Archive for the ‘Doctoral Education’ Category

Showing Your Stuff

5 November 2009

The importance of revealing your practices in “practice-led” research

Originally posted to the PhD-Design email discussion list on 20 November 2008

whiteley joint

image from Graham Whiteley’s PhD thesis

David Balkwill’s comments (in a previous message to PhD-Design) about students missing the point of their task, which is designing not drawing, is very relevant to research and doctoral studies. One of the key issues to be resolved in any “practice-led” project is how the quality and validity of the methods are to be made clear (more…)

Dr Simon Bowen

5 June 2009

I’m exceptionally pleased to announce that Simon Bowen has successfully defended his PhD thesis titled

A Critical Artefact Methodology: Using Provocative Conceptual Designs to Foster Human-centred Innovation


available online at

Simon’s work explores some practical implications of the critical design methods developed by Dunn and Raby, Bill Gaver and others. He has synthesised and evaluated ways for designers to use provocative concepts, “Crazy Ideas” as he describes them, to stimulate stakeholders to engage in productive speculation about aspirations and needs that might not be revealed by more conventional user research techniques. (more…)

NSF Design Education Workshop, April 2009

21 April 2009

Planning an interdisciplinary postgraduate design curriculum

Last week I spent two days at Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois) taking part in a workshop on postgraduate design education, the second in a series funded by the US National Science Foundation.

Although there was a broad mix of participants from across the range of design disciplines, the main focus was on engineering design with a sub-text of how design might sit with a science-led agenda. Northwestern have a very interesting set of design programs, including interdisciplinary degrees, with a strong practical component and an emphasis on human-centred design led by Don Norman. While this seemed to demonstrate a balanced view of the opportunities in design education there was also a strong voice, represented by Panos Papalambros of University of Michigan, in favour of a highly quantitative view of design as optimisation.


Doctoral Education in Design (2003)

31 December 2003

RUST, C. (2003) Many Flowers, Small Leaps Forward: debating doctoral education in design Art Design and Communication in Higher Education. Vol 1 No 3 (Invited paper)

Many Flowers, Small Leaps Forward: debating doctoral education in design

A commissioned review for special issue of Art, Design and Communication in Higher Education (Research Journal of ADCHE-LTSN) dealing with best practices in PhD education for design. I was asked to write this review paper by Ken Friedman and David Durling who were guest editors of a special issue of ADCHE dealing with doctoral education. It was a good opportunity to think about the state of the art and clarify some issues for myself as well as the audience.

Download full paper from


As a point of departure for this review I have taken three events in 2000, a time when debate about research degrees in Design seemed to reach a peak. (more…)

Growing our own (2003)

31 October 2003

RUST, C. & FISHER, T. (2003) Growing our own – recruiting high quality research students by stealth Proceedings of 3rd Conference on Doctoral Education in Design, Tsukuba, Japan, October 2003

Growing our own – recruiting high quality research students by stealth

This paper explains how we used the MA Design programme at Sheffield Hallam University as an incubator for research talent. Design is a new research field and doctoral studies are very new so not many design graduates see research as a career option. We structured our MA to introduce students to the experience of research and give them the chance to develop ideas that might form the basis of doctoral projects. The result was a small but steady flow of very good research students, some of whom have gone on to become successful academics.

Full paper in .pdf format at


Most design students assume that their education is preparing them for a career in professional practice. Until recently the idea of working as researchers or studying for a research degree was not an option.


A Visual Thesis? (2001)

30 April 2001

RUST, C. WILSON, A (2001) A Visual Thesis? Techniques for Reporting Practice-Led Research, Proceedings of the 4th European Academy of Design Conference, Aveiro, Portugal, April 2001 68-72

A Visual Thesis? Techniques for Reporting Practice-Led Research

This paper describes and discusses the development of Graham Whiteley’s PhD thesis, our first practice-led doctoral project at Sheffield Hallam University. Although a great deal has been said about the artefact as thesis or artefacts in a thesis not much has been done publicly to understand the problem and develop practical approaches. Arguably doctoral students are the last people to take responsibility for developing fundamentally new approaches to research so it falls to the supervisors, in this case myself and Adrian Wilson, to come up with a strategy. I’m particularly indebted that Adrian, as a scientist, was sufficiently intrigued by the problems of this novel project to make a very substantial contribution to working out how to do it what he saw as an artistic environment.

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This paper describes an approach taken to the use of visual material as a significant part of PhD thesis in an Industrial Design research project. (more…)

Experimental Making in Research (2000)

30 November 2000

Rust, C.  Whiteley, G.  Wilson, A  (2000).  Experimental Making in Multi-Disciplinary Research, Design Journal, November 2000

Experimental Making in Multi-Disciplinary Research

This is one of several papers reflecting on the first major practice-led research project in Design at Sheffield Hallam University. I think we have moved on quite a lot since then but it shows where we were. Adrian Wilson, a clinical engineer, was my mentor in making sense of this project and the challenge of supervising a practice-led PhD. Graham Whitely had the original idea and did all the hard work.

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For the past 3 years (to November 2000), Graham Whiteley has been using making in a project to develop a mechanical analogy for the human skeletal arm (more…)

Picasso’s PhD

31 March 2000

A frivolous email that launched a very big row.

In early 2000, a year which saw some significant debate in design research, Beryl Graham asked me to provide a provocative comment for the Research Training Initiative mail list. After a little thought I provided the humorous fragment below, intended to start some discussion about how university regulations might support “practice-led” research. Alec Robertson then mischievously forwarded the message to the discussion list and there was an explosion of debate there, spilling over to (more…)

Drawing as Modelling (1998)

31 December 1998

RUST, C. WHITELEY, G. (1998) Analogy, Complexity and Holism – Drawing as 3-D Modelling POINT Art and Design Research Journal, No 6 Autumn/Winter 1998

Analogy, Complexity and Holism – Drawing as 3-D Modelling

One of several papers written to deal with different aspects of Graham Whiteley’s doctoral research in the wider perspective of practice-led research. Other papers dealt with physical modelling, design principles, tacit knowledge, relevance to the natural sciences and the process of creating a visual thesis.

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