It is a great pleasure to welcome you to RTD 2019, the fourth biennial Research through Design conference! This year we are very excited to be holding the conference at the Science Centre in Delft (for the main program) and Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam (for the Thursday Night program). These two venues are quite different in character and mission; we believe that jointly they offer a tangible representation of the theme of this year’s conference, and the frictions and shifts that we aim to expose and explore through a carefully crafted program.

Hosting RTD 2019 in the Netherlands, we aim to continue to open up the conference to new audiences and conversations, and help it grow as an international forum for practice-based research that engages all disciplines of design. As in previous years, the RTD conference offers an alternative to the traditional conference presentation of papers in darkened auditoriums. With in-depth discussions within Rooms of Interest and the accompanying artifacts (or processes) curated in the Exhibition, the conference aims to support a more discursive and synergistic setting for exploring the conference theme through the sharing and critiquing of design artifacts. Artifacts are brought from the exhibition and presented to the participating delegates assembled in the Rooms of Interest. The combination of tangible artifact and narrative gives rise to a discussion that is intended to stimulate debate around the ideas and lines of enquiry embodied and manifested by creative output. RTD 2019 continues to build on the success of the previous conferences held at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh in 2017, the European Lab of Microsoft Research in Cambridge in 2015, and the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Newcastle in 2013.

The conference this year revolves around the theme Method & Critique – Frictions and Shifts in RtD, through which we hope to continue to bring into view and discuss the contemporary material, technological, socio-political and economic shifts in design research and practice that call for new ways of making. The aim is to expose and debate the assumed frictions between traditional ways of doing and knowing and recent strands of experimental work, and to tease out the type of productive collisions and/or collaborations needed in RtD for capitalizing on emerging shifts in design research and practice, and moving forward.

As always, the conference offers an eclectic program of peer-reviewed work accepted into both the exhibition and the archived proceedings. There were 261 submissions at the first stage, all reviewed through double-blind peer-review and we had a very difficult task in choosing 93 for the second round, and harder still to bring final submissions down to only 39. We have been greatly inspired by the quality of submissions as well as their variety (of outcomes and disciplines), and their contribution to the theme of the conference.

Once again, the 2019 program brings together work that is at the forefront of design-led research in the context of creative and critical practices (e.g., fashion, craft, industrial manufacturing, product design, interaction design, speculative design), with an eye though, also to design-led research in more unconventional disciplinary and geographical contexts (e.g., anthropology, sociology, journalism, ground activism in refugee camps, inner cities and developing countries of the Global South).

RTD 2019 also continues with an exciting program of invited Provocations – plenary talks to inspire and provoke further discussion and debate on the conference theme. In keeping with this year’s focus on Method & Critique – Frictions and Shifts in RTD, we have invited provocateurs for whom the distinction between theory and practice may well be futile. The opening provocation will be from Johan Redström from Umeå Institute of Design, who will engage us with a fairy tale (so he promised) about design after dichotomies. The closing provocation comes from Elvin Karana , from CARADT and Delft University of Technology, whose design work dissolves the boundaries between materials science and artistic experimentation. We have also organized two panel discussions, addressing the frictions expressed by the conference theme at different levels of scale: one on New Agencies and Alignments in RtD (theoretical/practical making), and one on the Policy and Governance of RtD (institutional policy/governance).

As with all conferences, the creation of the RTD 2019 program has been a collaborative effort, and the conference would not be happening without the considerable time, energy and passion invested by a large team of people. First and foremost, we would like to thank all of the authors whose wonderful work makes RTD what it is. Thank you! We are also hugely grateful to the Program Committee members who have thoughtfully handled submissions, contributing specialist expertise in a wide range of fields. We are particularly grateful to Debbie Maxwell, Annika Hupfeld and Ingrid Mulder, who have worked closely with us on the review process; to Marco Rozendaal, Geke Ludden and Joyce Yee for a highly curated display and exhibition concept based on the work that was accepted; to Catelijne van Middelkoop, Lenneke Kuijer and Abigail Durrant for pushing the envelope of the conference documentation; to Strange Attractors for designing and producing a dynamic and provocative visual identity for the conference; to Tomasz Jaskiewicz and Ian Lambert for an impressive pre-conference workshops program; to Daan van Eijk and Christine de Lille for engaging our sponsors with the conference content; to Mariet Sauerwein and Abhigyan Singh and all the wonderful student volunteers for their support; and of course, to our many reviewers, who have committed considerable time and effort to provide helpful and timely feedback to the authors.

We are wholly indebted to Marijke Idema, who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to keep things on track. We would also like to thank all the RTD Steering Committee members who have provided invaluable guidance to ensure continuity in moving the conference outside of the UK for the first time.

Finally, we must thank those organizations that have been instrumental to making the conference happen: Delft University of Technology, Eindhoven University of Technology, University of Twente, University of York, Northumbria University, and Edinburgh Napier University. We must also thank our key sponsors: Design United and TU Delft Science Center for their contribution to the program; the TU Delft Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, Het Nieuwe Instituut, and NWO for the Thursday evening program; and KLM and Philips for supporting the workshop programs and drinks.

RTD 2019 General Chairs

Elisa Giaccardi and Pieter Jan Stappers