2020 Special Focus - Advocacy in Design: Engagement, Commitment, and Action

We are inviting proposals for paper presentations, workshops/interactive sessions, virtual posters, or colloquia addressing one of the following themes:

Theme 1: Design Education

On learning to become a designer.

  • Design thinking: cognitive modes and learning styles
  • Design approaches, strategies, methodologies and tactics
  • Problem solving: recognition procedures, hypothesis development, reasoning processes, solution testing
  • The meaning of innovation and creativity, in theory and practice
  • Residues: learning from our historical and contemporary design experiences
  • 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
  • Grounding theory in the everyday and theorizing the empirical
  • Conceiving design: complexity, heterogeneity and holism
  • Design pedagogies: teaching and learning in the design professions
  • Science and technological system in design
  • Educational designs: teacher as instructional designer
  • Designed artifacts and processes as learning experiences
  • Design narratives: stories and sense making in the design process
  • Points of comparison: precedent, analogy and metaphor in the design process
  • Critical analysis in design evaluation
  • History of design
  • Instructional design

Theme 2: Design in Society

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

  • Design in social policy, planning and politics
  • Health, safety and public welfare in design practice
  • Design as business
  • Markets for design and designing for markets
  • Design as a factor of production, an economic force: valuing ‘intangibles’
  • The design of human systems and cultural processes
  • Design without designers: everyday, amateur, organic and living designs
  • Ergonomic design
  • Design for diversity: culture, gender, sexual orientation and disability
  • Globalization and the design professions
  • Design politics: making technologies, spaces and institutions more responsive to human needs
  • The ends of design: pragmatic, aesthetic, and emancipatory
  • The humanistic and the technological: tensions and synergies
  • Values, culture and knowledge systems in design: the role of perspective, subjectivity, and identity
  • Ethnography of design
  • Universal design and access
  • Psychology of design
  • Sociology of design
  • Cultural studies: difference, diversity, and multiculturalism in design
  • 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.

  • Industrial design
  • Ergonomics
  • Ceramics
  • Decorative arts
  • Engineering and design
  • Fashion
  • Interior design
  • Jewelry
  • Textiles
  • Retail design

Theme 4: Visual Design

On representation and communication using the medium of the image.

  • Communications design
  • Visual arts
  • Fine Arts
  • Illustration
  • Photography
  • Film and video
  • Graphic design
  • Typography
  • Technical communications
  • Telecommunications design
  • Interface design
  • Digital, internet, and multimedia design
  • Animation
  • Communications designs and knowledge media
  • Digital, software, and social media design
  • Virtual product development
  • Designing information systems and architectures
  • Copyright, patents, and other intellectual property: proprietary and in the commons, commercial and in the public domain
  • Synesthesia or crossing representational modes: language, image, space, and medium
  • Modeling and representation: graphic, symbolic, logical, and mathematical
  • Computer simulations and computational tools: conceiving new objects and spaces

Theme 5: Design Management and Professional Practice

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

  • People and artifacts: exploring uses and usability
  • Designing design: from conceptualization to specification
  • Multidisciplinary and cross-professional approaches to design
  • Professionalism and its trajectories: narrowing specialisms or multiskilling?
  • Evaluation, judgment, and decision-making in complex contexts
  • Working with research and researchers: design practitioners as researchers or users of research
  • The business of speed: the economics and pragmatics of rapid delivery and design alongside construction
  • The logics of collaboration: interactivity, responsiveness, and reflexivity in communities of practice
  • Co-design: designing with users
  • Public and professional understandings of the role of the designer
  • The 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
  • Participatory design systems
  • Project management methodologies and processes
  • Design ‘projects’: planning, management, and project afterlife
  • User-centered design and the changing role of the designer
  • Close to customers: design as dialogue
  • Client-centered project management
  • Common knowledge: sharing insights, research, theories, and designs in communities of practice
  • Design evaluation: working out what works
  • Scenario planning: designing for alternative futures
  • Making and breaking codes: regulation in the design industries
  • Legal aspects of design: risk management, documentation, compliance, regulation, and contractual relations
  • Professional communities; issues of (self-)governance and (de)regulation
  • Professional ethics
  • Documenting the design process: methodologies, heuristics, and routines
  • Product and service typologies, schemas, ontologies, and thesauri
  • Design knowledge management

Theme 6: Architectonic, Spatial, and Environmental Design

On building design, landscape design, and sustainable design practices

  • Architecture
  • Urban planning
  • Landscape architecture
  • Event design
  • Interaction design
  • Lighting design
  • Theater and set design
  • Sustainability: design in an environmental, economic, social, and cultural setting
  • Eco design: environmental and green design
  • Environmental standards and regulations
  • Environmental certifications
  • Energy use and environmental footprints
  • Water and natural resource use
  • Life cycles: designing products and services for the longer term
  • Recycling
  • Sustainability built in: working with scientists, social scientists, and economists
  • Metropolis: cross-disciplinary perspectives on cities of the future
  • Nature designed: parks and wilderness access
  • Rural designs

Scope and Concerns

Design Practices: The business of design is in a state of flux. The roles, the tasks and the personae of designers are changing.

No longer the technical expert, the heroic aesthete or the inspired individual of our earlier modern past, the contemporary designer draws upon dispersed sources of creativity and innovation. Collaboration, today, is key. For design practitioners, a central paradox of our times is the increasing specialization, on the one hand, but on the other, the need for more broad-ranging and holistic integration of design tasks, working between and across design disciplines. Design is becoming an ever-more social, indeed sociable, process.

The imperative to collaborate, moreover, extends well beyond the domain of professional interaction and working in design teams. It also extends to the relationship with the users, clients and consumers of design. Designers today need to build deeply collaborative relationships with their ‘public’. Participatory design and user-centered design are just two key phrases that capture the spirit of this imperative.

Broadly speaking, the balance of design agency is shifting from the all-knowing designer who creates things that are good for passively grateful consumers, to a dialogue which involves more careful and systematic processes of user consultation, research, co-design, testing, evaluation and continuous redesign. The emerging design democracy turns the designer into conversationalist, facilitator, mentor and pedagogue. As a consequence, the legacy self-understanding of the designer as artist, technocrat and expert is thrown into question. The new politics of design plays through tensions between historical roles and contemporary expectations. Along the way, what’s lost and what’s gained? What is inherently difficult about the new designer-user relations, and what is intrinsically liberating?

As soon as the balance of agency shifts, a polymorphous, polyvalent social world presents itself. ‘Any color you like, as long is it’s black’, said the heroic Henry Ford, who conveniently assumed that every consumer in his mass market had identical needs and interests. But as soon as you start talking niche markets, usability and customization, you discover diversity in an ever more dazzling range of hues and shades—local and global, of different abilities and disabilities, of ages and cultures and genders and affinities. The paradox of today’s design democracy is that designing for everybody means designing for many different interests and uses.

Then there are some new lines of social insistence: that designers work to objectives of sustainability, access, safety and the social good. These are matters of increasingly intricate regulation and compliance. Or, if you will internalize these insistences, they become matters of self-regulating professional ethics.

These are some of the things that are, quite simply, changing the job of being an architect, urban planner, industrial designer, engineer, visual designer, web designer, knowledge manager, communications or media designer, fashion designer, usability researcher or instructional designer – to name just a few of the design vocations.

Design Modalities: Design’s modalities are also in a state of flux, its working tools of representation, communication, visualization and imagination.

Digitization of text, sound, and still and moving image is one important site of transition. This has spawned new practices of modeling and simulation, of prefiguring the real in the virtual. It has also introduced the virtual as a design end-in-itself.

The result is a new multimodality and synesthesia. Design conceptualization requires that designers move between modalities of language, image, sound, space, touch and gesture. The meaning of their design might be articulated one way, then another, or all at one time in a deeply integrated process of synesthesia.

Designers need to able to ‘do’ a multimodal professional design discourse. They must speak and write their way through complex collaborations with co-designers and interactions with users. They 

need to be able to ‘do’ visualization as they explore design alternatives through mental images and picture their visions into reality. They need to be able to represent spatial realities, prefiguring the three dimensional through the two dimensional and turning plans into tactile artifacts, manipulable objects, architectural spaces and navigable landscapes. The new, digital media provide newly flexible and accessible tools for multimodal and synaesthetic thinking. Today’s media inventions have become the mothers of design necessity.

Such innovation is not simply for innovation’s sake. It is also for the most practical of reasons. There is an increasing need to document for the purposes of planning and project management, regulation and compliance, risk assessment and risk management, and project specification and contractual clarity.

Design Principles: So, what is this thing design? What is the design of something? And what does it mean to ‘do’ design?

The word ‘design’ has this fortuitous double meaning, simultaneously describing intrinsic structure and the willful act of making. Design is at once morphology and construction.

Morphology: design is inherent, whether its sources be organic, unconscious, common sense or the carefully premeditated product of the professional work of the designer. Design in this sense is structure, form and function.

Construction: design is also an act, a manifestation of agency, a process of transformation. The narrative of design runs like this: take the available designs in the world, inherent to found objects, architectures, landscapes, processes, human relationships, cultures. Then engage in the act of designing, or rework and revoice these designs. This is never just a business of reproduction and replication. It always involves an injection of the designer’s social interests and cultural experiences—their subjectivity and identity, no less. The residue, as the narrative draws to a momentary close, is the world transformed, no matter in how small a way. But the world is never quite the same again, and the redesigned is returned to the world. Design agency traces of transformation that join the repertoire of available designs—new openings to new design narratives.

Such a view contrasts with older understandings of design in which designers were passive recipients of expert routines. Their apprenticeship into professional practice had led them to learn to reproduce received, sanctioned and authoritative design forms. This may have been appropriate for a world that set store on stability and uniformity.

But today’s world is a place of change and diversity. Designing, in a dynamic, transformative sense, can be enabling, even emancipatory. It is a process of changing the world.

In this spirit, the Design Conference, the Design Journals, the On Design Book Imprint and the Design News Blog move between theoretical reflection on the nature of design and case studies of design practice, and from research-based perspectives to the experience-based perspectives of design insiders.