RTD 2019 revolves around the theme ‘Method & Critique’ and their assumed friction. We will address this friction productively by exploring various contemporary shifts in design research and practice, whether material, technological or socio-political, which either surface such a friction as a necessary collision or call for reconceptualisation. An alternative to the traditional conference presentation of papers in darkened auditoriums, in-depth discussions within ‘Rooms of Interest’ and the accompanying artifacts curated in the ‘Exhibition’ support a more discursive, synergistic setting where to explore this friction through the sharing and critiquing of design artifacts.

Anticipated shifts, with an impact on how we come to understand ‘Method & Critique’ in the contemporary design landscape, will fall under (but are not limited to) the following topics:

Agency: From Research Tools to Design Partners

What are the new collaborations in doing RTD? Ceramics, glass, metalwork, woodwork, textiles, are all long established practices based on well-disciplined material agencies. New agencies for objects and materials, including data-enabled design, artificial intelligence and living organisms, are emerging, questioning the role of the artifact in the process of ‘making’ (broadly defined). What does this mean for how insights are generated and new perspective brought into the creative process? What does this mean for how social and material relations are framed, reframed, reconfigured and transformed? What does it mean for an anthropocentric understanding of what is ‘possible’ and ‘appropriate’ to research and design? What are these new design partnerships with the artifact for, and how can we design for them?

Temporality: From Multiple Iterations to Sustained Co-Creation

As things coagulating data, connections and interactions, data-enabled artifacts facilitate a temporal process where the iterative nature of RTD is superseded by always-available opportunities for conversation and co-creation. Live access to data and its use as a design material accelerate and compress iteration into the more fluid temporality of design-in-use. How does this fluid process challenge traditional modes of participation in RTD practice? What does it mean for how human and non-human resources can be aligned in a design project? Who (or what) has to participate, when and how? How do we harness the ‘collective dreaming’ towards futures in which not only people actively partake, but also things?

Materiality: From Products to Flows and Constellations

Artifacts increasingly form networks, communicate, and perform actions and judgments next to us with different degrees of autonomy, problematizing what we understand as the prototype in RTD practice. The challenge posed to design today entails a fundamental change in the relationship between the ‘people who make things’ and the ‘things that make people’. How can we generate and sustain worth in a more fluid material landscape? How to re-arrange and re-configure existing flows into open, provisional ‘things’ allowing for the emergence of always new and multiple forms of value?

Submissions from all fields of design have been invited that document Research through Design projects, including descriptions of methods, processes and insights emerging from design inquiry. It is anticipated that this will offer a departure point for rich discussion.