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CfP: Addressing designed form – deadline 25th June

This call for papers may be on interest. Deadline is 25 June.

Professor Martyn Evans
Head of Manchester School of Art Research Centre
Manchester School of Art

This is a reminder of a CfP. I have extended the deadline. It is open to non-PhDs as well.

The Design School Kolding Microconference: Call for papers
Addressing designed form

The conference´s aim is to draw the attention of design research back to the form of designed objects.

Full paper *draft* (5000 words including abstract): June 25th  2017 (extended)
Notification of acceptance: August 15th 2017
Final paper: August 15th, 2017
Registration closes: August 30th, 2017

Discussing the form in design research: Hillier (1998) asks how much design should be regarded as a legitimately intuitively process as opposed to one that “is intuitive by default, and awaiting emancipation to a systematic procedure.” Hillier posed that question in the context of space syntax and urban planning. It is however still valid for industrial design. Hillier addressed the idea that in dealing with configuration (meaning form) designers are engaging in a non-discursive process: “we have no words and concepts that describe it at anything like the complexity at which we create it and experience it in the real world”. This is an elaborate way of saying one must use a thousand words to describe a picture. More yet are needed for the process of creation.

Thirteen years later Scott-Swann and Luchs (2011) identify priority opportunities for research on product design. They note that most research is “conceptual in nature and relatively few studies have empirically examined the relationships among form, function and consumer response”. Note the use of the word empirical.  Even if Hillier´s space syntax model attempts to quantify spatial relationships in design, the question asked is a reminder that the core of design is non-discursive. However, the vast bulk of design research focuses on that part of design which Hillier calls bringing the non-discursive into the realm of the discursive. This is the kind called for by Scott-Swann and Luchs.

While parts of the design process can be so rendered (the technical, procedural aspects), the core of design, the visual is seemingly neglected other than the stimulus for a consumer response. The preferred natural science formats in design research writing tend to underplay the qualitative. Consider the structuring formula of background, literature review, hypothesis, methods, data and analysis. If the difference between design and engineering is the subjective and qualitative, is this format appropriate?

Even qualitative research tends towards a hypothetico-deductive model where one tries to convert qualitative data into something quantitative. Consider the hypothetical case of a study of the nature of joints in product design: how could this be treated? As David Pye (1964) noted, it is often the case that perceptions of quality reside in the craftsmanship of joints. A process-based inquiry centered on interviews with designers would not capture the character of the issue. Quantitative surveys of users simply measure perceptions of the objects, not the objects themselves. A numerical study of joints (types and frequency of use) would not throw light on the aesthetics of the subject matter.  There isn´t a “theory” of joints and numerical data would not have added to the finite list of joint topologies. A similar condition pertains for curvature, proportion, volume, colour and texture although all can be quantitatively described. So, leading from this it would appear that a significant qualitative topic is beyond discussion if it does not fit into a natural science or social science boxes.

Without wishing to reduce the legitimacy of existing branches of design research, participants are invited to present papers that show how one can analyse, discuss and theorise on the qualitative in design, that part of design which exists in drawings and the physicality of products. The output should be essays that can inform those researching and practicing design. They should also be useful to those learning the discipline and who wish to have a conceptual framework for form-giving and its meanings.

Contributors will be asked to present their paper and to provide a detailed commentary on the work of one other participant. As such the micro-conference will be an opportunity for wide ranging and considered discussion.

Places at the conference are limited to twelve..

The organisers intend for a selection the papers to be published in a special issue of a design journal: dicussions are underway to this end.

Review will be by double-blind peer review.


Full paper draft (5000 words including abstract): June 25th 2017
Notification of acceptance: August 1st 2017
Final paper: August 15th, 2017
Registration closes: August 15th, 2017

Location: Design School, Kolding, Denmark.
Dates: September 19th to Sept 21st 2017

Pye, D (1964) On the Aesthetics of Design. Herbert Press, London
Hillier (1998)  A note on the intuiting of form: three issues in the theory of design. Environment and Planning B, Planning and Design. Anniversary Edition 1998, pp.37-40.
Scott-Swann, K., Luchs, M. (2011) From the special issue editors: Product design research, past present and future. J. Prod. Innov. Manag. 28:321-326.

Registration costs €135 and is payable by August 30th.

For further information please contact Richard Herriott, Assistant Professor, Industrial Design rhe@dskd.dk