Call for submissions – Praxis and Poetics Research Through Design 2013 Conference

February 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

We are excited to invite submissions for the first International bi-annual Praxis and Poetics: Research Through Design conference, hosted by Northumbria University at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, 3rd – 5th September 2013. The conference is based around a curated exhibition of design research, accompanied by a maximum of a 4-page paper for each submission.

The first Research Through Design conference aims to explore multi-textural opportunities for presenting and discussing non discipline specific research through design and resists the temptation to adopt a traditional format for both paper submission and presentation in favour of an exhibition of design research accompanied by roundtable presentations and discussions in ‘rooms of interest’. The exhibition will be used as a platform to present and express outcomes of research, demonstrate examples of research enquiries and generate debate about the role of making in design research.
The conference of theme of Praxis and Poetics represents the different modes and approaches to practice as well as a larger ethos around content related to poetics, beauty and grace.

Abstract submission deadline: March 25th, 2013. All submissions will be double peer reviewed and the exhibition will be curated. You can find out more about the set up and process of RTD at

RTD will be run alongside the Design of Pleasurable Products and Interfaces (DPPI) 2013 conference. The full conference website will be up and running in a couple of weeks and will be publicised soon.

For general conference enquiries please email


Exploring Research through Design practice – symposium roundup

April 18, 2012 § 2 Comments

I think its safe to say that the 1 day symposium focused on bringing together different view points on practice-based design research was well received and got participants talking/discussing/disagreeing/agreeing throughout the day. There is a storify page of the day. My quick reflections and thoughts of each speaker are listed below.

Session 1: Models of Design Research
The different purposes of design research – Dr. Daniel Fallman

Associate professor in the Department of Informatics at Umea University and Studio Director of Interactive Institute Umeå

Daniel introduced his triangular model of interaction design research that has evolved at the Umeå Institute of Design in recent years, and has been guiding their interaction design research efforts and their Ph.D. education. The key points I took away were:

  • The 3 areas (Design Practice, Explorative Design & Design Studies) are not mutually exclusive. They are facets of a design research project. A design researcher can only put on 1 hat on at a time, when they are designing for a client, they are placed firmly in the Design Practice triangle. When they choose to reflect and perhaps derive knowledge from the project, they metaphorically put on the ‘Design Studies’ hat.
  • You can’t put on all 3 hats at the same time.
  • It is a working model, not a framework model. Used to understand and reflect, not a static theory of design research.
  • Model used with Masters students and PhD students but not introduced at UG.
  • Useful tool to bridge the gap between UG (lacking research skills and have limited interest in theory) and Postgrad.


Towards a Critical Engagement with the Possible – Dr. Thomas Binder
Associate Professor, The Danish Design School

Thomas’s central question is how do we construct knowledge in design, how can we be knowledgeable? He spoke about the importance of craftsmanship and the value of experiments in a design process.  Thomas argues strongly for the recognition that knowledge resides in a design outcome. Thomas referred to Stuart Bailey’s paper (2008) discussing the purpose of design schools. Bailey proposes that there are 3 historical models of design schools. I have placed each model with the what, how and why of design, based on what I have interpreted from Thomas’s talk.

The ‘what’ of design – Academy tradition (before the Bauhaus): Talent, Techniques & Imitation
The ‘how’ of design – Bauhaus school: Creativity, Media & Invention
The ‘why’ of design – Contemporary school: Attitude, Practice & Deconstruction

The key points I took away were:

  • As design educators, we must help students formulate a world view which calls for engagement and a certain reflective approach
  • Design as way of inquiry is a way of knowing the world
  • Designer use many methods, but relatively few methodologies (through the XLab project where 3 PhD studies were examined)
  • Experiments are at the heart of design research
  • In design research, we engage without necessary providing solutions
  • Design as a means as well as an object


Session 2: The Roles of Practice in Design Research
Doing design as a part of doing researchProfessor Pieter Jan Staapers

Professor of Design Techniques, Delft University of Technology

Pieter started off by firstly defining what he means by design research in order to avoid any confusion. He define it as ‘research using design skills’. He uses Horváth’s description of different types of research (see diagram below, courtesy of PJ Staapers), in which he differentiates between design-inclusive research (testing hypothesis with prototypes) with research through design (developing prototypes as exploration).

The value of research can be answer by asking these 3 question:

  • What new knowledge is generated (scientific value)
  • How can we do things better (engineering/design value)
  • Why should this be done (societal benefit)

The key points I took away:

  • Theory, technology, and practice go hand in hand
  • Prototypes have many values (especially when using them to explore possibilities)
  • Design research have to integrate many areas
  • Sometimes generalised insights can lead to spinoff ideas


Handmade Knowledge: the new challenge for craft research Professor Mike Press
Programme Director, Design & Craft, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, Dundee University

Illustration of Mike’s talk by Malcolm Jones

Mike introduces himself as a having a somewhat schizophrenic career and interest, spanning craft, design and crime to design management. He laments the fact that although the UK’s RAE (Research Assessment Exercise) in the past have valued design management type of publication, he feels that it is craft knowledge and research that has actually made more of an impact to society. He argues for the recognition of handmade knowledge, not knowledge about crafting objects but about crafting knowledge. He showed examples of work where researchers from a craft background have applied their knowledge and expertise into other domains (generally using technology) that are illustrating what he calls a ‘quiet revolution’ in raising the profile of craft research. His examples include Gordan Burnett, Drummond Masterson, Justin Marshall, Professor Jane Harris, Professor Elaine Sherritt, Hazel White and our very own Dr Jayne Wallace.

Key points I took away:

  • Design researchers need to value what they do and not just aim to be a ‘bad social scientist’
  • Craft stories have value, we just need to know how to tell it in a straightforward manner
  • The role of craft knowledge is often ignored in the scientific stories of discovery
  • We need to teach and encourage designers of the future to act as sociable expert rather than become an anti-social expert (referring to Sennet’s The Craftsman)

On Craft and Being Crafty: Human Behaviour as the Object of Design. Ben Singleton

March 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

After a few weeks hiatus, our practice-based design lectures are back on track. We had Ben Singleton (@benedict), a Northumbria University PhD candidate to talk about his research on being ‘crafty‘. He offers a thought-provoking alternate (and forgotten) account of designing with people. He brings in the concept of ‘metis’ which in Greek means a quality that combined wisdom and cunning, linking this with original suspicions about design (and designers) and using these interlinking concepts to build an alternate argument to inform designing services with people. If this sounds very intriguing, his storify link is here. Image courtesy of Louise Taylor.

‘Exploring Research Through Design’ symposium registration now open

March 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

The ‘Exploring Research through Design’ one-day symposium is now open for registration. As places are limited, we would appreciate people signing up and registering their interest. To remind you of the fantastic line-up we have for the event, here are the speakers’s profile.

Objects, Environment and Meaning: Stuart Walker

March 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

It was another thought-provoking and insightful presentation by Professor Stuart Walker today. He spoke about practice-based research in relation to design for sustainability. Although notes on the presentation would not do it justice, we have a storify version kindly shared by Vicky Teinaki (@vickytnz). Stuart not only presented his interesting propositional design objects, he also presented his thesis on his quadruple bottom line (a reimagined triple bottom line) framework which helps us understand the origins and purpose of his propositional objects. More importantly for our design research community, he clearly articulated his research through design process. You can find out more about his work through his two books, ‘Sustainable by Design‘ and ‘Spirit of Design‘.

Daniella Petrelli & Atau Tanaka’s Storify link

March 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

We had our first external speakers contributing into our lecture series. Although it wasn’t planned, the theme of the day was ‘sound’. Dr Daniella Petrelli, an Interaction Design researcher from Sheffield Hallam University started us off the session by taking us through her recent project, ‘Sound and Memory’. While Professor Atau Tanaka, Chair of Digital Media at the Culture Lab in Newcastle University spoke about the role of Instruments, Performance & Participation in creative practice in research. We have compiled Louise Taylor’s (@sugaredeggs) tweets during their presentations in a storify page. Fuller description of their talk will follow soon.

Steve Gibson’s Storify Link

February 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

Steve Gibson showed us he can dance as well as create very immersive environments in his talk today! Nice moves Steve! We are a bit behind in our presentation write up…but hopefully we will be getting Jayne’s and Steve’s talk summarised next week. In the meantime, here is Vicky Teinaki’s (@vickytnz) tweets compiled in Storify for your perusal pleasure!

I love our talented PhD students – Malcolm Jones who is pursuing a PhD that focuses on making scenarios more worthwhile using ‘narrative modelling’ as a research approach has sketched out the ‘content’ of the talk. His sketch of Steve’s talk ‘Spatial and Physical Media’ is posted below.