Design Microconference

5. September to 7. September 2018
Design School Kolding

Year of publication

Conference Call
Addressing designed form - demarcating design.


The conference´s aim is to draw the attention of design research towards the form of designed objects by exploring the boundaries of design.

Design processes can be described (the technical, procedural aspects) and design aims explained (Inclusive Design, Sustainable Design). This is the stock of much design research. However, the core of design which is the visual is seemingly neglected other than in terms of 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? Designers plan but not all planners design – does the managerial approach to design miss something critical? People solve problems through processes but sometimes the solution is just a sandwich. Is that design?

The seminar seeks to focus on the essential in design, that which makes it distinct from other disciplines. There is considerable latitude in this call for papers for a wide variety of views, those that emphasise ethical concerns, procedure and inclusive approaches to creativity. Such wide ranging views span from Herbert Simon (1996) to the work of David Pye (1964).

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.

Note that the question is not "what is design" but rather how can we address research on design that acknowledges its special aesthetic quality, the “wow/yuk” factor. Buchanan´s (2001) definition: "Design is the human power of conceiving, planning and making products that serve human beings in the accomplishment of their individual and collective purposes". Is that not leaving something out? Hillier (1998) wondered if it was possible at all to address the intuitive in design (which must refer in some sense to the aesthetic/subjective). Buchanan's definition conceivably involves objects and indeed services with no obvious aesthetic quality. Much design research seems to involve this kind of product or else pays scant regard to the "wow" in design. Hillier´s question challenges those who might try to address the Wow. Would such design research become a form of art history? Would that be a problem? If it isn´t a form of art history, what would it be?

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.

Useful References:

Buchanan, R (2001) Design research and the new learning". Design Issues 17 (4) 3-23
Grand, S., Jonas, W. (eds.) (2012) Mapping design research. Birkehauser, Basel.
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.
Herriott, R (2017) What is it like to see a bat. Swedish Design Research Journal. 10.3384/svid.2000-964X.17113
Pye, D (1964) On the aesthetics of design. Herbert Press, London.
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.
Simon, H (1996) Social Planning - designing the social artefact. In The Science of the Artificial, 139-141, 153-167. MIT.


0. Annina Schneller: Scratching the Surface: “Appearance” as a Bridging Concept between Design Ontology and Design Aesthetics.

What is design? Definitions range from design as a product or process of thinking, modelling or problem solving, to all-encompassing visions of design as the transformation of social environments. Some definitions of design stress the aspect of function, others the similarity with art. Even if we try to break down the definition to design objects in the sense of designed material artefacts such as chairs, books or buildings, defining their essential properties proves difficult. What is the special ingredient that makes an artefact a design object? Based on the philosophical method of conceptual analysis, the present chapter asserts that any definition of design objects necessarily includes their appearance. Since the creation of appearance and aesthetic experience is an essential task of design, the study of aesthetics should consider design among its paramount subjects. This argumentation leads to an astonishing conclusion for traditional philosophy: The philosophical divide between ontology. (This paper was originally published in Vermaas, P-E. & Vial, S (eds:) (2018) Advancements in the Philosophy of Design pp 33-49).

1. You Zou: Design For Quality Life: Speculative Transformation of Lifestyle.

Since climate change become a tangible and serious issue that the whole humanity has to face, more and more disciplines are evolving in this field, including design. Design, especially product design, is regarded as a discipline that promotes consumer consumption. Design itself is a problem in the context of climate change. With new design concepts like social innovation or transition design try to deal with these significant issues, designers sometimes lose their role of being a designer in many projects of these new design concepts. The core question of this challenge is how to understand the designers creative and aesthetic skills in these projects. In this paper, I will demonstrate why lifestyle transformation could be the most promising practice space for designers by analyzing the current situation of transformative design and speculative design and discuss their relationship. Hopefully, this study will inform a more sustainable directions designers can transfer their creative and aesthetic skills into.

2. Martin Skalski & Kathryn Filla: Restoring The Preeminence Of Styling and Aesthetics in Industrial Design.

The appearance of a product, the primary responsibility of industrial design profession, is being subjugated by non-visual areas. This allowed for the inclusion in the profession of those with little or no or visual expertise. In response industrial design education has diverged from its primary mission, to train students to design beautiful products. Digital (CAD) learning has encroached on visual training in industrial design programs. Many graduates with advanced degrees have few visual skills and are now teaching in industrial design programs. Form and space methodology is the process for making beautiful, sensitive aesthetic decisions. Abstraction in this methodology is a process for exploration of form and is the connection between the experiences of seeing and knowing. A program should exist for students with the talent for and a belief in the importance of the visual qualities of a design. This concentration of study would focus on two- and three dimensional and drawing with design classes focusing on that foundation. Courses in two- and three-dimensional design and a course that integrates them into the design process are described in some detail. If industrial design is to regain its position as the primary provider of the physical manifestation of products, it's going to have to convey to the world the importance of styling and aesthetics. University design programs will have to lead the way.

3. Carsten Friberg: The Essentially Critical Dimension of Design.

I suggest design is essentially communicating to the user and the designer should here display sensibility towards the user which I take as the essential of aesthetics. As a user of design I am both using artefacts and find the artefacts form the acts I am involved in including what I can do and think of doing. Artefacts educate us. Design connects me and the artefact; without design the artefact loses its value and meaning for me. A particular aspect of this connection concerns the aesthetic quality which is a matter of sensorial and perceptual relation to the artefact. To create something with a sensorial appeal is a matter of exercising a sensibility towards the context in which the artefact should have its effect. Design takes care of forming the relation between us and specific artefacts and of forming us in relation to them, hence design is essentially participating in forming and maintaining specific forms of social order. The essential of design relates to it finding its audience and to engage with it and making the audience engage with the designed artefact.

4. Cheryl Akner-Koler, Cheryl Akner Koler, Elsa Kosmack Vaara, Annika Göran Rodel & Nina Bjørnstad: Aesthetic driven Co-creative writing method for short videos

This is a work in process paper presenting an aesthetic driven co-creative writing method using short video clips. Our work is motivated by our long term goal to develop a rich multimedia publication that moves focus from academic text writing and emphasizes videos, photos, sound, visualization models etc, which, we believe, will be the future publication format for design (Ball 2017). For further inspiration we refer to the project VEGA a multimedia editing platform lead by Cheryl Ball (2018 January 15).

5. Cameron Shelley: Ethics and good design: Herbert Simon and Dieter Rams

Ethics is central to the evaluation of design. That is, good design is both a physical and a moral achievement, which raises a variety of questions. What qualities make a design ethically acceptable or not? How is an ethically acceptable design attainable by its designers? Recognizable to others? Different scholars offer different perspectives on the nature and role of good design from an ethical standpoint. The purpose of this paper is to elucidate and compare two influential responses to some of these questions, namely those of Herbert Simon and Dieter Rams. As a theorist, Simon’s approach is based on abstract and general principles, which are then applied to concrete and specific examples. As a practitioner, Rams’s approach is based on his experience as an industrial designer of specific goods, which is then generalized to design as a whole. From this comparison, we can learn about the range of perspectives on ethics and good design.

6. Sara Ljungblad, Maral Babapour Chafi: “What Negative Space has to do with Design Fixations in HCI Research”

Human Computer Interaction (HCI) is a design-oriented research field, articulating and contributing to design knowledge. This research field has its own perspective of what a relevant design solution is or which design methods that are suitable, which does not necessarily match how for example industrial designers would understand or describe design. We aim to extract the core of design as an activity, in order to clarify what design skills may involve. This paper describes design activities, and articulates how negative space as an artistic skill is a prerequisite to achieve re-framing a design situation and to facilitate successful co-creation of wicked design challenges. The notion of negative space is traditionally associated to art and perception, for example used in professional practices in music, art and design. We illustrate how making use of negative space supports avoiding design fixations, and increase the chance of successfully addressing wicked design problems, such as sustainable solutions for societal challenges. We argue that HCI research would benefit from understanding and applying negative space in design challenges and illustrate how this can be done.

7. Pierre-Henri DeJean: “A Proposed Reference Frame On Aesthetic In Design Between Rational And Emotional Behaviour.” This study explores the development of an aesthetics framework that aims to provide designers, and other stake older, with parameters to understand emotion, taste, and aesthetic judgement under their own cultural influence. This framework will help designers with tangible criteria for judging cultural influences impacting industrial design while preventing them from subjective options or “trendy followers.” To address the complexity of the topic, we adopt a systemic (systems thinking) approach so as to be able to capture its elements. Therefore, the aesthetics framework adopts a systemic approached, which allows us to compare its constituents and identify the interplay or “links” between these different elements. By conducting a literature review, we identify the basic elements that we will focus in this study. We will then broaden our view by using other author’s references. Once the framework is built, we will determine its validity by conducting empirical research and course.

8. Esra Bici Nasir: “Challenging Quantitative Underestimation: Unfolding the Aesthetics Construct of I-Phone".

Constructed as a think piece, this paper aims to unfold the aesthetics construct of i-phones, or in a wider scope, Apple products. This investigation started on the opposition of the idea indicating that only a small portion of i-phone involves with aesthetics, a pre-occupied judgement made by the design researchers on the side of engineering fields. The engineering aspects around the production of i-phone could be extensive but this did not invalidate the aesthetics realm that the i-phone both has and belongs to. Was it possible to underestimate the modernist design aesthetics that was established within decades and had a prominent influence of many product designers and companies? Or was it appropriate to assume the creation of simplicity - that was one of the core design values of Apple company by means of both form and function – as an easy act that makes the design activity harvested on aesthetics so little? This study attempted to bring in some counter-arguments towards the dichotomic situation that assumed products either identified by solely aesthetics or by engineering.

Authors & Participants

Cheryl Akner-Koler: Professor in Theoretical & Applied Aesthetics, Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design. Cheryl Akner Koler is Sculptor and Professor in Theoretical & applied aesthetics with a focus on how our everyday aesthetic experience in the real world drives creative processes. Her work involves making tangible connections with intangible experiences: form ↔ space, products ↔ interaction, food ↔ taste and touch ↔ emotions. Cheryl challenges the traditional definition of aesthetics as primarily engaging visual perception and have worked over the past 10 years to emphasize haptic perception in relation to other senses. She is dedicated to developing “applied aesthetics” that she defines as practice-based research, driven by artists and designers to support the creative making and performing process. The research project she is currently leading HAPTICA (2016- 2018) is driven in collaboration with Örebro University campus Grythyttan School of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Meal Science. She has also been main applicant and project leader for two previous Swedish Research Council projects: NanoFormgiving through Haptic Aesthetic Laborations, 2009-2012 and Complexity and Transformation 2003-2005.

Nina Bjørnstad: Associate professor in the Institute of Design at Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Norway. Bjørnstad holds a master of fine arts in industrial design from Konstfack. Her pedagogic merits include teaching; three-dimensional analysis of form and space, integrated with product semantics in the Bachelor's program and in master courses where she is responsible for supporting both incremental and radical design concepts for the future. Nina is a core member of Wonder research network, a Scandinavian network for women in design research. Her current research in physical and additive manufacturing is focused on "material agency". She has recently joined the Haptica project to take part in creating videos that document methods and models showing ways for designers to integrate crafting skills in clay-work during the design process. Nina is also tutoring diploma works at IDE where form, emotions, and aesthetical aspects are in focus.

Maral Babapour Chafi: Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden Pierre-Henri DeJean: UTC- Université de Technologie de Compiègne.

Carsten Friberg: Carsten Friberg, PhD (philosophy), independent scholar. He is teaching, doing research in particular related to the international networks Appearances of the Political and Ambiances, and collaborating with different artists.

Richard Herriott: Associate professor, industrial design, Design School Kolding. Richard Herriott works on design processes, research through design and aesthetics. He teaches courses for BA, MA and PhD level. Recent publications: What is it like to see a bat? (2017) in the Swedish Design Journal.

Elsa Kosmack Vaara, Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design. A classical and baroque violist who extended her profession through studies in product- and Interaction Design at Umeå Design School, Sweden. Elsa started her design research in 2010 as a research assistant at the Mobile Life VINN Excellence Centre in a project dealing with stress, biosensor technology and interactional empowerment ( ). Elsa holds a PhD in Human Computer Interaction from the KTH Royal Academy of Technology in Stockholm 2017 researching aesthetics of felt temporal interaction throughSourdough Baking and interactive technology. She iscurrently working at RISE SICS Västerås.

Sara Ljungblad: University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.

Dr. Esra Bici Nasir: Interior Architecture and Environment Design, Izmir University of Economics, Izmir, Turkey. Dr. lecturer. FevziÇakmakMahallesi, Sakarya Cd. No:156, 35330 Balçova/İzmir. She completed her doctoral dissertation thesis at Department of Industrial Design, Istanbul Technical University in 2016. She currently is a part-time lecturer at Izmir University of Economics. Her areas of interest are interdisciplinary studies, material culture, design culture and furniture design. She has published articles in the Intercultural Understanding and in the International Journal of Food Design. She also writes for various design magazines.

Annika Göran Rodell is an expert in sustainable leadership with a masters in Hospitality and a background as a performance sound arts and expressive art therapy. She current holds a teaching position at Campus Grythyttan giving courses in aesthetic gestalt process, event, presentation techniques and a teachers’ course in Higher education. She has been involved in the Center for University Education at Örebro University and recently won the prestigious award for the best pedagog of the year at ÖU. Her multidisciplinary background. She is also a central member in the HAPTICA research team working on a three-year project in collaboration with Konstfack, funded by the Swedish Research Council. Annika’s profile in the project is about developing pedagogical methods in order to deepen the sensory sensitivity of the professional hotel and restaurant staff. She is also involved in developing courses in Theory U process.

Cameron Shelley: Centre for Society, Technology & Values, University of Waterloo.

Annina Schneller: Bern University of the Arts, Switzerland.

Martin Skalski: Pratt Institute Brooklyn, NY Martin Skalski taught for 30 years at Pratt Institute, retiring as a full professor in 2015. Professor Skalski established and directed the Transportation Design Program at Pratt where he taught drawing, color theory, abstract three-dimensional design and experimental transportation design. He has been a Fulbright Scholar and has taught internationally in China and Turkey and at art and design schools in Michigan, where he now lives. Yue Zou:PhD candidate, Institute of Design, The Oslo School of Architecture and Design

Yue Zou, PhD candidate, The Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO) Yue Zou is interested in how to create a meaningful experience through transdisciplinary design to change people’s action, feel and thought for a long-term sustainable lifestyle. My research focuses on transdisciplinary design in sustainable development, speculative design, and transformative design.

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