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Walking with wolves: displaying the holding pattern

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I have kept a diary since I was 14. Additionally, about 10 years ago I started a business diary (this was one of my two good business ideas). The handwritten text throughout the book comes out of that. (Stefan Sagmeister, in Sagmeister Made You Look (2001))

Of the many research papers generated in the area of design, surprisingly few have paid much attention to design thinking. This article represents an unusual collaboration between an anthropologist and a designer. This proved fruitful in revealing issues that neither researcher had previously encountered. By looking more deeply into the distinctive process of design thinking that Schn (1985) called reflection-in-action they developed the idea of the holding pattern. This refers to the tactical way in which many designers juggle with different types of design thinking in the medium time-scale, whilst holding on to, engaging with, and transferring possible new ideas.

In a rapidly changing world, educators need to cultivate design sensibilities that will enable future designers to operate in a more thoughtful and critical way. The article considers the holding pattern and its effect on the nature of design practice, and its implications for design education. We have chosen to explore the work of the designer Stefan Sagmeister as a case study. Our strongly participative approach to research works well when there is a heterogeneous blend of material. In this case, the material we explored included texts, visual material and soundtracks. By looking at the working life of Sagmeister through his career choices, strategies and designs, we were better able to grasp the way the holding pattern works.
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Keywords: Stefan Sagmeister; design strategy; holding pattern; reflective practitioner; social responsibility; tactics

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Oslo National Academy of the Arts.

Publication date: 2007-12-14

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  • The Journal of Writing in Creative Practice is the official organ of the Writing Purposefully in Art and Design (Writing PAD) network. It offers art and design institutions an arena in which to explore and develop the notion of thinking through writing as a parallel to visual discourse in art and design practice. The journal aims to extend the debates to all national and international higher educational art and design institutions.
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