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Nordes Catalogue Now Available on the DRS Digital Library, Q&A with Organisers Thomas Markussen and Eva Brandt

Nordes Catalogue Now Available on the DRS Digital Library, Q&A with Organisers Thomas Markussen and Eva Brandt

The entire catalogue of the Nordes conferences is now available on the DRS Digital Library. To get some more insight into this conference series, we spoke with Thomas Markussen and Eva Brandt, two of the organisers, about the conference's aims, the theme of this past year's conference 'Matters of Scale' and what it means to have the proceedings uploaded to the Digital Library.


What is the Nordes conference? How did it begin and who was involved? What is your role? What are the conference’s main aims and structure?

Nordes – which is an abbreviation for Nordic Design Research – was established in 2005 when design researchers from the Nordic countries decided to organise the first Nordic Design Research Conference which welcomed all kinds of design research as opposed to more narrowly defined research conferences.
The ambition of Nordes is to be a vital inspirational platform that gathers practitioners and scholars interested in design research no matter if one come from for instance the so-called artistic institutions, from universities, polytechnical universities, business schools or is an independent scholar. Over the years, Nordes has attracted still more contributions and participants from the rest of the world. Today, it is acknowledged as an international conference of the highest academic standards.
The Nordes Board is responsible for organizing the conference and all activities happning inbetween. The members of the Nordes board changes continuously as it consists of the previous and present conference’s General and Programme Chairs, as well as representatives from the Nordic countries not otherwise covered by those functions. For the Nordes´21 conference, Eva Brandt and Thomas Markussen acted as General Chairs together with Programme Chairs Eva Berglund, Guy Julier and Per Linde.
In addition to organising the biannual Nordes Conferences, the Nordes Board also arranges PhD Summer Schools the year between the conferences. Nordes promotes the publication and dissemination of design research through the open access Nordes Digital Archive ( and the DRS Digital Library (


Can you provide a brief summary of the theme ‘Matters of Scale’? What did you envision when announcing this theme? How did authors respond?

The notion of scale is critical in design. Designers are often invited to upscale their efforts to help solve the big challenges facing our societies and the planet. But just as often, the idea of upscaling is met with a scepticism and requirements to evaluate, document and account for design-initiated change. Moreover, it has become evident over the decades that upscaling is not always the key and will not lead to the solutions needed to address the challenges proliferating in our troubled times. On the contrary, the urge to upscale itself arises out of the beliefs and ideologies of Modern Design that are largely responsible for the distress that we – and our descendants – will have to deal with.

Alternative and critical notions of scale may provide new explanatory power for understanding how design and sustainable future-making are practiced in an increasingly complex and unpredictable world. This is a world where the forces that condition design – markets, economies, politics, migration, pandemics – change and articulate in unexpected ways, not least due to processes of neoliberalisation, globalisation, and the normalisation of digital technologies. And with the advent of Big Data and AI, life is now surveilled, exploited, and proactively speculated upon at unprecedented scales.

As scale is a feature of all systems, artefacts and organisms, understanding scales may provide designers and design researchers with significant insights in how to practice design for change. This raises a range of questions, such as how can design research be used to explore the interconnected aspects of scales and make them visible? What kinds of scalar relationships does design involve and how does – or might – design research identify, study and problematise these? What research methods and conceptual frameworks exist - or need to be developed - for enquiring into the multiple implications of scales in the world of design?

These and others questions were interestingly addressed by the key note speakers and design research authors representing most of the design disciplines.


Where else might people turn if they want to learn more about some of the themes and issues that have been discussed at the conferences?  
The conference proceedings is now available at both DRS Digital Library ( and the Nordes Archive

The conference theme is dealt with explicitly and at length in Jamer Hunt’s recently published book Not to scale How the Small Becomes Large, the Large Becomes Unthinkable, and the Unthinkable Becomes Possible. Hunt was invited as one out of three keynote speakers at Nordes’21.
Also, as an off-spring of Nordes’21, the editors of Artifact: Journal of Design Practice have decided to make a special issue on Matters of Scale. The call for papers has been distributed widely and we hope the rich discussions that were initiated at Nordes´21 will continue and proliferate in this issue.


Do you have plans for future Nordes conference? Can you give us any details?
The future planning of the next Nordes 2023 conference is in full swing. The conference will be hosted for the first time by Linköping University in Sweden and Stefan Holmlid, Jonas Löwgren, Vanessa Rodrigues and Carl Westin have set up a strong organizing committee which, we are sure,  will come out with a timely and interesting theme and call for submission in the fall 2022.


What do you see as the benefits of having the proceedings uploaded to the Digital Library? 
Having Open Access to a library that collects high quality design research from numerous conferences and design communities is invaluable for the further development of the field. With its database and search engine the DRS Digital Library provides for instance the opportunity to cross-search for publications on topics and authors in both the DRS and Nordes Proceedings. Consider for instance a topic like “design and politics”. Searching for it, you will find articles going back as far as 2004 dealing with it from various disciplinary perspectives. And the Library as a whole includes proceedings and publications dating back to the 1970s. If knowledge production is, among other things, about realizing that you are standing on the shoulders of others, then this is very helpful. You can look at how a topic has been treated theoretically and methodologically, or - if you are a design historian - how a research area emerge, evolve and change over time. Moreover, since the Digital Library includes contributions from scholars from all over the world, it also provides a unique possibility of getting insights into how design research is practiced in different contextual and institutional settings. The benefit for contributors of Nordes is the likelihood of reaching out to an even broader crowd of readers and peers.