GDE730, GDE730 - Week 6

Week 6 : Interdisciplinary Design

This week has been a bit tricky for me – I’ve had a lot of catching up to do but it’s given me time to research into what interdisciplinary design means to me. Also the lecture on Friday really made me rethink what I deem as normal Graphic Design terminology.

Harrie’s interview about collaborative design was really helpful in terms of new studios or companies that use collaboration successfully – take Designers on Holiday, such a fab idea and an amazing collaborative opportunity. Smout Allen were also covered, I loved researching into their work and processes. Their focus on augmented geography is something I’ve not come across before – it makes them both researchers and architects, showing how you do not have to fit into one mould. It’s all about communication and achieving successful communication through their designs – in using and researching the world around them, they create designs that successfully communicate a message – surely that’s what all this is about?!

In terms of interdisciplinary, I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading into the meaning of this word. I struggled recognising the difference between multi- and inter-. Are we simply confusing the work we do by trying to over-complicate the meaning of collaboration – do we really need these nuanced descriptors to help us understand the work we do, or can we just accept it all as purely collaborative work. Why does it matter that we understand inter-/multi-/trans-disciplinary design?

Is the true meaning of the word centred around the research we do?? When working in a multidisciplinary setting, are we just utilising someone else’s knowledge to inform our work? Whereas interdisciplinary we are taking on the research ourselves, eg. Altmann and the Blackpool carpet… But then can’t a multidisciplinary team create work that is deemed interdisciplinary? Does our work have to fall into these categories??

Take Superflux, led by Anab Jain (the TED talk) – their website claims the following:

The Superflux team includes its Directors and a core group of designers, researchers and technologists, alongside a growing network of multidisciplinary collaborators.

They combine art, science, research and more to speculate on the future of technology. What is stopping their work being classed as interdisciplinary? Surely it’s dependent on the individual project and how the research process is conducted?

Do we need these extra descriptive words to describe what we do? Is all design now collaborative – in order to create something we must have researched the subject prior to the designing? Our work is now so much more demanding in terms of speed and accuracy – our previous studies into globalisation show how design is consistently pushing boundaries and merging seamlessly with other subject areas or specialisms. Are we now just designers or do we need to accept that we are fluid and flexible and we’ve now working in an umbrella industry; where our work is constantly changing and adapting depending on the subject area and subsequently our research.


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