First Edition: Divergent Voices

Design famously defies definition. It’s all around us, impacting our lives on a daily basis, but it’s hard to pin down. So maybe we should explore rather than attempt to define, in order that our multiple explorations allow the territory to be mapped out and examined in some detail, and to see what we can discover.

The projects and theses that form the culmination of the course do just that: they explore the boundaries, probe the surface and examine what lies beneath. Culture and commerce, lifestyle and technology, politics and gender, text and image, environment and fashion are scrutinised with forensic intensity. From the virtual world of social networks, video games and hacking to the tangible forms of places, products and the human body, the writers tackle a wide range of topics and emerge with a complex array of takes on design and its contemporary practice.

The evidence shows that design is an expanding universe, that the verities of physicality are being matched by a world in which meaning derives from every form of expression or communication, where systems and networks drive the flow of information and interaction, and where changes in society and the environment provide an ever-present background.

The need for interrogation, for commentary, for critique has never been greater, we would argue. Without an informed debate we risk much, but with understanding and imagination so much can be achieved. The writers graduating from this course can be both advocates and challengers, campaigning for design’s positive influence on our lives and warning us of its potential dangers. Perhaps more important than the topics and debates themselves are the sounds of divergent voices. From different backgrounds, cultures and disciplines these voices grow ever stronger and speak more clearly as they move from the shadows of academia into the full light of day.