Themes & Tensions

Theme 1: Design Education

On learning to become a designer.

Living Tensions:

  • Design Thinking – cognitive modes and learning styles
  • Problem Solving – recognition procedures, hypothesis development, reasoning processes, solution testing
  • Residues – learning from our historical and contemporary design experiences
  • Innovation and Creativity – meanings in theory and practice
  • Cases – empirical studies of design practices
  • Professional Stances – acquiring the designer’s skills, capacities and attitudes
  • Methods of Observation – frames of interpretation and criteria for assessment of design
  • High and Low Theory – the everyday and theorizing the empirical
  • Conceiving Design – complexity, heterogeneity and holism
  • Design Pedagogies – teaching and learning in the design professions
  • Educational Designs –teacher as instructional designer
  • Points of Comparison – precedent, analogy and metaphor in the design process

Theme 2: Design in Society

On the social sources of design and the social effects of design.

Living Tensions

  • Design in Social Policy – planning and politics
  • Health and Safety – public welfare in design practice
  • Design as Business – Markets for design and designing for markets
  • Human Systems and Cultural Processes – globalization and the design professions
  • Design Without Designers – everyday, amateur, organic and living designs
  • Design for Diversity – culture, gender, and sexual orientation
  • Design Politics – making technologies, spaces and institutions more responsive to human needs
  • The ends of Design – pragmatic, aesthetic, and emancipatory
  • The Humanistic and Technological –tensions and synergies
  • Values, Culture and Knowledge Systems – the role of perspective, subjectivity, and identity
  • Cross-cultural Encounters – working on diverse and global design teams
  • Niche Markets – working with diverse clients and users

Theme 3: Designed Objects

On the nature and form of the objects of design.

Living Tensions

  • People and Artifacts – exploring uses and usability
  • Design Narratives – stories and sense making in the design process
  • Cultural Studies – difference, diversity, and multiculturalism in design
  • Embodied and Disembodied – ethnographies of design
  • Material and Immaterial – mediating ideas and materials
  • Function and From – the politics of Industrial design
  • Sociology of Design – decorative arts, folk movements, and communities of practice
  • Science and Technology in Design – critical analysis of techno-determinism
  • Media Ecologies and Object Orientation – designed artifacts and processes as learning experiences
  • Co-designed Process and Objects – designing with users and communities
  • Close to Customers – design as dialogue
  • Universal Design and Access – measuring participatory design systems

Theme 4: Visual Design

On representation using mediums of the visual communication.

Living Tensions

  • Media and Mediation – singular and universal visual grammars
  • Viewpoint, Perspective, Interest – designer as agent or advocate
  • Negotiating Authenticity and Authority – power of continuity and change
  • Forms for Communicating Design – photography, film, animation, graphic design, and typography
  • New Media and Digital Aesthetics – the evolving avant-garde
  • Modeling and Representation – graphic, symbolic, logical, and mathematical
  • Synesthesia or Crossing Representational Modes – language, image, space, and medium
  • Fine Arts – illustration, photography, film and video
  • Visual Economies – advertising, marketing and logos
  • Information Systems and Architectures – interface design, digital, software, and social media design
  • Public and Professional Understandings – the role of the designer as communicator
  • Copyright, Patents, and Intellectual Property – proprietary and the commons, commercial and in the public domain

Theme 5: Design Management and Professional Practice

On the organization of design, design work, and design as a professional practice.

Living Tensions:

  • Designing Design – from conceptualization to specification
  • Common Knowledges – sharing insights, research, theories, and designs in communities of practice
  • Multidisciplinary and Cross-Professional – approaches to design
  • Professionalism and its Trajectories – narrowing specialisms and/or multiskilling
  • Working with Research – design practitioners as researchers or users of research
  • Business of Speed – the economics and pragmatics of rapid delivery and design alongside construction
  • Logics of Collaboration – interactivity, responsiveness, and reflexivity in communities of practice
  • Democratization of Design and Public Accountability – consultation and consensus building
  • Evolutionary Design – collaborations over time
  • Expertise as facilitation – designers who know what they might not know
  • Designing Projects – planning, management, and project afterlife
  • User-Centered or Client-Centered Project Management - the changing role of the designer as advocate

Theme 6: Architectonic, Spatial, and Environmental Design

On constructing spaces, environments, and sustainable design practices.

Living Tensions:

  • Common Spaces – ecological footprints, atmospheres, biospheres, eco-spheres
  • Life Cycles – designing products and services for the longer term
  • Relations of human and Ecological Value – static or dynamic
  • Standards and Regulations – implicit, explicit and social certifications
  • Planning the Urban – cross-disciplinary perspectives on cities of the future
  • Nature Designed – parks, wilderness, and elementary ecologies
  • Understanding Human Impacts – natural resource use and environmental footprints
  • On Sustainability and Eco-Design – design in an environmental, economic, social, and cultural setting
  • Interdisciplinary Ecological Practices – working with scientists, social scientists, and economists
  • Scenario Planning – designing for alternative futures
  • Making and Breaking Codes – regulation in the design industries
  • Documenting Sustainable Design Process – methodologies, heuristics, and routines