Conference Report: Learn X Design 2019
The fifth annual DRS Pedagogy SIG Learn X Design conference, Insider Knowledge, was held July 9-12 at the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey.
The conference hosted 150 delegates from 81 institutions in 31 countries, highlighting the continued interest in design education research around the world. In all, 87 papers and 6 workshops were presented. It was a busy conference, but one that allowed the community to reconnect, create new links and engage in discussion.
The conference started (unofficially!) with a one-day PhD Pitstop event, where 24 PhD students presented their work, interspersed by short lectures by Owain Pedgley, Peter Lloyd, Gülay Hasdoğan, and Gülsen Töre Yargin. During the 'pitstop' itself, students had the chance to visit four tables to grill the 'experts' on PhD-related issues. Quite a few good ideas for design PhD researchers came from this event (and not just from the experts…), so keep an eye on the DRS PhD Discussion board for more on this in the coming weeks. The day ended with a traditional Academic, Live-Band Karaoke with double-blind peer review singing...
The papers presented over the three days demonstrated the range and rigour of contemporary design education research. In all, there were 27 presentation sessions organized into 18 Track Themes and the topics ranged from core design education themes (such as student development, modes of learning, and studio praxis) through to emerging practices in teaching as well as between education and society.
The range of research methods was similarly broad: from large-scale statistical analyses of large data sets through to rich description and dramaturgical approaches of analysing the Studio. Questions from delegates on methods and approaches were as common as queries on results.
And, of course, the range of subjects of study expanded the anthropocentric to include, for the first time, both cats and squirrels…
The Keynote presentation on day 1 was given by Gabriela Goldschmidt, who presented her work on design cognition and its inherent spatiality through theories such as Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development. Goldschmidt argued strongly for the value of such spaces to develop design expertise – not simply design-like behaviours and actions.
Day 1 ended with a visit to a traditional Ankara hammam for a Turkish bath. A comparative, auto-ethnographic, reflexive study was conducted and concluded: "What goes on in the hammam stays in the hammam"
The second keynote was presented by Zeynep Çelik Alexander, who gave an in-depth and fascinating analysis of the pedagogical roots of the Bauhaus, arguing strongly that the design curriculum that has influenced nearly all contemporary design education had prior pedagogical research roots (aesthetic feeling, drawing, designing). Yet another reason to join the DRS Pedagogy SIG - it all started with education research!
Thursday ended with the conference dinner, which, again, took a purely Turkish turn - before the first food arrived, everyone was given a hip scarf, the band started, dancers arrived, and off we went. As with the hammam, you had to be there…
The final keynote was given by Halime Demirkan on the subject of learning styles and their applications to student-tutor interaction. This work highlighted the unique position of design education research in the intersection of theory, research, practice and design itself.
The conference ended with a panel session considering the future of design education and research, comprising Emre Çaglar, Aykut Coskun, Ípek Akpinar, Yasuko Takayama, and Stanley Reucker. The panel noted several emerging themes throughout the conference, including the continuing maturity of design education research and the growing body of work produced, and referred to, by the community. A follow up article on the discussion and themes will follow.
The conference was closed by Naz AGZ Börekçi, Fatma Korkut and Dalsu Özgen Koçyildirim, the conference co-chairs, outlining the design process and organisation behind the event. The theme of the conference, Insider Knowledge, was reflected throughout the event in discussions and, in particular, through communication about design education and its value as a mode of education.
The visual identity for the conference was inspired by the intersections of cultures, peoples and ideas that represent Turkey's past and present. This identity worked really well across all the conference materials and was a reminder of the diversity and plurality of speakers and participants.
Overall, this was a fantastic conference with a lot of good work brought together by a passionate community of practitioners and researchers. The design research education community has incredible Insider Knowledge and a growing maturity of practice and research.
So, thank you to everyone who helped make Learn X Design 2019 such a great event: to Naz, Fatma, and Dalsu for guiding the design; to all the volunteers and helpers who made it work; to Middle East Technical University for supporting it; and to all the contributors, delegates, presenters, authors and speakers.
The next Learn X Design Conference will be held in 2021 (location still to be confirmed). If you are interested in hosting the next LearnXdesign conference in 2021 then get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org
Derek Jones, PedSIG Convenor