Resilient adaptive design practice: a responsive theory of design practice and education

Trathen, S 2012, Resilient adaptive design practice: a responsive theory of design practice and education, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Architecture and Design, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Resilient adaptive design practice: a responsive theory of design practice and education
Author(s) Trathen, S
Year 2012
Abstract This thesis examines the development of the Australian graduate industrial designer in a period of significant change. It explores the mismatches between current industrial design education approaches, the lived experiences of recent graduates and the changing design employment ecology both globally and locally. It also highlights the instability generated by the lack of consensus on the role, function and parameters of industrial design as a discipline and a profession: instability which both contributes to and is caused by these incongruities.

While a time of flux and uncertainty, the current situation is also one of great potential. Traditional modes of practice are disappearing; however, the latent capacity of design is largely untapped. Guiding the realisation of that promise offers exciting prospects for design educators, practitioners and society more broadly.

The thesis is based upon primary qualitative research which investigated the career trajectories and practices of a group of industrial design graduates qualifying from the University of Canberra in the period 1996-2006. Participants took part in semi-structured interviews developed from predetermined themes drawn from a review of literature and reflections on my own practice as a design educator. The resultant rich narratives of the graduates’ lived experiences provided the opportunity to identify and analyse the application of industrial design and industrial design education to the range of possible employment and professional sectors of practice. A key finding was the resilience and adaptability demonstrated by these graduates as they negotiated multiple forms of design practice.

On the basis of this research, a series of models were developed, comprising:
• The Adopter-Adapter-Departer model: which described three categories of industrial design graduates
• The Thematic Map of Australian Industrial Design Practice: which described the themes of practice which emerged from the interview data
• Triple Axes Model: which described the relationship between six competing priorities as continuums set on three axes.
• The Design Development Wave: which described the balance between back and front end design processes
• Archetypes of Australian Industrial Design Practice: which described a typology of existing and emerging practice
• Australian Industrial Design Ecology Framework: which described the location of the past, present and future areas of industrial design practice.

Taken together, these models and archetypes constituted the concept of Resilient Adaptive Design Practice. The value of the concept was tested first with the past and present: as it explained and aligned with observed reality.

The contributions made by this research have drawn in large part on the qualitative and rich data from in-depth interviews with participants. Their lived experience powerfully demonstrates that the future has arrived: while some may still speculate on the implications of a post-Design For Manufacture industrial design environment, many of our younger industrial designers are living and practising new forms of design in that reality.

This research is significant to Australian industrial design practice and education as it acts as a mirror, held up to the profession as a whole enabling the self-reflection required to lay the ground work for change.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Architecture and Design
Keyword(s) industrial design
industrial design practice
product design
design education
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Created: Fri, 02 Aug 2013, 12:00:09 EST by Brett Fenton
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