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Innovative design conference celebrated with journal special edition

31st August 2017

Academics from Northumbria School of Design have guest edited a special edition of the journal Design Issues (MIT Press), focusing on an innovative conference series that they have helped establish over the last five years.

The experimental Research Through Design (RTD) conference takes place every two years and provides an inclusive and supportive forum for disseminating practice-based design research. Founded by Jayne Wallace and Joyce Yee, the first RTD conference took place in 2013, and was established as a biennial series with subsequent conferences held in Cambridge in 2015 and Edinburgh in 2017. The next conference takes place in 2019 in The Netherlands.

RTD offers an alternative to the traditional conference format of paper presentations in darkened auditoriums, by featuring round-table discussions of work held in conjunction with an exhibition. This novel format enables interactions with the artefacts and processes of design research practice to be central to the event. RTD welcomes contributions from all fields of design and encourages participation by early career researchers and those who may be new to research as well as those more established in their research-through-design practice.

The journal special edition, published this summer, captures the work that was exhibited and discussed at the 2015 edition of the conference. RTD 2015 was held in Cambridge and was chaired by Abigail Durrant and John Vines.

Abigail Durrant said: “The Research Through Design conference series was established with the aim of giving greater visibility to practice-based research in design, and in other disciplines. We wanted to do something different to the traditional conferences people are familiar with, and RTD really is unique in its format.

“We were delighted to have the opportunity to compile this special edition of Design Issues. In it the authors uniquely reflect, not just on the processes and outcomes of ‘research through design’, but also on the experience of being involved in the RTD conference itself, and critically evaluating the design of the event, and also the experiences of delegates.

“Many of the articles highlight interesting opportunities and challenges for developing experimental dissemination platforms like RTD, which support design practitioners and researchers, and which place the material artefacts of design, along with design practices, processes, and performances, at the heart of proceedings.”

The special edition (July 2017, Vo. 33, No. 3) is Entitled Research Through Design: Twenty-First Century Makers and Materialities. The guest editors are Abigail Durrant, John Vines, Jayne Wallace and Joyce Yee, all based at Northumbria School of Design.

Dr Durrant added: “Northumbria School of Design has an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. The School of Design has supported staff and students to create new opportunities for fostering and nurturing communities of researchers who work as creative practitioners, to find the right language and forum for communicating what they do and for generating impact from their work. Design research is often highly collaborative in nature, as design practitioners often work with researchers in other disciplines, along with industry partners and stakeholders, to co-create projects and outputs. The ethos and interest around the RTD series connects with such endeavours within the School of Design, and also with the University’s IDEATE Multi-disciplinary Research Theme, a strategic initiative that supports design-led research and innovation taking place across the University.”

Published by MIT Press (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Design Issues is the first American academic journal to examine design history, theory, and criticism, provoking inquiry into the cultural and intellectual issues surrounding design.

Contributors to the RTD special issue include Amy Twigger Holroyd, Alex S. Taylor, Kristina Andersen, Dan Gibson, Jane Norris, Elizabeth Edwards, Paul Coulton, Andy Derby, Mike Chiasson, Rebecca Taylor, Jon Rogers, Jo Foster, Sean Kingsley, Nantia Koulidou, Erika Shorter, Mike Shorter, Natasha Trotman, Ian Lambert, and Chris Speed. The introduction is from the journal editors Bruce Brown, Richard Buchanan, Carl DiSalvo, Dennis Doordan, Kipum Lee, Victor Margolin, and Ramia Mazé.

For more information about the Research Through Design conference series please visit

For more information about Design Issues please visit

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