Archive for the ‘Designing’ Category

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…)

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…)

An Argumentative Process? (2009)

2 March 2009

Wicked Problems, useful or just interesting?

Last week I gave a short presentation on wicked problems to a workshop in the Creativity Centre at Brighton University. I had been asked to do something that would provoke discussion in a mixed audience of artists, designers, business people, engineers and others.

I chose wicked problems because they seem to encapsulate a number of useful ideas about designing and what designers do. Creative people seem to enjoy the idea of wicked problems whereas some others see them as nasty medicine that we have to take whether we like them or not. Since the idea of the wicked problem was first proposed by Rittel and Webber (eg Cross, 1984) and was promoted by Richard Buchanan (1992) it has attracted an increasing amount of interest from the design community, although there have been suggestions that it is little more than an interesting theory, having no practical application. To put it another way, it does not contribute to method or methodology.

However Rittel and Webber give us a persuasive description of the process of solving wicked problems:


On Designing (2006)

31 December 2006

On Designing

Discussion of theories about designing including use of the term “Design”, Rittel’s Wicked Problem Theory and Henrik Gedenryd’s increasingly celebrated doctoral project, How Designers Work

This was written in 2006 for a network group including several people from disciplines outside designing as well as different kinds of designers in academia and practice.

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Investigating Our Future through Designing (2006)

29 September 2006

RUST, C. (2006) Investigating Our Future: How Designers can get us all Thinking Viva50plus World Ageing and Generations Congress, University of St Gallen, Switzerland 27-29 September 2006 (Invited paper)

Investigating Our Future:
How Designers can get us all Thinking

This was part of a session led by Deana McDonagh to present ideas about design to this very interesting interdisciplinary conference. I used it as an opportunity to set out some ideas about designers as provocateurs, drawing on work by two designers at Sheffield Hallam, Peter Walters and Simon Bowen. It’s a very brief paper and not exactly advanced scholarship but it takes a position.

Full paper from


This paper, and the presentation it represents, discusses the importance of bringing users into the design process and some of the techniques that can be employed to achieve that.


First Make Something (1999-2000)

31 December 2000

RUST, C. CHAMBERLAIN, P. RODDIS, J. (2000) A Practice-Centred Approach to Research in Industrial Design Proceedings of Design plus Research Conference, Politecnico di Milano, May 2000
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RUST, C. WHITELEY, G, WILSON, A. (1999) First Make Something – Principled, Creative Design as a tool for multi-disciplinary research in Clinical Engineering. Proceedings of 4th Asian Design Conference, Nagaoka, Japan, October 1999, 733-743
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Starting to Unpick the Question of Practice-Led Research

In the mid-1990s, Jim Roddis came to Sheffield Hallam and introduced the concept of practice-led research. In these two papers I was trying to get to grips with what we were doing through examining the different kinds of work emerging from that initiative. (more…)

Knowledge and the Artifact (2000)

31 July 2000

Rust, C. Hawkins, S, Roddis, J. Whiteley, G. (2000) Knowledge And The Artefact Proceedings Of Doctoral Education In Design Conference, La Clusaz, France, July 2000

Knowledge And The Artefact

This paper was my first attempt to deal with the most interesting issue that arose in the investigation with Graham Whiteley and Adrian Wilson into analogous artificial limbs. The key idea that emerged was that artefacts could provide a means to tap into tacit knowledge.

The La Clusaz Conference was a scary event for a novice academic. Around 80 people in a single four-day session including some of the toughest minds involved with design research. At one point I seriously thought about withdrawing this paper because I had seen the way that the audience would dissect any weakness of argument or evidence.

I solved the problem by presenting the paper as a set of research questions rather than findings and it was well-received. The encouragement I had then led me to look more deeply into the subject of tacit knowledge and led to more recent work, particularly my papers on Design Enquiry: Tacit knowledge and invention in science (2004) and Unstated Contributions (2007)

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This paper discusses ways that knowledge may be found in or through artefacts. (more…)

Out of the Hothouse (1996)

31 December 1996

RUST, C. (1996) Out of the Hothouse – Design Consultancies and CAD. co-design – Interdisciplinary Journal of Design and Contextual Studies, July 1996

Out of the Hothouse:
Design Consultancies and Computer Aided Design

The result of a 4-year investigation into the developing (in the early 1990s) impact of computer aided design. A lot has happened since. The title here is the one given by the journal, the original title was Out of the Hothouse: is there a future for Industrial Design Consultancy? I feel that represents the paper more precisely.

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Industrial Designers traditionally have worked in a relatively simple, craft environment. In 1990 it was possible to be a design consultant with little more than a drawing board and telephone in the spare bedroom. (more…)

Do Workstations Dream of Virtual Sheep? (1995)

31 December 1995

RUST, C. (1995) When Workstations Dream of Virtual Sheep. co-design – Interdisciplinary Journal of Design and Contextual Studies, July 1996

Do Workstations Dream of Virtual Sheep?
A digital/analogue fantasy (1995)

I wrote this piece of whimsy at a time when 3-dimensional CADCAM was a big question for designers. It explored some of the traps we might fall into and second-guessed theĀ  alternative virtual lifestyle and economy that seems to be emerging today in SecondLife and World of Warcraft (I’m quite proud of that). It also introduced Zeke Conran, a multi-talented individual who seems to be leading multiple lives. If you followed the 1999/2000 debates on the PhD Design email discussion list you will know that he later turned out to be advisor on contemporary art to Queen Sabena of the Low Countries and a personal friend of Picasso many years before he enrolled at the university of Wigan, rather like T.E.Lawrence who joined the Royal Air Force as an ordinary aircraftsman long after he achieved fame as a military leader in the desert.

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I’m very grateful to Mike Ward, a very talented cartoonist, for his illustrations which transform the paper, in fact his drawings make a written abstract (and perhaps even the full text) irrelevant