Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact



Observatory

About
Resources
Submissions
Contact


Featured Writers

Michael Bierut
William Drenttel
John Foster
Jessica Helfand
Alexandra Lange
Mark Lamster
Paul Polak
Rick Poynor
John Thackara
Rob Walker


Departments

Advertisement
Audio
Books
Collections
Dear Bonnie
Dialogues
Essays
Events
Foster Column
From Our Archive
Gallery
Interviews
Miscellaneous
Opinions
Partner News
Photos
Poetry
Primary Sources
Projects
Report
Reviews
Slideshows
The Academy
Today Column
Unusual Suspects
Video


Topics

Advertising
Architecture
Art
Books
Branding
Business
Cities / Places
Community
Craft
Culture
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Disaster Relief
Ecology
Economy
Education
Energy
Environment
Fashion
Film / Video
Food/Agriculture
Geography
Global / Local
Graphic Design
Health / Safety
History
Housing
Ideas
Illustration
India
Industry
Info Design
Infrastructure
Interaction Design
Internet / Blogs
Journalism
Landscape
Literature
Magazines
Media
Museums
Music
Nature
Obituary
Other
Peace
Philanthropy
Photography
Planning
Poetry
Politics / Policy
Popular Culture
Poverty
Preservation
Product Design
Public / Private
Public Art
Religion
Reputations
Science
Shelter
Social Enterprise
Sports
Sustainability
Technology
Theory/Criticism
Transportation
TV / Radio
Typography
Urbanism
Water


Comments (11) Posted 12.13.10 | PERMALINK | PRINT

John Thackara

What Should Design Researchers Research? Report from 2020


I was invited by the Design Research Society to speak at their symposium in Birmingham, UK. Their theme: 2050 and All That.

So first I did a quick scamper through Peak Everything: peak climate, peak biodiversity, peak oil, peak food, peak water, peak credit and so on; I touched on Adbusters' notions of a Doomsday Machine Economy and True Cost Economics; and I repeated my proposition that we are all emerging economies now.

For part 2 of my talk, I tabled two keywords that I find work well in re-framing our situation as “terrible — but not hopeless.” The first word was catagenesis which means “renewal through reversion to a simpler state — followed by the emergence of a novel form of society.” The second word was resilience which means (in the words of Transition Towns) “the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance, and reorganize, while undergoing change.” I concluded this second part of my talk with the proposition that design research needs to evolve from a human-centered to an all-of-life-centered activity.

In preparing part 3 of my talk, I had a good idea that, given what I know about design researchers, they'd be thinking by this point: "yeah, yeah, end of civilization, yadda yadda — but where's the cool research opportunity?"

So I went to Birmigham prepared. I asked the design researchers to imagine, with me, that a Doors of Perception University had been established and that, in 2020, a degree-awarding ceremony was about to take place:



Twenty-five PhDs were to be awarded at this ten-years-from-now ceremony - and I had brought along copies of the theses of the successful candidates to show them. And here they are:



















(I believe Dena Fam may aleady be busy on just this PhD, in which case apologies.)


































|
Share This Story

Comments (11)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT COMMENT >>

Interesting post-apocalyptic thoughts John,

In Victoria, Australia we have post bush fires seen the use of the term resilience used to reference communities return from disaster.

I had been concerned with 'human centred' design which recalled work I did on 'biomic design' or the creation of an ideal environment for human existence. A bit like Desmond Morris did with the Naked Ape, situating humans as a part not apart from nature.

Interesting to see Mercedes new concept car out of the USA called the biome.

Mark Watson
12.13.10 at 05:44

Mark, You're kidding me. "Biome"? This is more than greenwashing. Green dry cleaning?
john thackara
12.13.10 at 05:51

A common theme is awareness of energy and resource consumption, at a personal, group and corporate level. I wonder if whole economies will move from the almost universal Western objectives of growth and consumption to new foundations including augmented/situated experience (having just enough of what you need when you need it to experience places, people and events optimally) and quality (fewer but better things and experiences).
Paul Taylor
12.13.10 at 07:03

Those covers are so badly made, if this is the future of design research, if this is the care of design researchers, I want to die.
Sascha
12.14.10 at 02:49

Sacha I didn't think much of the covers designs of the theses either, but I wasn't going to complain since it having written a thesis I know full well sometimes something has got to give if its going to be handed up on time.

And this is a BIG case of the ideas and projects and ideas NEEDING to be submitted before its too late.
A Burns
12.14.10 at 07:59

Did anyone else catch those clever author names in there or am I the first one?

I van Illich? Cy Bernetic? Rep Rapp? Tot Ness?

Well done, John. Clever wit and and important subject. Thank you.

Of course I submit my own, 2010, PhD-in-progress as an example of necessary design research now!

Futurescaper: Experiments in Large-scale Participatory Futures Systems

Noah Raford
12.14.10 at 10:11

There is something like visual polution... look at architectural theory, we are far behind. I don't understand why we need a special design designers theory. We, graphic/industrial/architectural/interface designer, are doing the same: designing an evinronment. And it has to be done in a sustainable way. That inculds asthetic qualities as well. And this is just trash.
Sascha
12.15.10 at 03:16

So it appears that I won't make it as a book designer, and Sascha won't make it at Comedy Store.

John Thackara
12.16.10 at 02:18

If trash is comedy: yes!
Sascha
12.16.10 at 03:41

John, I would happily do a PhD at the Doors of Perception University.
I am a communication designer (graphic designer = or ex graphic designer) and the design of these covers is irrelevant. They do the job required: propositions that are rapid prototypes or mockups of possible pathways.
Having completed a Master of Design by Research I find myself generally uninspired by the "design research" community.
It is tiring arguing about "design" and it's role.
It's already happening out there - by everyday people.
I am drawn to Permaculture and urban food systems, which is down to earth, accessible and immediate. And Transition Towns as tools for building resilience in communities. I am looking to the possibility of taking my knowledge and passions to social science as a more tangible way to conduct research applicable to real world actions. It's time to get on with it.
Tania Ivanka
02.03.11 at 06:09

It's nice to see our (Unfold's) L'Artisan Electronique on the cover of one of the "theses" (Design for point-of-us production). I am trying to start my PhD on this topic and finally, after almost three years, I am probable going to start my PhD now. It's not that easy to start a PhD in design and to find the right environment for it. Hopefully in 2020, with the Doors of Perception University, it will be much better!
Claire
05.20.11 at 09:40


Design Observer encourages comments to be short and to the point; as a general rule, they should not run longer than the original post. Comments should show a courteous regard for the presence of other voices in the discussion. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments that do not adhere to this standard.
Read Complete Comments Policy >>


Name             

Email address 




Please type the text shown in the graphic.


|
Share This Story



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Thackara is a writer, speaker and design producer, and director of Doors of Perception. In addition to this blog, he is the author of twelve books including In The Bubble: Designing In A Complex World and Wouldn't It Be Great If….
More Bio >>

DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS









RELATED POSTS


The Ten Most Popular Essays of 2013
Our most popular essays of 2013 range in topic from design criticim to punctuation, surrealism to fast food restaurant design, Rem Koolhaas to South African towns, and of course, the heated debate on the future of the AIGA.

Accidental Mysteries, 11.27.11
Welcome to Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of visual curiosities set aside for your perusal and enlightenment.

Design and Health: Flipping the Pyramid
It's easy for two people to look at the same information — such as this chart (above) about health costs — and perceive totally different things.

Accidental Mysteries, 11.06.11
Welcome to Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of visual curiosities set aside for your perusal and enlightenment.

Accidental Mysteries, 10.09.11
Welcome to Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of visual curiosities set aside for your perusal and enlightenment.