University of Porto
School of Fine Arts
ere is a sense of vertigo permeating contemporary
culture as a whole, and design in particular. So much
so, that we often nd ourselves wondering if design as
we have known it still matters. Design seems to have
lost its universe of focus, branching exponentially into a
multitude of concerns and activities formerly situated well
beyond its scope. Likewise, design seems to be the new
interest of so many professionals situated outside its area
of expertise; not long ago it seemed like design was being
courted, and maybe even actively cultivating, a territorial
ambiguity that has kept its professionals worried, to say
the least. Design now speaks of street culture and cutting-
edge technology, museums and iPhone apps, just as it
has spoken of campaign posters, haute couture, heavy
industries, exercises in kitsch and typography.
is dissipation of a discernible territory of practice
could seem like a loss at rst, until we gradually came
to understand that Design is, after all and despite the
contextual noise, a deeply human activity, and, as such,
any circumscription of its potential would, in itself, be
an artice, an operational and transitory device; and that,
rather than being devalued by this apparent dilution of
its area of expert operation, Design suddenly has the
opportunity to expand and mature as far as its context,
content and purpose are concerned.
Note: Papers published in this conference proceedings are displayed
as submitted by the authors.
Helena Braga Barbosa, Vasco Afonso Branco, Nuno Coelho Dias, Gonçalo João
Gomes, Francisco Maria Providência
MA, Assistant; PhD, Associate Professor; PhD, Assistant Professor; Designer, Invited Assistant; Designer,
Invited Associate Professor; Researchers of the Institute for Design, Media and Culture [ID+] &
Communication and Art Department, University of Aveiro, Portugal.
This paper aims to present and debate a museological and museographic initiative in
the area of Portuguese Design. The project is not so much a museum as an
Interpretation Centre for Portuguese Design (ICPD), whose role will be to investigate
(gather, connect, study, classify, communicate and display) the extent of the heritage
of Portuguese artefacts, presently dispersed about the country and at risk of
disappearing into oblivion. We believe that an “reverse design” approach (a term that
has been coined through analogy with “reverse engineering”), involving retracing the
creative process from the object itself to the idea that gave rise to it, will enable us to
identify a particularly Portuguese identity for these artefacts, which will do justice to
its long history and the wealth of geographic and cultural influences that have
contributed to it.
Till now, little thought has been given to the matter of Portuguese design, and there
have been few systematic disciplinary surveys into the existence and history of
Portuguese artefacts. This deficiency is reflected by an apparent lack of public
interest in the subject, the incorrect use of the concept of design, and above all, by
the scanty attention paid to its culture on the part of industry and the State, with
devastating consequences for the international affirmation of its identity and obvious
obstacles to its future.
Our project is based on the following assumptions: (a) for the effective evaluation of
material culture, the operative vision of Design is required allowing the uniqueness of
that culture to be fully recognised; (b) the divulgation of this culture and its public
recognition brings economic benefits, and rises self esteem of that region; (c) the
construction of interactive narratives using information technology will transcend the
limitations (of both time and resources) imposed by the construction of a physical
collection, while simultaneously providing a space for shared critical debate.
The use of information technology to capture and reveal these artefacts, using a
dynamic and multifaceted form of representation open to new forms of interaction
(i.e. multi-touch devices, augmented reality), will encourage public intervention,
promoting the participation in the reconstitution of the meanings attached to the
experiential dimension of these artefacts.
This paper presents a strategic overview of our project, some related works, and
also describes a methodological approach that we have termed “reverse design”,
applied in a PhD research process into the four hundred year history of Portuguese
A preliminary response to a series of research questions that may be summed up
How to configure design research to add a new hermeneutic dimension – a design
perspective - to historical, anthropological and ethnographic perspectives
traditionally used in research about material culture?
2. Related works and a strategic vision
Since 2002 we found stimulating to ponder about the concept of a museum of
Portuguese Design from a Design perspective . The proposed models represent a
convergence of opinions of researchers, designers, and consultants with abundant
experience in the field of design operations/companies but never found bearers of the
idea whom were able to entirely implement it. Nevertheless gained a logical, political
and simultaneously guiding dimension of some routes of research in the area of
design at the University of Aveiro (UA).
Strategically we decided to develop research within related topics like Portuguese
Design History  and Design Theory . Cases studies were
launched whenever opportunities appeared at institutional level: a collector gave the
University of Aveiro 30,000 Portuguese posters and making them available on the
Web , suggested the need for a new approach for cataloguing those artefacts 
and their interpretation  motivated a Phd on Portuguese poster history ; a
study of Portuguese brands and products made by BA students became a exhibition
and workshop both at Aveiro and at RMIT (University of Melbourne, Australia) 
and research about Portuguese footwear (Sanjo) was shown at the Innovation Center,
Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, University of the Arts London as a
result of a on going PhD . Other applied research led to MSc dissertations: Porto
wine identity, motorcycle design, the brands of Portuguese main cities or the
symbolic and identitary permanence of Portuguese culture in contemporaneous
jewellery are some examples of those efforts. On researching about Virtual Museums
 the intent was to encourage changing from the initial utopia to an e-
topia, that is, strengthening initiatives towards building an immaterial museum on
If with Malraux , the imaginary museum gained a sentimental dimension,
builder of meaning, with the “freedom” of virtual worlds, one can go through a
voyage in time and space, building a network of reasoning. A novel concept of
museum which arises from the emergence of a society model which is characterised
by  multiplicity, acceleration of time, amplification/reduction of space,
individualization of paths, interactivity, privilege of the present and by a constant
changing in meaning production .
The Centre for Portuguese Design (CIDP) project will contribute to the advance
of knowledge in three main interrelated domains:
(1) Artefact interpretation based on a design perspective: we will focus in this theme
the next topic;
(2) Optimized interactive representation of artefacts: on-line design museums do not
generally seem to take maximum advantage of the representative and interactive
potential offered by computer technologies , instead, they are often limited to
providing historical data, information about authors/artists, and a picture of the
artefact in question. By using new interactive possibilities opened by the
development of augmented reality within the web  a stronger sensorial
experience will be enabled, closer to the real, with greater capacity to dynamically
articulate the correlative information with the logic of the physical use of an object.
Exploitation may be focused not only on the artefact itself but also on information
associated to it: texts, videos, CAD models, audio, images and hyperlinks. The
digital representations and interpretations for each artefact will have specific
treatment in order to motivate inferences about the reasons behind its design but also
the reasons behind its use and meanings within the time frame of its existence.
(3) Sharing of personal narratives about the artefacts: current Web technology
enables the public to participate in the development of artefact interpretations namely
through the construction of personal narratives and documents . This issue will
be fundamental to capture the way meanings are conveyed by products enabling
further understanding of their semantic dimension .
3. Artefact interpretation based on a design perspective: a “reverse design”
One of our main objectives is to develop “reverse design” which could be defined as
an analytical framework to decompose an artefact and understand the process that
led to its conception. This new hermeneutic dimension will be centred on the study
of the morphogenesis, motivation and opportunity of artefacts (products, devices and
services). It involves highlighting the semantic and abductive dimension of the
artefacts by, on the one hand, uncovering the series of decisions which led to a
particular solution, and on the other, demonstrating the proliferation of meanings
that the market promotes and its use provokes. This tool will depart from the
triangular design model (Fig.1) proposed by Francisco Providência (2003).
(Fig.1) Theoretical model developed by Providência at the University of Aveiro (Barbosa et. al, 2002).
This model provides a framework in which design space (or the solutions proposed
by it) is represented as a triangle, the vertices of which represent authorship (A),
technology (T) and brief (B). From this model we can deduce that design is a process
of meaning creation, involving an interpretation (authorship/syntax) of the various
constraints that derive, either, from the specifications given in the brief (semantics),
or from the technological possibilities available (pragmatics). Experience, culture
and attention to social signs that characterise a particular time and space all
contribute to this interpretation (Barbosa et. al, 2002).
Authorship presupposes innovation, valorization, uniqueness,
intention/willingness and identity, while technology is related to the means of
production and reproduction, and to issues such as standardization, regulation and
optimization. The brief involves desire, necessity and the specifications of the
artefact's characteristics and functions.
Four hundred years of history of Portuguese poster design
The applicability of this model, as an analytical tool, is currently being demonstrated
in a research project undertaken in the context of a doctorate into the history of the
Portuguese poster design between the 17th and 20th centuries (the first record of a
Portuguese poster in the National Library of Portugal (BNP) archive is from 1640).
This makes use of the two largest documental archives in Portugal: 1) the BNP,
which contains 18,941 (catalogued) posters; 2) the UA collection (about 30,000).
The main objective was the construction of a design narrative distinguishable from
other perspectives (the historical, sociological and anthropological) while
recognising that this is a contaminated narrative, as interdisciplinarity is also part of
the genetic code of design.
The research followed three main directions:
a) The history of the poster itself as an object has contributed to an understanding
of the artefact’s name, the boundaries of the term and the transformations that it
underwent over time, and led to a categorization of posters into historically
identifiable types, and to draft a new definition for the poster.
b) The history of Portuguese material culture offers an ecological framework for
understanding the poster evolution. That is to say, at any given moment, the posters
were correlated with the system of objects into which they belong, with political,
economic and sociocultural contexts and with the technological developments
influencing production and reproduction.
c) Analysing the poster through its visual rhetoric it was possible to perceive and
reveal the outlines of its poetic construction. The identification of moments of
formal “rupture” corresponded, methodologically, to a focus upon the relationship
between authorial dynamics, technologies and briefs, and the constraints that these
imposed (and impose) upon the designer's freedom; thus, the result at each moment
manifests the possible representation of the design concepts. We also recognise the
importance of studying the meanings the "uses" of these artefacts. Despite the fact
that this experiential aspect is lost in time, it may be partially recovered when it
emerges in other discourses (for example in pictorial or literary works, or in the
succession of definitions conserved in dictionaries). Any artefact, irrespective of its
period, will have also a 'use' for a professional or design scholar, which will always
be a valid source for the comprehension of the conceptual phenomenon.
Given the sheer size of the universe under study (something like 49,000 posters),
it was necessary to constitute and refine a representative sample of posters that
reflect the dynamics of poster evolution, avoiding a “heroic approach” mentioned by
It is important to point out that the bibliography consulted did not contain a single
reference to criteria that could be used for the selection of posters in a context such
as this. This was not a matter of applying an algorithm, but rather of filtering the
search to recognise visual arguments that support the analytical orientations
mentioned above: for example, the representation of text and image were taken into
account, as was the developing relationship between them.
The analysis of contents, enabled hypothesis about the original brief, and enabled
not only the division of the posters into categories and subcategories, but also the
identification of particular characteristics, which altered in different periods. We
sought to construct a sample that offered a representative spectrum of various
themes, distributed across the chronological period covered by this research, to
enable an understanding of the variations within subcategories and detect the
appearance of new ones. But we also tried to maintain items that revealed something
of the historical and sociocultural context in which they were produced, such as
design-related themes, relevant historical events and the divulgation of Portuguese
brands that became national icons.
One objective criterion adopted for this selection was the date of production, in
order to ensure that the sample contained a suitable spread across the chronological
period under study. The result of this first selection phase, in which these criteria
were applied to the poster collections in the BNP and UA, resulted in a sample of
3,706 posters, of which 2,080 belonged to the BNP and 1,626 to the UA. In a second
phase, this number was reduced by eliminating posters that were repeated in each
collection, those that were visually similar, and also that had no chronological
indication, resulting in a reduced total of 1,962 posters.
We thus attempted to define a ‘new territory’ of knowledge about the Portuguese
poster directly from the object, based upon the organization of the sample according
to two axis: one corresponding to time and the other corresponding to a
classification based on three brief typologies – the political, cultural and
Categorising posters in this way enabled the alignment of the posters along these
axis and permitted their contents to be classified, firstly, in accordance with social,
political and economic contexts, whose relationship clearly extends to the
production technologies used, and secondly, with relation to the way visual
discourse varies in accordance with genre. In organising the sample using the
triangular analytical model, the vertex ‘technology’ moves along the chronological
axis (reflecting technologic and contexts evolutions), the ‘brief’ vertex relate to the
classification of the posters by category (reflecting different purposes), and
‘authorship’ vertex reveal itself in each artefact through its visual rhetoric (Fig.2).
(Fig.2) Relation between the triangular model and the organization of the sample.
Then the posters were reproduced in miniature (2.5 cm X 3.5 cm) and placed on a
wall (Fig.3) in accordance with the axes described above.
1 Classifications used by Abraham Moles (2005) e Françoise Enel (1974).
(Fig.3) Detail of the wall of 1,962 posters miniatures.
The entire sample of 1,962 posters could now be viewed at once, provoking some
interesting intuitive interpretations. Ultimately, this was designed to function as a
visual tool to support the selection and commentaries of a series of specialists, who
were invited to give their opinion about the ‘posters’ displayed.
This operated as a kind of ‘peer-assessment’, and no criteria was suggested to
influence the selection. Each specialist had to select (Fig.4 Col.2) a set of posters,
for each category, covering the time span of the sample and justify each choice
individually. The commentaries, which were recorded with their permission, yielded
a wide range of qualitative assessments, reflecting each guest’s individual
experience, and also pertinent design issues evoked by each object.
These choices and arguments opened up a new perspective upon these artefacts,
not only through the analysis of representations but also the memories that these
posters evoked. This perspective emerged from the variation of the specialists
discourses, either focused on visual rhetoric (when the comments concerned posters
from the past) or mixing direct emotional experiences (when more recent posters
Thus, the sample was once more reduced, this time to a total of 240 posters (Fig.4
Col.5), as the specialists’ choices frequently coincided (185 out of 425 possible
choices). Indeed, the number of posters that were repeated in the specialists’
selection was around 37.29% of that group, with a temporal distribution as shown in
the table below (Fig.4 Col.7).
(Fig.4) Filtering the sample through specialists’ selection of posters.
These convergences reinforced the importance of including those posters in a new
sample, which offered an empirical and conceptual map of the field, displaying the
analytical and historical narrative that was unfolding. Fig.5 presents one case – the
political posters, showing simultaneously the number of specialists that select the
same poster and the distribution of arguments sustaining their choice. The
specialists' justifications were analysed and classified in accordance with the three
dimensions of the triangular model (A)(T)(B). The choices mostly focused upon
questions of regarding the visual discourse (authorship).
Ten. Alberto Baptista
Abel Manta (1975)
MFA, povo, povo
C.D.E: O voto do
(Fig.5) Specialists repeated selections and analysis of their arguments (A)(T)(B).
Thus, each of the chosen posters, at least by two or more specialists can act as a
reference for the Portuguese production of this type of artefacts. Their selection not
only distinguished them, but also allowed them to trace the history of the Portuguese
poster, according to practice and discourse of design.
The example presented, in the ambit of the history of the poster, reflects research of
a qualitative type, supported by a collection of iconographic and bibliographic
documents based upon a phenomenological approach in both the unstructured
perception and judgements by specialists about the posters consulted, and on
accounts of the history of design and of the Portuguese poster collected in semi-
structured interviews with Portuguese designers of acknowledged prestige.
This type of approach seems to be generalizable to any type of artefact, as the
triangular theoretical model enables to establish a inquiry framework that can be
answered either by the authors (designer, company, etc.) or by a panel of specialists
in the cases where this may not be possible.
The designers as authors are the operators in the practice of the triangular model,
but also the constructors of discourses about the artefacts they design. In analysing a
collection or cluster of artefacts, they effectively become “curators”, and at the
intersections of their narratives lie artefacts that display an authorial “surplus”, that
is to say, that reflect particularly significant moments in the history of design.
To achieve our objectives the research have to, on the one hand, improve our
approaches to artefact interpretation to reveal its «life»: from its desire to its use; to
reveal the process of its conception, development and, after entering the market, the
way people relates with it. On the other hand, the research team will need to
conceive, develop and test new strategies (a mix between new media and
conventional supports) towards a better understanding and visibility of Portuguese
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e European Academy of Design was formed in 1994, to improve
European-wide research collaboration and dissemination and to promote
the publication and dissemination of design research.
e Academy is headed by a committee of leading academics from
across Europe, as well as from North America and Australia.
To date, the Academy has hosted eight international conferences.
e last being hosted by e Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK.
e next being hosted by the University of Porto, Portugal, in association
with ID+, Institute of Research in Design Media and Culture.
Since 1997, e Design Journal had been published in association
with the European Academy of Design. is refereed journal, published
three times each year, provides a platform for the dissemination of design
thinking and research. It aims to encourage discussion across traditional
boundaries between practice and theory, and between disciplines dened
by working media, materials and areas of application.
e Academy also publishes the proceedings of its conferences.
Membership is open to all of those interested in design research,
whether academic, student or practitioner.
The European Academy of Design
e Executive Committee consists of academics from mainly European countries, as
well as several from outside of Europe. eir role is to steer the Academy and develop
future activities. e Committee has a full meeting at each conference and a sub
Committee meets quarterly to review progress and to programme conferences and other
activities. Members of the committee independently collaborate on other activities such
as workshops, held under the auspices of the European Academy of Design.
Heitor Alvelos: University of Porto, Portugal
Paul Atkinson: Sheeld Hallam University, UK
Tevk Balcioglu: Izmir University of Economics, Turkey
Brigitte Borja de Mozota: Parsons Paris School of Art and Design, France
Vasco Branco: Universidade de Aveiro, Portugal
Katie Bunnell: University College Falmouth, UK
Anna Calvera: Universitat de Barcelona, Spain
Leong Chan: e University of New South Wales, Australia
Rachel Cooper: Lancaster University, UK
Carlos Duarte: Instituto de Artes Visuais, Portugal
Josiena Gotzsch: GEM Grenoble Ecole de Management, France
Hans Kaspar Hugentobler: Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Switzerland
Tom Inns: University of Dundee, UK
Birgit Jevnaker: BI Norwegian Business School, Norway
Ulla Johansson: Goteborg University, Sweden
Wolfgang Jonas: Universitat Kassel, Deutschland
Toni-Matti Karjalainen: Aalto University, Finland
Pekka Korvenmaa: Aalto University, Finland
Tore Kristensen: Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Julian Malins: e Robert Gordon University, UK
Deana McDonagh: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
Emma Murphy: Graven Images, UK
Jacqueline Otten: Zurich University of the Arts, Switzerland
Silvia Pizzocaro: Politecnico di Milano, Italy
Mike Press: University of Dundee, UK
Lisbeth Svengren Holm: University of Borås, Sweden
Louise Valentine: University of Dundee, UK
Stuart Walker: Lancaster University, UK
Christopher Wilson: Izmir University of Economics, Turkey
Wendy Siuyi Wong: York University, Canada
John Wood: Goldsmiths University of London, UK
Andrew Wootton: University of Salford, UK
Artemis Yagou: AKTO Art & Design College, Greece
The EAD Executive Committee
Heitor Alvelos (Chair)
Susana Barreto (Co-chair)
Local Scientic Committee
Communication and Coordination
Ana Filomena Curralo
António Costa Valente
Local Organizing Committee