Art vs Design

13 May 2005 | ,

Conference Abstract

What could art learn from design, what might design learn from art? Some practice-based art doctorates.

Beryl Graham,
University of Sunderland, UK

Aimed at artists and designers involved in Ph.D. research, this paper briefly outlines four examples of doctoral research projects at Sunderland University: Johnston’s glass Ph.D. involving materials research, Hogarth’s practice-led sculpture Ph.D., Baker’s theory-informed photography research, and the author’s hybrid approach concerning interactive art. Varying positions of practice within research are explored, and some problems of interdisciplinarity are highlighted.
As starting points for discussion, some areas of common ground between art and design research are suggested (including the space for ‘failure’ and humility in a research process). Referring briefly to some other examples of art research, the paper goes on to pose some opinions on what artists might learn from designers (and vice versa) in a research context. Suggested areas concern process and method, as well as parricide and infanticide.


Yesterday, I attended the ‘Revealing Practice’ conference, led a some of my research students at Wimbledon School of Art in collaboration with Kingston University. I was very interested in one of the speakers, Dr Beryl Graham. In 2000, Beryl wrote a really interesting paper, that may reinforce some of the emphasis of my own research on seduction.

In “What could art learn from design, what might design learn from art?” (In: Friedman, Ken and David Durling (eds.) Proceedings of the conference Doctoral Education in Design: Foundations for the future. Stoke-on-Trent: Staffordshire University Press. 425-434), Beryl outlines how Art could learn a willingness to kill one‚Äôs children from Design, to incorporate feedback as part opf the creative process, to be less protective about the outcome, to be unsuccessful but have mechanisms to overcome that. In contrast, Design could learn a willinfgness to kill one‚Äôs parent‚Äôs from Art, to challenge one‚Äôs peers, to reject tradition to be more readily inclined to innovate radically.

Why would I introduce feedback mechanisms into the artistic creative process was one of the questions that cropped up in my PhD interview at Chelsea. I tried to argue the point as best as I could but I framed it in research terms instead of a difference encountered in Art and Design creative processes, ie: “This is not Art, it is research and feedback is necessary for the research process”. Beryl’s argument provides a new strengh to mine, a subject specific one, rather than simply an activity one and it may be that this new emphasis informs my original contribution to knowledge, which will be in the area of methodologies.

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