June 13, 2008

the role of the designer...

Nurul and I had a chat last night:

her title is something like;
The role of the communication/graphic design in the shaping/disseminating/construction/development of the national cultural identity (NCID) of Malaysia...

we started talking about Wokar and how her research had been encouraged to go in the direction of western cultural theory. Nurul's research is also connected to the identity of an 'eastern' nation. Her research can easily be discussed along the lines of post-colonial theory, or national v's cultural identity. One thing that her research really IS about though is the role of the communication designer in this national cultural identity. It is not yet clear (to me at least) whether this is relating to the contribution comm designers have to changing the perception of NCID, or constructing that NCID, or whether there is something about defining 'what' their comm design activity brings about or 'allows' to happen.

Continue reading "the role of the designer..." »

May 20, 2008


perhaps I have managed to reduce/refine my keywords somewhat


Making Conversation: Communication Design as a social activity

design research / practice-led research / materialising conversation / design ontologies / bringing-into-being / transformative action / relational design / radical design / the social space of communication / what communication designers do, in practice, and the community around them / communication design / communication design as conversation / communication design as materialising knowledge / the social experience of communication design


Communication design and the other: a socially-situated practice

keywords: design and the other / bringing-into-being / transformative activity / relational design / radical design / what communication designers do / communication design as conversation / communication design as materialising knowledge / practice-led design research

still working on it...

what this research is about

- an alternative approach to comm design

- an alternative understanding of comm design

- seeing comm design as an activity which is allowed to happen through the presence of the other (the designer if you are the client, the client if you are the designer, the audience if you are the client)

- comm design as a transforming activity (transform/change/articulate/express/materialise/connect/synthesise)

- comm design as a form independent activity (design communication not communication materials, so designing the communication of the other through the communication materials)

- the changes to the public perception of comm design allowed through this new approach

- the changes to comm design education allowed through this new approach

- the changes to comm design's self-awareness allowed through this new approach

so, while I talk about the other in comm design I am actually talking about the role of the other, and the role of comm design in providing an other...

May 19, 2008

GRC poster

I have been preparing for a presentation to RMIT on my research, this will be my first presentation. Part of the preparation is submitting a poster, these posters go up near the coffee area and are intended to allow the GRC participants to see visualisations of the research which is going on, as well as the abstracts printed in the conference proceedings.

Here's my abstract:

Communication design and the other: an investigation into a socially-situated practice

This practice-led PhD research project commenced in March this year. The project aims to investigate Communication Design as a socially-situated transformative activity. Seen as a socially-situated practice, what do communication designers do when they design and how does this design activity affect the other parties involved? Do (in)consistencies exist between what communication designers say (and think) they do, and the effects they achieve? The above areas of investigation require an examination into the concept (and role) of the other in communication design practice. This project aims to investigate alternative models for communication design practice enabled through a repositioning of focus from the artefact to the social and from the designer to the other.

The Poster

Miek is in charge of uploading the posters for New Views 2. He saw the poster I uploaded for NV2 and said he liked it. It was the 'This design designs you, and me.' poster. The one with the black text on a portrait format white background. I showed him the photo of the busback I was sent from Hobart (the bus,with poster, is going around Hobart city now). Miek said maybe I should have used that one for the poster. I wondered about that.

For this GRC I tried taking his advice and using the busback photo - however when I put it together I thought it read as though it was a documentation of a project. At this stage in my PhD I would rather the GRC poster (and event) read as an 'investigation' than a 'documentation' - so I went back to the black on white background text version with the addition of my abstract and title.



April 15, 2008

what do I want to know?

my PhD research in 10 minutes

I think I need to go away for a week somewhere and work on this

what do I want to know?

I want to know what communication designers do
I want to know what happens in the act of communication design, what role the active parties take and what they do


because I believe that communication designers don't know what they do


because of the work I did in my Masters.

This work showed that I often wasn't aware of what I was doing when I did the work I did.

also when I read (currently) writing by designers about what they do it seems to always be about particular aspects of design that do exist but are only part of what cd's do.

This writing I keep reading seems to say that design is about a refinement of things, that it is about how to make a good thing or how to make a better thing

when I could say that CD seems to me to about, on one level:

- making cool things
- making things that are legible
- making things that fit their target audiences style (and help define that style)
- making things that communicate the correct ideological/philosophical/social pitch
- making things look 'correct' (so that the recipe book looks like a recipe book, the death metal album doesn't)
- making things that are comprehendible
- making things that are noticed and noticeable
- making things that surprise and delight, so give their viewers/readers/users a valuable experience
- making things that please the commissioning agent

but about on another level:

- defining cultures
- expressing cultures
- expressing that which cannot be expressed verbally or through other means
- generating material form for nascent cultural tendencies/movements, and in such a way to discover what those tendencies/movements are
- creating a means of expression for a part of society
- engaging in societies conversation
- expressing ideologies
- finding personal 'truths'
- finding Identity
- focusing Identity
- exploring Identity and roles within a community
- allowing voices to emerge
- accessing knowledge we have about ourselves that we don't know we have
- showing us who we are

there is something here about 'material therapy'; sometimes CD can act to open the window a little bit, to reveal a little more of the iceberg beneath, to open up a little truth, or to provoke a little self-knowledge..

and it is leading through to the subject/other discussion and that paper I found about gameplay and how kids work and what they use their toys for.....

case-study: the website for megara; this allowed that company to communicate with itself, using me as a sounding board (punch-bag)
case-study: Gold and Silversmithing ad, they don't know what they are, and then together we do know what they are... so we are finding their character... and as the designer I am part of that
case-study: War is over - I find out what I feel through design...

April 14, 2008

another wobbly dart...

I want to describe an alternative view of what we, as designers, do.

I want to describe a transformative activity, a focused activity, which occurs when designers work with other parties to achieve outcomes. I think that this might be a different way to describe this activity... which may then lead to a different way to value the activity of design, and teach the activity of design.

Here goes...

When designer and "others" get together to work on a project something happens. I have described this previously as 'a conversation'. In saying that I am trying to say that the outcome of the design activity is a 'made conversation' or a 'conversation materialised'. What I mean by this is that the parties present in the design activity and active in the intention of the activity, the motivation of the activity and all the different experiences and personalities present and active in the activity are in some way 'speaking'. And as the transformative action of the designing activity unrolls they are 'speaking' out the new form. 'Speaking' that which was not already in existence. 'Bringing into being'... and in that 'bringing into being' they materialise that which was not said before, and they articulate 'that which cannot be said through spoken language' in this way design allows access to 'knowledge' 'knowledge' that we don't know we know. 'knowledge' that is ineffable and cannot be articulated in other ways... design allows an articulation of this knowledge, through its connection with 'externalising of the internal', it brings into being a group reflexive device which we can all gaze into and say 'so that is what we are'.

art does this through the activity of the one and is, in this way, somewhat of a monologue, though it too is ineffable (this, as you might have gathered, is my new word)....

design is with the other...

what this research is about...

I added a string of items, keywords, to the header for this blog in the hope that they would start to define to others, and myself, where my research was heading.

Note that this blog is as much, if not more, for me than for the other. I am aware that it will be important down the line to publish my research and having the blog as an outlet for that work will become more important too. For now, however it is more a reflective tool. I still keep notebooks which anything can go into, this blog is, believe it or not, a refinement of the material which goes into those notebooks.

With this doctoral research I want to investigate an idea which came out of my Masters research. That idea is that..

as communication designers, we don't know what we do.

Now this is a very provocative, loose and easily attacked statement, but I want to hold it for a while... because I cannot actually articulate what my research is about and I can only, at this moment, make statements which sort-of 'chuck darts' at that idea... after a bit of dart throwing a picture begins to emerge. So, once again, be warned, this blog is very much 'research in progress' it is a working tool to hold some of these ideas up to the light and see what happens... in that way this blog, and this research, is design (see Glanville for design as research)

so the idea is

if we view the transformative activity of communication design as a social practice, and we view it as an activity in which all parties are focused on some manifold aspect/view/issue/ambition/desire, then the act that transpires is not 'known'. That act is not described in the current theoretical design canon. (Well it is hardly described, it is not a dominant 'model' for practice, it is a slippery sometimes assumed, sometimes disregarded, often ignored model for practice. However, for me, it seems like one of the most important, and it seems that it has important abilities to allow the development of a more socially sustainable form of communication design practice.) That act that occurs, the event of design, can be seen as a creative act from an insightful individual... I would like to take some alternative theories which might, if applied to this act, describe it as a transformative process whereby knowledge we don't know we already have is revealed through the transformative and enabling activity of engaging with a technology (writing, talking, making) which through it agency allows us to disarm our rational 'I know' selves and welcome in the unsaid, unborn, unmade other into the known world.

Now I hope this doesn't sound like summoning, but I know that it does. So; alchemy, witchcraft, magic, access to power, tapping into the unconscious, archetypal knowledge, implicity knowledge, the rift between natural human and artificial human, the cyborg... all these aspects are there, and, as such, it is a direct contradiction to the 'design as science' methodology a lot of communication deisgners long for.