Last year I was lucky to be a general chair for the 2013 Designing Pleasurable Products and Interfaces (DPPI) conference, which we hosted at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts in Gateshead, UK. Held alongside DPPI was the first Research Through Design (RTD) conference, which was initially conceived by Jayne Wallace (University of Dundee) and Joyce Yee (Northumbria University). Thematically, the conference responded to a growing interest in the materials and practices of making in design research. But it also wanted to provide ways for grounding these discussions in the processes and outcomes of making and designing, trying to avoid overtly analytical or abstract accounts of design practice. As such, although a design research conference, RTD was unusual and very interesting because the centre-piece of the conference was an exhibition of artefacts. Also, rather than the usual didactic presentation style we find at academic conferences, presentations were in curated ‘rooms of interest’ which were more akin to round-table and supportive ‘crits’. During these discussions the exhibited artefacts were passed among attendees as authors gave their talks, acting a resource and provocation for discussion.
As I was rather tied up with co-ordinating DPPI, I didn’t get much of a chance to spend time in the RTD rooms of interest. I did however get a very strong sense that something rather special was happening – delegates left each session deep in discussion and talking to the authors who presented they gained hugely from their participation in the conference (some of the feedback informed an alt.chi paper presented at CHI 2014). Well, hopefully next year I will be able to experience the conference first-hand as along with Abi Durrant I take on the role of General Co-Chair of RTD 2015. This is a very exciting opportunity, and one that I’m hoping will provide a reflective platform to more deeply and critically explore the making practices and materialities surround the artefacts of design methods – i.e., the tools, objects, materials and resources used in participatory and collaborative design projects. Furthermore, as it will be hosted at Microsoft Research’s new facility in the centre of Cambridge, UK, it will be exciting to explore what research through designing means in the context of contemporary digitally mediated and digitally enabled design practices.
If you’d like more information about the conference, then please visit the RTD 2015 website here. Hopefully, the RTD 2015 twitter account will also be providing frequent updates, both before and during the event.