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).