Dear Ken, Martin and Lubomir
Since this is a long post I'll put in some titles.
1. Monarchists or Republicans?
First let me point out that Ken started by writing that "writing
research requires words". It is very hard to contradict that writing
requires words, they seem to be the very fabric of writing. It reminds
me of monarchist friend of mine that wanted me to sign a petition
against the first article of the Portuguese Constitution where it reads
"the form of government in Portugal is Republican". I pointed out to
this friend that the title of the document was "Constitution of the
Portuguese Republic" so it would be only normal to have such first
article only to remind the distracted ones about what they were reading.
Another thing is to follow Martin's interrogations and try to understand
the role of images in research and more specifically in Design research
and how they can or should be 'instead' of words in research "writing".
2. A Ruskin Darwin?
I always thought that Charles Darwin must have been an excellent
draughtsman. That he had watercolours and pencils in his Victorian
luggage in HMS Beagle. That he would get out in the Galapagos armed with
a sketch pad to fix the unimaginable variations in the form of Nature's
creations. And returning to the oaky interior of his office in England,
looking at the differences in the curves of beeks that he, himself had
drawn, had the consequent epiphany of generating the most creative
theory in natural history. But no, the method, far more Saxon, was to
simply kill the beasts collect them and preserve them and bring them
back to Britain to be stuffed or placed in flasks according to their nature.
You can imagine my dismay. A Ruskin Darwin would make very much my case
for drawing as an intellectual tool in research. What a pity... However,
there is something in common in drawing and killing: you stop the bloody
thing and you take your time to look at it. You observe! So, the Origin
of Species by the means of natural selection and its uncanny subtitle
"/or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life" /is a
long argument based mostly on form or morphology. My wife bought David
Quammen's Illustrated edition of the "Origin"and almost every paragraph
can hold an illustration to substantiate Darwin's arguments. I dare to
say that the "Origin" is a visual argument (written) with a written
conclusion which is (as we all know) that variation (observable) is due
to natural selection.
So what all this has to do with design, or design research?
3. Dunlap and the Pope.
A few years before the publication of "The Origin", in 1834, William
Dunlap published his "History of the rise and progress of the arts of
design in the United States", a book made according to Vasari's Vite
model, a book of biographies of engravers, painters, sculptors and
architects. In its introduction, Dunlap writes that Design denotes in
its strict sense merely "drawing". In the same decade the National
Academy of Design was founded in New York and the Government School of
Design was created in London. These are the first institutions to bare
the name and are dedicated to teach, I would say, "how to make technical
images of things to come", a special kind of drawings made to find its
destiny in art or artefacts. Their concern was Beauty, visual beauty,
able to be attained in the perseverance of graphic investigations to be
confirmed by others: producers, manufacturers, buyers. With the
Bauhaus(es), Truth become the thing to attain. Also through graphic but
mostly plastic processes, objects truthful to their materials and use
should be achieved. I think that this is the strongest paradigm in
design education and, by logic extension to its higher level, to design
research. If you design Assad from Syria you should design him looking
like Peter Lorre in his most terrifying roles whereas the guy that
designed Pope Benedict XVI looking like Yoda did a terrific job.
4. Modernists and Cannibals
When something called research entered in Design Education people forgot
that research had been always conducted in Design Education by other
means than scientific research. Some people assumed that if there should
be requirements to produce Academic Research, that requirements should
be the ones of scientific research forgetting (or not knowing) that
there was an Academy of Design (Disegno) since 1563 and several others
followed since then that had their own ways of research. The Modernist
(rightfull) critique of Academic Education tried to erase and trivialize
the enormous amount of knowledge production in the Academy of Arts.
I was trained as an architect and trained to use drawing and other
technical images as legitimacy for something to build. This was a
research process that yes can follow Ken's nine points road map for
research reports mostly through images (under our Portuguese
architectural methodoxy, mostly through drawings) but also no, simply
because Ken is not in charge. Because no one is in charge. Or better
said, the field of design research is being constructed.
One thing that should be our major concern would be that at some point
design research would loose the design part of it.
Design research should be built on the foundations of knowledge
production existent in a rich tradition of design higher education and
not being cannibalised by other kinds of research. This tradition was
built on technical images. This is our challenge.
By the way, since Benedict XVI was mentioned, is there anyone interested
in starting the field of Resign research?
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