Diagrammatic Sketching

The WonderLab research space has helped me see some of the tacit methods I employ. Using diagrammatic sketching is a method I use to help me interpret what others are saying. It also creates space to visualise the unimagined and generate understanding. Visualising the invisible provides clarity and structure and prepares a path for me to move forward. For example, I’ll often visualise the shape of a page and then generate the words to match the shape. Or on a micro level drawing the shape of a word might help me to remember how it is spelt.

Action and contemplation

Attending to a task can be done through a combination of conscious and unconscious activities. Consciously, would be the deliberate act of drawing, reading or writing as a way of directly attending to the brief, and unconsciously would be the contemplation that occurs whilst carrying out everyday activities such as walking, listening to music etc. As I become more confident with my practice I am able to use unconscious methods more deliberately. This approach may seem haphazard but there is an informal structure that lies beneath e.g., it begins with divergent thinking and experimentation and as the deadline nears convergent thinking takes the lead.

Mental preparation and organisational strategies

Like any designer we bring ‘certain organising principles to a problem from the outset’, and for me, this involves mental preparation. (Cross p.21, 2011). In the case of preparing for DRaW I create a multipage blank template — perhaps this is akin to an artist preparing a canvas. Populating the template with content is how I build my understanding and form the narrative. Initially, there is no clear order to the content and ideas. I aim to work sequentially, but this rarely transpires. Typically there is no clear beginning, middle or end, just ideas that will later be reordered, removed or manipulated. The story is formed through the practice. Similar to sketching constructing the presentation is a means ‘of imaging, imagining or discovering something that cannot be constructed in the mind alone’. (Cross, 2011).

Invitation to speak at Draw #5 on Creative Research Methods

The task to speak about creative research methods for Design Research and Writing (DRaW #5) at Monash University, required me to understand the methods I employ and articulate them to an audience. Preparation for the session enabled me to develop a deeper understanding of my practice through practice. Composing a visual narrative in the form of a presentation was a way to transform my implicit understanding of creative research methods into explicit knowledge. Visualising the intangible, articulating my thoughts and facilitated discussion post presentation all served to affirm that the mixed method approach I employ is a creative research method.

It was suggested that I present something I’d previously shown called Blind Spot. However, I choose not to represent this narrative as it didn’t explicitly address the session theme. In this case of DRaW #5 the main requirements were;

– focus on Creative Research Methods
– discuss your experience with the topic for approximately 10 minutes
– respond to questions and participate in an expanded discussion lead by the moderator
Note: It doesn’t specify a slideshow presentation is required.

From the onset, the task to speak at DRaW may appear relatively straight forward, e.g., prepare a visual narrative and articulate this to the audience. This approach takes for granted knowledge acquired from seeing examples from previously attending DRaW, and it also assumes that the slideshow framework is appropriate and relevant.

Questioning is how I respond to any brief — I use this approach to acknowledge the defined and the ambiguous, and ultimately it helps add breadth and depth to the task.

Searching for the unspecified

Producing the unexpected is the designer’s task according to many. We are asked to reach beyond the brief and develop innovative solutions. There are some strategies designers may employ to do this. An approach I use in my design practice is to review the task and look for what isn’t specified or the potential loop-holes. Briefs can be restrictive spaces, and this technique helps me establish an open mindset that can focus on possibilities rather than limitations. Seeking to find, understand and exploit the unspecified is often dependent on one’s original mindset. The surrounding conditions together with the right mindset means the clearly defined or ambiguous can generate impetus for questioning, exploration and experimentation. Using this strategy is by no means the magic bullet to developing innovative solutions, but it highlights what may be overlooked, provides greater clarity and motivates me personally — so in that sense it’s a win.

Defining Design

I am part of the WonderLab PhD cohort which is researching Design and Learning. You would assume as a collective we would have a common understanding of what is Design means, however, in reality, every person holds a nuanced view of what it encompasses and what it excludes. Could this be a call for each researcher to articulate what they mean by Design in the context of their research? Or, as a cohort do we establish what the term Design means in the context of WonderLab?

How do we form this common understanding?

Defining Design

How do we communicate the value and meaning of the design discipline when it literally has hundreds of branches? Do we need to be pedantic and specify what we mean by Design in each instance it’s cited?

Balance as Bias

The reading Balance as bias: global warming and the US prestige press set by James Oliver in Research Methods 2, prompts one to consider how knowledge is formed (ontology, epistemology, methodology, methods), and consider potential pitfalls with how it’s disseminated.

The contribution we make to knowledge is paramount to a career in research, and the value of this contribution is typically determined by that which is written. What, by who, where and the final form that matters. It is knowledge cemented by words which are valued most in the research space — this is how we measure contribution — a single action — the act of putting something into words.

What if we encouraged a balanced approach to how knowledge is created and disseminated? What if we valued a multiplicity of expressions and gave preference to subordinate ways of knowing and understanding? What happens with the knowledge that is shown, performed and experienced, and how can new ways be recorded, disseminated and ultimately considered permanent contributions to knowledge.

Attending to the pitfalls raised by the article, we may need to privilege other ways of knowing. Subordinate ways of knowing may need to rise with conviction and confidence — demand attention — and in cases overshadow the status quo.

Through process how can we develop a better understanding of design and forge new pathways? How can we let the path unfold? By looking at, in and through design, a new understanding might be generated. The research aims to strengthen designerly ways of knowing through design. The design practice drives the research, and the research drives the design practice.

Therefore, submitting a written thesis would sit contrary to the research itself. Writing will be a star within the research but ultimately a star sitting within a constellation.


ENDNOTES

Boykoff, Maxwell T. and Jules M. Boykoff. “Balance as Bias: Global Warming and the Us Prestige Press.” Global Environmental Change 14, no. 2 (2004): 125-36. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2003.10.001.

What is Design?

To an extent, everyone designs just as they do maths, however, knowing how to count coins doesn’t make you a mathematician. A simplistic definition of Design is ‘a plan or sketch to show the look and workings of an object’ before it is made or executed. In reality, Design is far more complex.

Design goes with lots of words.

Design Strategist — Design Manager — Experience Design — Design Thinker — Design Maker — Design Expert — Spatial Design — Co-Design — Design Hack — Industrial Design — Stage Design — Design Novice — Communication Design

So, what is Design?

Design is more than a plan, process, or object.

Design is always emerging.

Uncharted Spaces 2

UNKNOWN — Unpublished — Undocumented — Undisciplined

I am at the beginning of my research journey. The slate is clean. I have no published journal articles and not a solo exhibition to my name. As a designer, my position is valid.

I’m presented with both the challenge to explore the unfamiliar and an opportunity to grow.

I decide to tread slowly, as design appears to generate its own energy — it seems to either lure designers back to practice or propel one into research only vaguely linked to design. I don’t want to get caught in the rip or be swept to a place outside of design — I wish to stay grounded and strengthen my understanding what is already here, yet undiscovered.