Making Things Up: Workshop Practice as a Place of Design

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis considers workshop practice, specifically the production of three-dimensional prototype products, as a place of design. I study techniques used to make emergent artefacts, in an effort to better understand how they structure design practice.

I begin by presenting an argument that recasts the making process as a means of thinking, rather than merely transcribing antecedent ideas. I draw on literature from disciplines where this argument has been well-rehearsed, and contribute a novel synthesis of existing ideas in terms relevant to design studies and practice. This provides a theoretical foundation from which I can understand techniques as means of both doing things to the world, and finding out how those things are going.

I then introduce the term epistemic character in order to frame a new subject of interest – how techniques structure design processes. I argue that we may investigate the epistemic character of techniques, and I provide examples of how such investigations may be pursued. To this end, I combine my interdisciplinary literature review with first-hand studies of designing and making techniques. With reference to these studies, I describe three questions that may be asked to interrogate epistemic character: What are the questions posed by a technique?; What is its step-character?; and what is the nature of the emergent result?

I end with a discussion of how these features of epistemic character influence the distribution of decision making throughout design processes. I suggest there is an important distinction to be made, between processes throughout which things emerge step-by-step, and processes in which things are planned in advance of their execution.

The thesis provides design and craft theory with a novel and useful insight into how practitioners might think through making.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Northumbria University
  • Wallace, Jayne, Supervisor
Award date31 Aug 2018
Publication statusSubmitted - Jun 2018


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