New York University / London School of Economics


The Craftsman names a basic human impulse: the desire to do a job well for its own sake. Although the word may suggest a way of life that waned with the advent of industrial society, Sennett argues that the craftsman’s realm is far broader than skilled manual labor; the computer programmer, the doctor, the parent, and the citizen need to learn the values of good craftsmanship today.


Richard Sennett was born in Chicago in 1943. He grew up in the Cabrini Green Housing Project, one of the first racially-mixed public housing projects in the United States. At the age of six he began to study the piano and the cello, eventually working with Frank Miller of the Chicago Symphony and Claus Adam of the Julliard Quartet. Sennett was one of the last students of the conductor Pierre Monteux. In 1963, a hand injury put a sudden end to his musical career; he then embarked on academic study. Sennett trained at the University of Chicago and at Harvard University, received his Ph.D. in 1969. He then moved to New York where, in the 1970s he founded, with Susan Sontag and Joseph Brodsky, The New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University. In the 1980s, he served as an advisor to UNESCO and as president of the American Council on Work; he also taught occasionally at Harvard. In the mid 1990s, Sennett began to divide his time between New York University and the London School of Economics. In addition to these academic homes, he maintains informal connections to MIT and to Trinity College, Cambridge University.


Design Writer, London

Redesigning Design

Designers in all disciplines have long held the belief that their work has an essential role to play in improving everyday life by designing better products, communications, and environments. They have also shared the conviction of the business world and some politicians that design is vital to economic competition. Growing awareness that perpetual growth is not ecologically viable and the ensuing crisis of sustainability pose unavoidable new challenges. Recent design responses such as “design thinking,” “service design,” “critical design,” and a drive for greater participation in the design process by design’s end-users offer possible ways forward, though with some fundamental differences of priority and aim. How, then, do designers conceptualize their role today? What do they understand design’s larger purposes to be? How can they move beyond the contradictions inherent within the still dominant consumerist model of design? This paper will examine internal understandings of design expressed through the profession’s discourse in magazines, blogs, websites, conferences and books. It will also consider the problematic public perceptions of design fostered by mainstream media, which still tends to interpret design largely in lifestyle terms.


Rick Poynor is a British writer, critic, lecturer, and curator, specializing in design, media, and visual culture. He was the founding editor of Eye magazine in London, which he edited from 1990 to 1997, and he writes columns for Eye and Print magazine in New York. His articles, essays, and reviews have appeared in I.D., Metropolis, Adbusters, Blueprint, Icon, Frieze, Creative Review, Etapes and many other publications. In 2003, he co-founded Design Observer where he blogs at: Poynor’s books about design and the visual arts include Typographica (2001); No More Rules: Graphic Design and Postmodernism (2003); Communicate: Independent British Graphic Design Since the Sixties (2004); and Jan van Toorn: Critical Practice (2008). He has published three collections of his essays and cultural criticism: Design Without Boundaries (1998); Obey the Giant: Life in the Image World (2001); and Designing Pornotopia (2006). In 2004, Poynor was curator of a major survey exhibition, “Communicate: Independent British Graphic Design Since the Sixties,” at the Barbican Art Gallery, London. His most recent exhibition, “Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design,” the first international and historical survey of this subject, ran at the Moravian Gallery in Brno, Czech Republic, in the summer of 2010.


New York University

Art of the Impossible: The Politics of Designing Utopia

A growing minority of critically engaged activists, artists, and designers have been abandoning the unveiling, revealing, and truth-telling function of political art and protest for a boldly utopian practice. These artists understand that the political crises of today’s world stem not from lack of access to the truth, nor will they be resolved by more criticism. The political problem par excellence is one of atrophied imagination. But what is so interesting about these artists’ imaginative designs is the nature of their utopias: they are patently and consciously absurd. They propose to make things that can never be made. But it is in this very absurdity that the political power lies. This creative practice opens up space for the viewer to question the present, without then short-circuiting this moment of democratic imagination with a realizable blueprint of the future. Simply, the design asks: What If?, without answering: This is What! Drawing upon a range of art and media examples from Thomas More’s 16th century utopia to absurd designs for urban futures to the Yes Men’s recent “Special Edition” of the New York Times, Duncombe will critically explore the creative terrain of impossible utopias that constitute a type of dreampolitik.


Stephen Duncombe is Associate Professor at the Gallatin School of New York University where he teaches the history and politics of media. He is the author of Dream: Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy and Notes From Underground: Zines and the Politics of Underground Culture, and the editor of the Cultural Resistance Reader, among other books. He writes on the intersection of culture and politics for a range of scholarly and popular publications, from the cerebral, The Nation, to the prurient, Playboy. Duncombe is a life-long political activist, co-founding a community based advocacy group in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and working as an organizer for the NYC chapter of the international direct action group, Reclaim the Streets. In 2009, he was Research Associate at the Eyebeam Center for Art and Technology in New York City where he helped organize “The College of Tactical Culture,” and he is presently co-founder and co-director of the new Center for Artistic Activism. He is working on a book on the art of propaganda during the New Deal.


University of Oxford / Fieldstudio, London

Designing Future Practices

What is it that designers are designing when they do design? This paper tries to answer this question by reviewing developments in design theory and practice and combining them with work in the social sciences that attends to practices. In recent years, histories and theories of design have exhibited a social turn, at the same time that professional designers have moved into designing services, systems and interactions within commercial and public contexts. Within the emerging field of professional service design, for example, designers attend to the arrangements of material, digital, and people-based “touchpoints” with which consumers and customers engage as part of services that are orchestrated by organizations. Some designers are involved with helping redesign public services such as healthcare and education and within contexts such as international peace and security. A debate remains, however, about whether designers are still primarily concerned with designing “stuff,” what designers do that is different to what managers do, and whether both designers and managers are ready to understand the roles they and their designs play in constituting social worlds, at a time when climate change is forcing us to ask questions about how designers have contributed to particular kinds of consumption activity (Fry 1999, 2009). To explore these questions, the paper shifts the conversation away from oppositions between the material and the non-material to consideration of practices. Theories of practice (eg Schatzki 2001; Reckwitz 2002) avoid such dualisms by understanding social worlds as created through interactions between minds, bodies, things, structure, agency, and process. The opportunity for designers is to understand that what they are designing as future practices, which include arrangements of things, people, and symbolic structures, and within which both the things and the people play important roles in constituting the meaning and effects of designs. Drawing on work by Suchman (2003), Tonkinwise (2003), and others, the paper proposes key concepts to help orient understanding of practices including relationality, temporality, and accountability. This expanded notion of design has implications for design practice, research, and education.

Fry, Tony. 1999. A New Design Philosophy. An Introduction to Defuturing. Sydney: UNSW Press.
Fry, Tony. 2009. Design Futuring: Sustainability, Ethics and New Practice. Oxford: Berg.
Reckwitz, Andreas. 2002. Towards a Theory of Social Practices: A Development in Culturalist Theorizing. European Journal of Social Theory 5, no. 2: 243–63.
Schatzki, Theodore R. 2001. Introduction: Practice Theory. In The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory, ed. Theodore E. Schatzki, Karin Knorr Cetina, and Eike von Savigny. London: Routledge.
Suchman, Lucy. 2003. Located Accountabilities in Technology Production, Lancaster: Centre for Science Studies, Lancaster University.
Tonkinwise, Cameron. 2003. Interminable Design: Techne and Time in the Design of Sustainable Service Systems. Paper presented at the 5th European Academy of Design Conference, Barcelona.


Lucy Kimbell is a researcher, practitioner, and educator. Through her consultancy Fieldstudio she explores designing for service in organizational contexts. Since 2005 Kimbell has taught design, service design, and design management on the MBA at Said Business School, University of Oxford. Previously, Kimbell was a tutor on the MA Interaction Design at the Royal College of Art, London, and an AHRC research fellow at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford. Her work has been shown internationally including a collaborative project with sociologist Andrew Barry in Making Things Public at ZKM Karlsruhe in 2005. Recent keynotes include the Service Design Network conference, Berlin (2010), the Design Management Institute Conference, London (2010), and Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference, Copenhagen (2008). Kimbell originally studied Engineering Design and Appropriate Technology and later an MA in digital arts and is now doing doctoral research within design theory.


University College London

Making and Cognition: A Perspective from Anthropology

Design has been central to anthropology since its inception, owing to the delineation of cultures and civilizations by means of recognizable, prototypical forms whose resistance to long-term change provoked a wide range of explanatory models. This paper will trace the most important schools of thought that have diverged in their interpretation of the relation between design and an inter-subjectively shared empathy with being and thinking, directing attention to the role of the material, the role of making, and the role of the mind. It is in accounting for the interrelation between these elements of design that explanatory models differ, their diverging theoretical aspirations being challenged by developments in neuroscience that appear to lend support to the duplicity of making and thinking. Drawing on a range of ethnographic examples, the paper will explore the algorithmic properties of making, traced in the patterning of scale, multiplication, and proportion, whose calculated nature exposes the complex relation between thought and thing.


Susanne Küchler is Professor of Anthropology at University College London where she specializes in Material Culture, with particular emphasis on the anthropology of art and design. Drawing on more than twenty years of longterm fieldwork in Papua New Guinea and Polynesia, she has published widely on art and memory, on patterning and social networks, and on the role of material translation in social change. More recently, she has directed her attention to innovation and to the take-up and transmission of new materials and new technologies in culture and society.


Technische Universität Darmstadt

For They Know Not What They Do: Mundane Things in a Technoscientific World

The presentation explores and connects two apparently paradoxical ideas. Our most advanced technologies propose to do things of which they know little—the ability to incorporate the control of processes and phenomena in a design process gets ahead of our moral and technical imagination. However, what is imagined in this manner are mundane, in other words: worldly things. With the help of technology, we are constantly changing the furniture of the world. If the modern age replaced the “natural” furnishings by structures of concrete, metal, plastic, or glass, the so-called knowledge societies aim to use intelligent materials to create smart environments that are opaque. Though they are invested with all the scientific knowledge of the world, the mundane things of our making elude rational control.


After receiving his Ph.D. in Hamburg (1986) and serving on the faculty of the Philosophy Department at the University of South Carolina (1988–2002), Alfred Nordmann became Professor of Philosophy and History of Science at Technische Universität Darmstadt. His historical interests concern the negotiation of contested fields of scientific knowledge such as theories of electricity and chemistry in the 18th century, mechanics, evolutionary biology, and sociology in the 19th century, nursing science and nanoscale research in the 20th century. In particular, he studied the scientific contributions of Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Antoine Lavoisier, Joseph Priestley, Charles Darwin, William Bateson, and Heinrich Hertz. Since 2000, Nordmann has been studying philosophical and societal dimensions of nanoscience and converging technologies. Nordmann’s focus, in particular, is on the development of a comprehensive philosophy of technosciences that reflects recent changes in the culture of science and the changing relationship of science, technology, nature, and society. He served as rapporteur for the EU expert group “Converging Technologies – Shaping the Future of European Societies” (2004). Since August 2008, he has been Visiting Centenary Professor at the University of South Carolina.


University of Freiburg

Homo Faber as Self-Designer

Neurotechnologies and neuropharmaceuticals are no longer only therapeutical means, but instruments to shape and design human beings: “better than well” ist the formula for the biotechnological “enhancement” of humans. As homo faber, man always molded reality by adjusting nature to his specific needs. Biotechnologies now enable human beings to “improve” their cognitive capacities und emotional dispositions; DARPA’s and the Pentagon’s optimized soldier is the most advanced example for this cyborgisation-project. But apart from ethical concerns about enhancement technologies, the question arises what norms and standards apply for human self-design. In an achievement-oriented society, is the “anthropotechnical” adaption of individuals the only way to go? Or do we recognize a certain creativity in these enhancing processes, too? If so, how can we describe this new situation of homo faber, in which he is craftsman, tool, and product at the same time? On the basis of the current possibilities of enhancing human traits and skills, Müller will reflect on the anthropological implications of the post-baconian homo faber becoming a self-designer.


Oliver Müller studied philosophy and German literature in Heidelberg, Hamburg, Venedig (Ca’Foscari), and in Berlin (Humboldt Universität); Ph.D. thesis on Hans Blumenberg, published as Sorge um die Vernunft. Hans Blumenbergs phänomenologische Anthropologie (2005). Since September 2005, Müller has been Assistant Professor in Freiburg. He also served as head of the Junior Research Group “Human Nature as a Norm in Bioethics” (funded by BMBF). Furthermore, Müller has been Principal Investigator in the subproject “Neuroethics & Neurotechnology: Emerging Questions from Hybrid Brains” in the “Bernstein Focus: Neurotechnology Freiburg Tübingen”, and in the interdisciplinary project “Engineering Life: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Ethics of Synthetic Biology” in Freiburg.


ETH Zurich


Philip Ursprung was born in Baltimore, MD, in 1963. He studied art history, history, and German literature in Geneva, Vienna, and Berlin, receiving his Ph.D. from the Freie Universität Berlin. He taught at the Université de Genève, at ETH Zurich and at the Hochschule der Künste Berlin. In 2007, he was Visiting Professor at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation of Columbia University, New York. Since 2005, he is Professor for Modern and Contemporary Art at the University of Zurich. As of February 2011, he will be Professor of History of Art and Architecture at ETH Zurich. He was president of the Jury of the Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart for the periods of 2007–2009, and 2009–2011. His publications include Grenzen der Kunst: Allan Kaprow und das Happening, Robert Smithson und die Land Art (2003); Caruso St John: Almost Everything (2008); and Kunst der Gegenwart: 1960 bis heute (2010).


Zurich University of the Arts


Sarah Owens is lecturer for design theory at the Zurich University of the Arts, and currently completing a Ph.D. in Typography and Graphic Communication at the University of Reading. She is a graduate of the Royal College of Art in London and the University of Applied Sciences Augsburg, and the recipient of a fellowship at the Akademie Schloss Solitude. She has previously taught at the University College for the Creative Arts in Rochester and London Metropolitan University. Owens’ work focuses on sociological and philosophical aspects of design, investigating in particular the relationship between lay, amateur, and expert designers. She has written for the Journal of Design History and Eye, and regularly speaks at international design conferences.


Royal College of Art, London


Björn Franke is a designer and design theorist who studied at the Muthesius Academy of Fine Arts and Design and the Royal College of Art in London where he is now completing his Ph.D. in Design Interactions. He combines his lecturing position at the University of Applied Arts Vienna with his role as visiting lecturer at the Zurich University of the Arts and the Royal College of Art, London. He has been awarded fellowships at the Akademie Schloss Solitude and the Artist Residency Schloss Balmoral. His work has been published and exhibited internationally. Franke’s research interests lie in the relationship between design, technology, anthropology, and philosophy; in particular how the shifting technological landscape alters human behavior, relationships, and self-conceptions.


Bauhaus-Universität Weimar


Bernhard Hopfengärtner holds an MA in Design Interactions from the Royal College of Art, London and a BFA in Media Art from the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar. Hopfengärtner’s work investigates the relationship between science, technology, and society, using various media including video, audio, programming, and installation. His work has been exhibited at, amongst others, the Wellcome Trust, London and the Science Gallery, Dublin. He currently lectures at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar.