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Free Content Theory and practice: reconciling design-as analogies with real talk in design education

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This article focuses on two linguistic forms of discourse that are essential to the way knowledge is created in the discipline of design. One form is that found in academic written texts, and at the other end of the spectrum, spoken texts such as those of the design critique, or crit. Students at tertiary institutions are asked to decode both, but they perceive them differently, and often feel that academic texts are unrelated to the perceived real talk, such as that found in the spoken crit, about producing and evaluating designs. Examples of crit discourse are set against examples taken from the literature on design, and in particular in texts wherein the processes and purpose of design are described by way of analogy. These texts are referred to as design-as analogies, as an attempt is made to find a way to point to existing connections hitherto not explored between the two forms of discourse. Ultimately, an intricate connection between the discourse of the crits and the more formally expressed concepts of design theorists will be shown. This article refers to three examples of design-as analogies, namely design as bricolage (Louridas 1999); design as moral problem solving (Dorst and Royakkers 2006); and designing as disclosure (Newton 2004). The authors' explanations of these analogies are held up against the spoken texts of the crits, and an investigation is made of how their theories are enacted in this type of discourse. Some pedagogical implications of the findings are suggested, with activities that could help students to bridge the perceived gap between the metadiscourse of the literature and the discourse of the studio.

Keywords: analogy; cognitive metaphor; design as; design critique; design education; discourse

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Technology, Sydney.

Publication date: 2010-07-01

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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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