Investigative design: Materiality, systems, critique

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


What is commonly called " Design " has traditionally focused on communication, problem solving, or aesthetics applied in commercial contexts—according to Bratton (2016a), the means by which our " pathological relationships to material culture are made more efficient and more delightful. " Rittel and Webber (1973) argued that many of the problems addressed by designers are " wicked problems " , but Bratton proposes that many such problems, now global in scale, are the product of Design, and that " the job of Design in the 21st century is to undo (much of) the Design of 20th. " How can designers address global-scale wicked problems without turning them into design projects that value aesthetics over commitment? In this paper I detail strategies used in our design education and research. We use, but also question, design as a process and profession, redefining and subverting it, focusing on materiality and systems. I illustrate with examples from recent graduates.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes
EventBeyond Change Questioning the role of design in times of global transformations: Swiss Design Network Summit - FHNW, Basel, Switzerland
Duration: 8 Mar 201810 Mar 2018


ConferenceBeyond Change Questioning the role of design in times of global transformations
Internet address


  • investigative
  • design
  • materiality
  • systems
  • critique

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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