02 December 2006

Challenges for Design Research

Professionally our methods of transmitting and reviewing the results of research are generations old and by now are totally inadequate for their purpose. If the aggregate time spent in writing scholarly works and in reading them could be evaluated, the ratio between these amounts of time might well be startling. Those who conscientiously attempt to keep abreast of current thought, even in restricted fields, by close and continuous reading might well shy away from an examination calculated to show how much of the previous month's efforts could be produced on call. Mendel's concept of the laws of genetics was lost to the world for a generation because his publication did not reach the few who were capable of grasping and extending it; and this sort of catastrophe is undoubtedly being repeated all about us, as truly significant attainments become lost in the mass of the inconsequential.

The difficulty seems to be, not so much that we publish unduly in view of the extent and variety of present day interests, but rather that publication has been extended far beyond our present ability to make real use of the record. The summation of human experience is being expanded at a prodigious rate, and the means we use for threading through the consequent maze to the momentarily important item is the same as was used in the days of square-rigged ships.

But there are signs of a change as new and powerful instrumentalities come into use...

Vannevar Bush, As we May Think (1945)

As We May Think

22 November 2006

gatescherrywolmark web site

"...as the boundries between practices and processes begin to break down, the work increasingly finds itself in an unfamiliar 'elsewhere' a 'placeless place' that is appropriately hybrid, plural and impure..."


20 November 2006

San Francisco Art Institute

An interdisciplinary and transnational approach to education in art and culture, students at SFAI are taught based on the fundamental understanding that the contexts in which we live, create, and work are intrinsically global and therefore inextricably linked.


Minds, Bodies, Machines

Call for Papers: Minds, Bodies, Machines

This interdisciplinary conference, convened by Birkbeck’s Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies, University of London, in partnership with the Department of English, University of Melbourne, and software developers Constraint Technologies International (CTI), will take place on 6-7 July 2007 at Birkbeck College, Malet Street, Bloomsbury.

The two-day conference will explore the relationship between minds, bodies and machines in the long nineteenth century. Recent research on the Enlightenment’s frontier technologies has established that era’s preoccupation with developing machinery that could simulate the cognitive and physiological processes of human beings. According to some critics, however, these Promethean ambitions were shelved during the nineteenth century, when the android as artefact was relocated to the realm of the imagination, where it became a threatening figure. According to this reading, the android as scientific project and a figure of possibility only re-emerges in our own era. The aim of this conference is to test this claim by exploring the continuities and discontinuities in the imagining of the human/machine interface in the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries.

The conference organisers – Hilary Fraser (Birkbeck), Deirdre Coleman (Melbourne) and Paul Hyland (CTI) – invite proposals for papers that examine the intersection of minds, bodies and machines during the long nineteenth century. Topics include: the virtual and the real; technologies of the sublime; evolution and machines; techniques of communication; technologies of travel; medical technology; miniaturisation; self-reproduction; and spiritualism.

The conference programme will include plenary addresses, seminars and workshops. Confirmed speakers include: Dr Caroline Arscott, Professor Jay Clayton, Professor Steven Connor, Professor Iain McCalman, Professor Peter Otto, Professor Kevin Warwick and Dr Elizabeth Wilson.

A selection of papers arising from this conference will be published in the online journal 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century.

Abstracts for papers of 20 minutes, as well as details of expected audio-visual needs, should be submitted no later than 28 FEBRUARY 2007. Please send proposals by email to submissions@mindsbodiesmachines.org.


07 November 2006

Design Inquiries

Nordic Design Research (NORDES) Call For Papers!
Deadline for submissions: 1 February 2007

Design Inquiries

How can we understand the impact of design for people, companies and society?
How can we provide design practice with appropriate and inspiring knowledge?
How can we use critical design thinking to create new possibilities for the future?

The Nordic Design Research Conference 2007, Design Inquiries, invites contributions that present new critical, empirical and constructive knowledge about design processes and artefacts in use.

Design is understood as a family of practices creating new products, systems and environments. The family resemblance is based on the skilful handling of complex demands, restrictions and technologies to fit different cultural contexts by use of intuitive and heuristic methods as stepping-stones to innovative solutions.

The conference welcomes contributions from different kinds of inquiries as both papers and project presentations. The range includes, but is not restricted to:

Inquiries about Design - studies of design processes, artefacts and design as phenomena utilizing theories and methods from disciplines such as Sociology, History, Philosophy and Management.
Inquiries for Design - studies from within design for a more profound theoretical understanding of the processes, a better integration of different kinds of knowledge, more sophisticated evaluation methods and improved artistic means.
Inquiries by Design - studies that use design thinking and critical and creative methods to explore and develop potentials and possibilities in real-life situations to enhance considerations about the future.

Design Inquiries

30 May 2006

“Criticality” and Its Discontents


Today “criticality” is under attack, seen by its critics as obsolete, as irrelevant, and/or as inhibiting design creativity. What is more, the criticisms that are increasingly frequently being made come from an interesting diversity of sources. To start to make sense of this emergent situation, we might try to locate the beginnings of the evident shift of opinion against this once-so-dominant theoretical discourse in architecture. One interesting precursor of current comment was an outburst by Rem Koolhaas at one of the series of conferences organized by ANY magazine, this one at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in 1994: “The problem with the prevailing discourse of architectural criticism,” complained Koolhaas, “is [the] inability to recognize there is in the deepest motivations of architecture something that cannot be critical.”(2) But if Koolhaas' complaint was a harbinger of things to come, probably the first frontal challenge to criticality was a text published by Michael Speaks, the Director of Graduate Studies at Southern California Institute of Architecture, in the American magazine Architectural Record in 2002.(3) In a startlingly revisionist text, Speaks explicitly abandoned the “resistance” that he had learned from his own teacher, Fredric Jameson, in favor of a model of a new, alternative, and efficaciously integrated architecture that would take its cues from contemporary business management practices.

from “Criticality” and Its Discontents by George Baird

Available here.

In Chicago, Leonardo the Inventor and Decoder

Thanks to Ron Jones for this (from the New York Times):

There are no albinos with red eyes and bleeding thighs stalking the galleries of the Museum of Science and Industry here. There are also no dead curators sprawled naked on the floor with pentagrams drawn on their chests in blood and scrambled Fibonacci series scrawled at their sides. But there is a "cryptex" on display: perhaps the only one ever constructed. It is a prop from the leaden movie of Dan Brown's best-selling roller-coaster ride "The Da Vinci Code": spell the right word on its dials (if you could only get at them), and the Holy Grail is yours.


23 May 2006

Winterhouse Writing Awards for Design Writing & Criticism

AIGA Call For Entries
Deadline: June 30, 2006

Winterhouse Writing Awards for Design Writing & Criticism
The Winterhouse Writing Awards seek to increase the understanding and appreciation of design, both within the profession and throughout American life. A program of AIGA, these annual awards have been funded by William Drenttel and Jessica Helfand of the Winterhouse Institute to recognize excellence in design writing and to encourage the development of new voices in design writing, commentary and criticism.

The awards will be given for writing that demonstrates the greatest evidence of eloquence, analysis, perspective, insight and original thinking with regard to furthering a public understanding of design in contemporary culture. Writing that supports the visual expression of a design program or argument is also eligible. Submissions may address any design discipline or form, including, but not limited to, architectural, environmental, fashion, graphic, industrial, informational, interactive, product and strategic. This year’s jury includes Kurt Andersen, Jessica Helfand and Julie Lasky.

This awards program is part of a larger AIGA initiative to stimulate new levels of design awareness and critical thinking about design. The 2006 awards will be presented at the AIGA Design Legends Gala on October 25, 2006 in New York City.

A writing award of $5,000, for a body of work by a writer under the age of 40, is open to critics, designers, educators, historians, journalists and scholars.

An education award of $1,000 is open to design students (undergraduate or graduate) whose use of writing demonstrates extraordinary originality and promise.

Writing Awards

Winterhouse Studio/Design Observer

Thanks to Laurie Haycock Makela for this:

Design Observer

is the leading design weblog online. It provides a forum for discussions and critical writing about design and visual culture.



Nordic network for research on communicative product design:

Nordcode network gathers together active researchers and doctoral students who work on:

- the communicative aspects of artifacts,
- aesthetic qualities of physical products and objects, and
- design processes related to the above.

The network aims to support research based on theoretical approaches and developments within specific fields of design. These include areas such as design semiotics/semantics, form design, design syntactics, design aesthetics, design research methodology, design processes, tools and methods, identity aspects of product form, form perception, form experience and pleasure, cultural signification of design, and points of contact with visual arts.


10 May 2006

Diaries and Fieldnotes in the Research Process

It is common to hear people talk about 'writing up' research. Implicit in the phrase is the sense that writing is a stage that occurs principally when the research has finished and is a straightforward process of telling what was done and what conclusions can be drawn. However, the process of research involves many forms of writing, from letter writing and minute taking to academic papers and formal research reports.

The aim of this issue is to consider one form of research writing that has received relatively little attention, yet which is central to the research process, especially, but not exclusively, for those conducting qualitative or action research studies - the research diary. Research diaries are considered as part of a broad category alongside other methods of recording such as research logs and fieldnotes. Particular approaches to notetaking, the use of visual material in diary record keeping, as well as practical issues are discussed.

This issue also contains extracts from three separate research projects. The examples are not intended to be prescriptive, they are simply offered as working examples of research diaries from actual research projects.

Darren Newbury

Research Issues in Art, Design and Media

Michael Biggs, "The Rhetoric of Research"

in: Durling D. & Shackleton J.(Eds.) Common Ground Proceedings of the Design Research Society International Conference at Brunel University, 111-118. Stoke-on Trent, UK: Staffordshire University Press, 2002.
ISBN 1-904133-11-8111-118

Online version.

09 May 2006

Working Papers in Art and Design Research

volume 3 the role of the artefact in art & design research

volume 2 the concept of knowledge in art & design

volume 1 the foundations of practice based research


Centre for Research into Practice

Recommended. The Centre aims to bring together practitioners, theorists, historians, critics, etc., who share its subject domains. Those domains are:

Fine Art
Digital Media
Arts Therapies

Centre for Research into Practice

Royal College of Arts Research Methods

Recommended Reading

Designing and Managing a Research Project

Although there is a plethora of literature on research, not enough of it is specifically geared to the needs of higher degree students in art and design. In many instances research literature borrowed from other disciplines will prove appropriate to the particular project in hand (though of course it may not). For example, the commitment of art and design students to practical activity needs to be catered for by research training. A practice-based PhD necessitates a different approach to research, and a greater receptiveness to art and design specific research outcomes. Additionally, if the field of art and design is to develop its own distinctive intellectual coherence, then a reflection upon methodology is essential.

Research guide published by the Research Training Initiative (UK, 1996).