Making Things Up

Timeframe: 2012-2017

This PhD research studied how the techniques used to make emergent artefacts (or prototypes) influence the process and outcomes of three-dimensional design practice.

The research is founded on an argument that recasts making as a means of thinking, rather than merely transcribing predetermined ideas. It draws on literature from disciplines where this argument has been well-rehearsed, developing a novel synthesis of existing ideas in terms relevant to design studies and practice.

The thesis’ main contribution is to introduce the term ‘epistemic character’, in order to frame a new subject of interest – how techniques structure design processes and the ways we ‘work things out’. Through first-hand studies of designing and making, the research considers how and why we may investigate a technique’s epistemic character.

Perhaps the most significant feature of a technique’s epistemic character is how it distributes decision making throughout a design process. The main theme explored is the contrast between those techniques that promote accuracy to a predetermined form and those that promote step-by-step adaptation in response to an emergent form. The thesis concludes with a discussion of how this distinction might influence the qualities of the human-made world.