Archive for the ‘Issues’ Category

The Devil in the Detail – Northern Rail

19 December 2013

Poor Attention to Detail – Northern Rail

It’s very easy to be a grouch and a designer will always home in what can be changed for the better. So I’m imposing a small discipline on myself that I will only criticise something that does not work when I have found something to praise first. That way only half my design commentary posts will be negative. This is the first of those. It’s about a company kidding itself that it is offering a helpful service. (more…)

Art lives from constraints – Lukas Brunner, Inventive Guitar Maker

15 December 2013

Leonardo da Vinci is credited with saying, “Art lives from constraints and dies from freedom.”


This seems to be self-evidently true, the most interesting design thinking often emerges from difficult situations where the designer’s freedom is constrained by circumstance. I would like to offer Lukas Brunner as a particularly pointful example of this. (more…)

Transmitting Craft Knowledge

6 March 2010

Transmitting craft knowledge: designing interactive media to support tacit skills learning.
Nicola Wood’s PhD Thesis
, November 2006

This is a rather late entry as the thesis was examined in 2006. I’m posting it now as Nicola has recently updated her website to make the work more accessible. It’s a very engaging piece of work that has value whether you are interested in practice-led research methods, the use of video and interactive media in research and design or craft skills and how they are learned.

Download full thesis from Nicola’s website which contains a great deal of other interesting material as well. The site is also a good example for any academic or professional who wants to build their public profile.

Dogs in the Manger?

13 December 2009

Theft or Public Right? Can publishers or manufacturers retain rights over something they don’t want to use?

I’ve been very interested in the subject of public right of access to research publications for a long time but the wider implications of this topic came to the fore for me recently through a debate in a different arena. (more…)

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…)

In the Eating

31 October 2009

Grounding the validation of investigative designing in the experience of stakeholders

RUST. C, (2009) In the Eating: Grounding the validation of investigative designing in the experience of stakeholders, International Association of Societies of Design Research Conference, Seoul, Korea, October 2009

I wrote and presented this paper as part of a special session at the IASDR conference, organised by Stella Boess of TU Delft. Stella wished to explore the question of how knowledge arising from the use of designed artefacts in research might be validated.


Designing with Values

31 October 2009

A designer’s framework for delivering personalised media

RUST, C.  BLYTHE, M. MCKAY, A. BAGGOTT, J. WRIGHT, P.  (2009) Designing with Values: A designer’s framework for delivering personalised media in an unencumbered interactive environment. International Association of Societies of Design Research Conference, Seoul, Korea, October 2009


This paper describes the evolution of a design and development process for a museum exhibit that delivered unencumbered or ambient interactive media using personal values as the main framework for customising interaction and thus for selecting and developing content. The context of the work is the developing field of products and systems that incorporate rich digital content. (more…)

A Tacit Understanding

23 June 2009

A Tacit Understanding: The designer’s role in capturing and passing on the skilled knowledge of master craftsmen


Wood, N. Rust, C. Horne, G. (2009) A Tacit Understanding: The designer’s role in capturing and passing on the skilled knowledge of master craftsmen International Journal of Design (online) 3.3

Download full paper from The International Journal of Design

From 2007 to 2009 Nicola and Grace explored the practical application of methods and theories developed in Nicola’s doctoral research into transmitting craft knowledge (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…)

ACQUINE – Is this how to engineer affect?

16 May 2009

Aesthetic Quality Inference Engine – “Intelligent, Unbiased and Instant Assessment of Photos
Science, snake oil or just a bit of fun?


Last week Terry Love alerted the PhD-Design community to the ACQUINE web tool for rating the “aesthetic” quality of images. Obviously this kind of thing is a red rag to most of us in the art school tradition but it does point to some serious questions. My reactions went from having a bit of fun with the tool, to questioning its credentials and finally to a feeling that it pointed to a valid direction for science to explore as a long term inquiry but also a rich well of snake oil right now for those out to make money from gullible businesses. Most of what I’ve said below was originally posted in four recent messages to the PhD-Design discussion list at

Round 1 – Having fun with Acquine

I started out by trying the online tool to assess my personal beauty. (more…)