Archive for the ‘Tacit Knowledge’ Category

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.


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…)

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:


Unstated Contributions (2007)

31 December 2007

RUST, C. (2007) Unstated Contributions – How Artistic Inquiry Can Inform Interdisciplinary Research International Journal of Design, 1(3), 69-76

Unstated Contributions: How Artistic Inquiry Can Inform Interdisciplinary Research

I wrote this paper following our review of practice-led research in Art, Design & Architecture. During that work we encountered the difficult proposition that the explicit contribution to knowledge might be problematic for those artists and others who are used to leaving the “contribution” of their work unstated for the audience to interpret as they wish.  On the one hand this is challenging for formal concepts of research and doctoral education which require the researcher to own their research completely, on the other hand it raises an intriguing problem – are there valid contributions to the research enterprise which may require ownership and awareness on the part of the researcher but may not allow the actual knowledge flowing from the work to be under their control.

I decided to explore this and managed to find some case examples that provided a variety of models where unstated or provisional contributions are a necessary part of the research enterprise, including one concluding case, of research by Lucy Lyons, in which the researcher owns every aspect of the research except the final knowledge that flows from it, although she was responsible in every way for engendering it, was in complete control of the process, and closely observed and recorded the knowledge that others found in her work. I regard this as my second serious paper on tacit knowledge, following my 2004 paper on Design Enquiry

Full Paper (from open-access journal site)



Design Enquiry: Tacit Knowledge & Invention…

20 November 2004

RUST,C. (2004) Design Enquiry: Tacit knowledge and invention in science Design Issues 20 November 2004

Design Enquiry: Tacit knowledge and invention in science

I wrote this paper between 2001 and 2003 as my first serious attempt to work out the implications of the ideas on “Knowledge and the Artefact” that I presented at the 2000 La Clusaz Conference on Doctoral Education in Design. I went to La Clusaz full of enthusiasm for my ideas but the very intense and quite scary environment of that conference brought me down to earth with a bump.

I rethought my presentation to stress the provisional nature of my La Clusaz paper and the questions that it implied and proposed it as a research problem. This seemed to do the trick and I had a lot of encouragement, hence my efforts in this 2004 paper which explored how Michael Polanyi’s ideas about tacit or personal knowledge could be seen at work in some of the various design research projects that I was involved with at Sheffield Hallam University.

Full Text available to download from



Unlocking Consumers’ Tacit knowledge (2004)

22 October 2004

RUST,C. (2004) Creative Methods for Unlocking Consumers’ Tacit Knowledge: Practical tools for designing user experiences Briefing paper for the Faraday Packaging Partnership Farapack Briefing Packaging Industry Conference, York, UK 21/22 October 2004

Creative Methods for Unlocking Consumers’ Tacit Knowledge: Practical tools for designing user experiences

This was a briefing paper for an industry conference. It discusses the use of low-fidelity prototyping as a tool for engaging withg stakeholders. More recent work by Simon Bowen has created a well-developed methodology for this kind of strategy.

Full paper at


This paper provides a short overview of research that develops the use of low-fidelity prototyping and other methods for designers to work with and elicit tacit knowledge from their audiences to support product development and innovation. It presents methods and ideas from human-computer interface and interactive product design and shows how they might be applied in the context of packaging design.

The audience for this paper was professional people from the packaging industry.

Designing for Tacit Learning (2003)

30 April 2003

WOOD, N. RUST,C. (2003) Designing for Tacit Learning: an investigation of design strategies for multimedia supported learning in the crafts Proceeding of 5th European Academy of Design Conference, Barcelona, April 2003

Designing for Tacit Learning: an investigation of design strategies for multimedia supported learning in the crafts

Nicola Wood wrote this with support from me to describe the research from her MA at Sheffield Hallam University. This was the first step along the way to her PhD and subsequent research which has positioned her as an authority on learning and craft skills and an expert in designing learning materials that enable people to acquire expert skills. You can read her PhD thesis and other publications here and we are now (Feb 2009) working on a paper that describes her most recent work that has demonstrated that the theories developed in her MA and PhD can be integrated and work well in practice.

Download full paper from


There is an increasing interest and activity in the design of interactive multimedia to support learning in all fields of education and training. However, most of the theory to support such developments is concerned with learning explicit knowledge and there is little guidance available to designers of material for learning in areas with an element of tacit knowledge such as craft skills.


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)

download full paper from


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