Design practice, things and language: An iterative collaboration

Thomas Lee and Berto Pandolfo

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This paper is a collaboration between an academic design practitioner, whose primary medium of research is the designed object, and a design researcher with a background in literary, critical and poetic writing. As such, the subject of this paper is woven from multiple dialogues. It is a practitioner-led account of the design process which produced a specific object. This perspective brings into focus the role of the hammer as tool for shaping timber, assigning particleboard dignity as a material, and the relationship between digital processing and manual workmanship. In parallel to this dialogue between investigator and object is a secondary dialogue that emerges between the practice of the designer, the design and a writer, who is removed from the process of material making but engaged in the wider cluster of ideas and expressions, which become activated as the design process is explicated in language. The perspective of the writer is significantly informed by various lineages of thought that might be crudely grouped within the field of “thing theory”, most significantly Steven Connor’s different takes on the relationship between thinking and things, sense and substance, Daniel Tiffany’s work on lyric substance, and Alfred North Whitehead’s philosophical writing on beauty. The tension which gives the paper its structure comes from the personal, reflective, practical and semantic knowledge of the designer and the patterning of associations and theory used by the writer to variously enhance the scope of the writing and research.


Thing Theory; Design Practice; Poetic Design; Product Design; Design Writing

To cite this article

Lee, Thomas and Berto Pandolfo. “Design Practice, Things and Language: An Iterative Collaboration.” Fusion Journal, no. 13, 2018, pp. 28-42.

First published online: 29 June 2018

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