Thursday, August 2, 2012

CAA 2013 : Design Studies Forum Panels

In addition to other events, the Design Studies Forum hosts two panels at the College Art Association Annual Meeting each year.  For the 2013 meeting in New York City the following two panels will be presented: 

Research In/forming Design

How do designers use research, and how do design educators teach it? No doubt, systematic exploration, logic and rational thinking have always been part of design. But specific methods of research previously associated primarily with engineering, the social sciences, or marketing—observational research to uncover problems and ad hoc local solutions; demographics to define audiences; iterations and focus groups to refine products, etc.—are coming to be seen as a fundamental part of design.
How are these tools used, and taught, by designers? Do they help to solve the designerʼs problems, especially those of design students? How does research inform the integrity and power of the design? Or is it another way in which design is tied much more firmly to external demands, and ultimately to brand extension and market profitability. These questions arise at an interesting time, because the classic reference points in the debate over the autonomy of art and design seem to be shifting. The Enlightenment tradition, from Lessingʼs Laocoon to Greenbergʼs Modernist Painting, posited a clear separation between media by their ʻessentialʼ character. The subsequent critical tradition insists on the unique autonomy of art to negate such useful, instrumental reason (Theodor Adorno, obviously, but see also John Roberts). But when Hal Foster, in Design and Crime, rejects “so much design” for its lack of critical space and “running room,” the arrow seems to have somehow missed the point and the premise of the present workings of visual culture, and especially design.
Gail Day, in “The Fear of Heteronomy” (Third Text 23:4, 2009), argues that the rise of a politically engaged art stems precisely from the linkage of the visual and other concerns, not their critical separation. An other-directed, complex heteronomy, rather than purity and autonomy are the locus of contemporary critical practice. This point also arises in Rick Poynorʼs “Design Thinking or Critical Design?” (in Now is the Time, 2009), citing the work of Dunne and Raby and several recent exhibitions for research-driven design that is, counter-intuitively, more independent, anti-instrumental, and exploratory.
Is this wishful thinking? Is it even, fundamentally, a kind of visual research, or is it engineering, sociology and business in/forming design? Concrete examples of design projects and studio or teaching practices are encouraged in exploring these questions.
Contact: Brian Donnelly


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