Dear Swanson and others
An empirical answer to what is a Masters Design thesis could be
answered through a corpus based study of current exemplars in any large
digital thesis collection and with a little theory. This is a project I
would like to do myself if I had six months to spare. Anyway, my
underlying point is that while philosophical speculation about what it
is or isn't (usually a statement about what one wants it to be) can be
somewhat circumvented by such an analytic approach, which has been
applied to other disciplines.
>>> "Swanson, Gunnar" <[log in to unmask]> 19/02/2007 6:04 am >>>
In response to my (perhaps overly-rhetorical) "Should JD and MD degrees
be reworked in hopes that lawyers and physicians will become criminology
and physiology researchers?" Chris answered: "a qualified yes - if we
don't hold open the option that our best students may encounter new
opportunities in their studies, and allow for more than one outcome to a
degree, we are failing them and failing our professions." It's hard to
disagree with allowing not just our best but all of our students new
opportunities. My question was, however, not whether they should have
new opportunities but what portion of a degree should be devoted to
activities other than those that are the ostensible focus of the
I have to take issue with his further statement that "the proper answer
is that this is an international forum and it is concerned first with
doctoral study and research."
The original question was about a requirement for an MFA program in
graphic design but was stated quite generally. It asked about the length
of a masters dissertation and I pointed out that, while that was not
exactly like asking "How long is a piece of string?" specific context
should be considered.
I wouldn't argue against "an enquiring or critical approach" (and I
would hope that you all know me better from this list than to assume I
would.) It should be noted that taking a specific issue of design of
design education and broadening it without regard to context or actual
use is not the sort of thinking that supports good design (which, in
turn, makes me question what sort of design research it supports.) If
the answer were "This isn't the right place for this discussion" then
fine. To instead answer that this is the place where we talk about
research and PhD degrees therefore every question should be answered
with research and PhD degrees is more than a bit troublesome.
I agree that we need a "more integrated approach that encouraged
students to engage with the kind of critical thinking we expect from
researchers." I would say that this is true not just of graphic design
MFA programs but pretty much every corner of education. That doesn't
have to lead to the conclusion that the best route to critical thinking
is to take a substantial portion of every degree program and devote it
to a specific sort of major research project.
So is a large piece of research writing being suggested as a big
portion of a design practice degree because it is the best way to
promote advancement in practice, because we don't really approve of
practice as worthy of an educational focus, or because we have
classified research as fitting the old Martha Stewart phrase "a Good
Thing," therefore to be shoehorned into whatever we control?
Gunnar Swanson Design Office
1910 East 6th Street
Greenville, North Carolina 27858
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+1 252 258 7006
at East Carolina University:
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+1 252 328 2839
Education is only the beginning.
Let's get on with it.
Swinburne University of Technology
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