invited to continuously build and prototype their ideas, rather than following conventional stages such as idea generation, visualization and, only later, prototyping. Adopting a hands-on approach proved beneficial in the communication among participants as well as simplifying the design process. By developing quick and approximate prototypes, participants more easily expressed their ideas whilst overcoming language barriers. Furthermore, the prototypes helped participants to identify the key aspects of their proposals and focus on those. Finally, the prototypes also served as useful props to enact the experience of using the proposed artefacts and services. The findings of the workshop highlight that when working with mixed groups of participants with diverse skills, different cultural backgrounds and languages, a hands-on approach can be extremely useful. Prototyping in design workshops here proved valid on both the communication and the creative processes.
The recent growth of festivals, media, and events associated the design industry has had a major impact on the way we conceive, produce, distribute and consume design. This is reflected in the way designers now work, which includes preparing photo-shoots, organizing exhibitions, and creating and disseminating press release materials. Similarly, the network of actors involved has changed, as has the trade of expertise and services they offer. Typically, this includes photographers, commissioning agents, curators, patrons, journalists, and PR personnel amongst others. This research expands the notion of conventional design processes, highlighting the key roles that media and event organizers now play in contemporary design. This research provides significant insights on the nature of a designer's media profile within the contemporary design industry. In so doing, the authors have developed two tools for analyzing contemporary design processes and the trade occurring in commissioned design projects that will be presented in the paper.
This paper presents a critical examination of the current state of design by exploring a number of paradoxes – sustaining the unsustainable, disciplining the undisciplined, reconciling future visions with harsh realities, and others. We suggest that whilst design researchers have been probing design, it is highly likely design might never have been where they were looking. Consequently, this paper presents a 6 point manifesto for design research where the emphasis is on acknowledging our material and energy flows and their environmental impact, a more critical stance in design culture that will reveal contradictions, rock the boat, critique 'what is' to 'what could be', and contest the legitimisation of power. Moreover, design must strive to maintain care for details and quality of public service in everything we do whilst having a concern for otherness and visuality, which privileges thinking in terms of images over numbers and texts, and an interest in theory.
This paper is placed within a contemporary context where conventionally set design disciplines are rapidly dissolving. Currently design is typified by fluid, evolving patterns of practice that regularly traverse, transcend and transfigure historical disciplinary and conceptual boundaries. This mutability means that design research, education, and practice is continually evolving. With this in mind, this paper proposes an undisciplined doctorate requiring someone we call the irresponsible candidate, who is someone finding their own way through the morass of what were once labelled the design disciplines, and for whom not knowing is an invaluable aid to getting through it. In a similar vein we argue for an alterplinarity – a portmanteau of alternative and disciplinarity in which the irresponsible candidate is the prototype of the contemporary traveller whose passage through signs and formats refers to a contemporary experience of mobility, travel and transpassing where the aim is on materialising trajectories rather than destinations, and where the form of the work expresses a course, a wandering, rather than a fixed space-time. As Bourriaud has highlighted, globalisation and the proliferation of the digital has resulted in connections that are no longer 'amid', cannot be measured 'across', nor encompass a 'whole' system, which has generated an 'other' dimension -'alter-disciplinarity' . Moreover, the fragmentation of distinct disciplines has shifted creative practice from being 'discipline-based' to 'issue-or project-based' . This paper argues that the irresponsible candidate, who purposely blurs distinctions and has shifted methods from being 'discipline-based' to 'issue-or project-based', will be best placed to make connections that generate new methods and to identify 'other' dimensions of design research, activity and thought that is needed for the complex, interdependent issues we now face. I. INTRODUCTION (HEADING 1) Design as a behavioural phenomenon continues to increase both its level and remit. Since the 1950's design has been expanding continuously and now extends from the design of objects and spaces that we use on a daily basis to cities, landscapes, nations, cultures, bodies, genes, political systems, the way we produce food, to the way we travel, build cars and clone sheep . With accelerated design activity anticipated well into the 21 st century, it is clear that an increasing number of practitioners across a diverse range of
Contemporary design is typified by fluid, evolving patterns of practice that regularly traverse, transcend and transfigure historical disciplinary and conceptual boundaries. This mutability means that design research, education, and practice is constantly shifting, creating, contesting and negotiating new terrains of opportunities and re-shaping the boundaries of the discipline. This paper proposes that this is because globalisation and the proliferation of the digital has resulted in connections that are no longer “amid”, cannot be measured “across”, nor encompass a “whole” system, which has generated an “other” dimension (Bourriaud, 2009), an “alternative disciplinarity” - an “alterplinarity”. As the fragmentation of distinct disciplines has shifted creative practice from being “discipline-based” to “issue- or project-based” (Heppell, 2006), we present the argument that the researcher, who purposely blurs distinctions and has dumped methods from being “discipline-based” to “issue- or project-based”, will be best placed to make connections that generate new ways to identify “other” dimensions of design research, activity and thought that is needed for the complex, interdependent issues we now face. We present the case that reliance on the historic disciplines of design as the boundaries of our understanding has been superseded by a boundless space/time that we call “alterplinarity”. The digital has modified the models of design thought and action, and as a result research and practice should transform from a convention domesticated by the academy to a reaction to globalisation that is yet to be disciplined.
Modern design practice is a fluid, conceptual and discipline-breaking activity. This unpredictable creative practice regularly traverses, transcends and transfigures conventional disciplinary and conceptual boundaries. As the fragmentation of distinct disciplines has shifted creative practice from being “discipline-based” to “issue- or project-based,” we present the argument that the undisciplined and irresponsible researcher/practitioner, who purposely blurs distinctions and has exchanged “discipline-based” methods for “issue- or project-based” ones, will be best placed to make connections that generate new ways to identify “other” dimensions of design activity and thought that are needed for the complex, interdependent issues we now face. We present the case that reliance on the exhausted historic disciplines as the boundaries of our understanding has been superseded by a boundless space/time that we call “alterplinarity.” The digital has modified the models of design thought and action, and as a result research and practice should transform from a convention domesticated by the academy to a reaction to globalization that is undisciplined.
In their previous work, the authors have demonstrated that the discipline of design has been superseded by a condition where conventionally set design disciplines have dissolved. In this age where design is typified by fluid, evolving patterns of practice that regularly traverse, transcend and transfigure historical disciplinary and conceptual boundaries, the authors have argued that globalization and the proliferation of the digital has resulted in connections that are no longer ‘amid,’ cannot be measured ‘across,’ nor encompass a ‘whole’ system. In short, this ‘disciplinary turn’ has generated an ‘other’ dimension—an alternative disciplinarity. Moreover, this reliance on the ‘exhausted’ historic disciplines has become obsolete as the boundaries of our understanding have been superseded by a boundless space / time that we call ‘alter-plinarity.’ The fragmentation of distinct disciplines has shifted creative practice from being ‘discipline-based’ to ‘issue- or project-based.’ Consequently, this paper presents a manifesto for the future design discipline that emphasizes disposing carefully of what you know, teaching what you do not know whilst always taking design seriously, protecting us from what we want, objecting to sustaining everything, designing without reproach, ensuring that objects are invisible but designed with care and within history whilst exploring design as an idea rather than an ideal.
In 2001, Hal Foster wrote his paper ‘The ABCs of Contemporary Design*’ (Foster, 2002a) as a supplement (part glossary, part guide) to his book Design and Crime (and Other Diatribes) (Foster, 2002b). Foster’s ABCs paper paints design as being a near-perfect circuit of production and consumption. Foster claims that critical reflection is outdated, which means design is a consumption- based system and as such design’s role is largely to feed capitalism, let it flourish, and meet the demands of the masses. Over a decade on from Foster’s critical analysis of design, however, it appears that design is in the middle of yet another series of crises (Bremner and Rodgers, 2013) ranging from disciplinary challenges where the profession of design appears to be struggling with its identity, to epistemological and conceptual challenges where the zeitgeist of design thinking and the widespread democratization of the discipline would have us believe that ‘we are all designers’, and where the remit of design is expanding into ever more far flung areas that cover communications, services, interactions and strategies. It seems timely and fitting, therefore, that we need a new examination of the contemporary world of design. This assessment of contemporary design is apposite given that we currently inhabit a world that we have all combined to create that is seriously unprepared to deal with the mounting crises we face. Collectively, we are destroying some of the most important features of society that we claim to hold most dear (i.e. our planet, our society, and our spirit). Our ecological crisis, wherein we continue to deplete and degrade our natural capital on a massive scale, using up the equivalent of 1.5 planets to meet our current consumption has resulted in one third of our agricultural land disappearing over the last 40 years, which will inevitably lead to food supply crises and an anticipated doubling of food prices by 2030 (Emmott, 2013). Our present social crisis sees nearly 2.5 billion people on our planet living in abject poverty (UNHDR, 2007). There have been many successes at lifting people out of poverty, but this figure has not changed much over the past few decades (Therborn, 2012). Furthermore, the world is currently in a spiritual crisis where, according to World Health Organization (WHO, 2002) statistics, three times as many people die from suicide as die from homicide or in wars. These global dimensions are collectively creating results that nobody wants and may well constitute the most significant failure of our time. Building on Foster’s ABC template, the authors present a new critical insight from A to Z into the current design situation where issues of professionalism in design, the global financial meltdown, and the rapid adoption of digital technologies have all modified the models of design thought and action. We suggest readers see this paper as a development of Foster’s original supplement.
This book provides the reader with a comprehensive, relevant, and visually rich insight into the world of research methods specifically aimed at product designers. It includes practical case studies and tutorials that will inform, inspire and help you to conduct product design research better. Product designers need a comprehensive understanding of research methods as their day-to-day work routinely involves them observing people, asking questions, searching for information, making and testing ideas, and ultimately generating 'solutions' to 'problems'. Manifest in the design process is the act of research. Huge technological advances in information, computing and manufacturing processes also offer enormous opportunities to product designers such as the development of 'intelligent' products and services, but at the same time raise important research questions that need to be dealt with. Product designers are, in many ways, best placed to address these challenges because of the manner in which they apply their design thinking to problems. This book demonstrates in a clear, highly visual and structured fashion how research methods can support product designers and help them address the very real issues the world currently faces in the 21st century.