Designing Conference Design


(John Wood’s version) from the meeting at the Royal Society of Arts on 10th June 2005,


Dr. Andrew Wootton (University of Salford)

Professor Naomi Gornick (University of Dundee)

John Wood (Goldsmiths University of London).


Dr. Caroline Davey


This first meeting of the group represents the inaugural meeting of a Special Interest Group of the European Academy of Design (external link). Its aim has not yet been formally defined, although its letter of application gives a general overview of likely directions.


Discussion as to whether to focus on the special issues of EAD or to follow a less defined, perhaps more radical and open-ended approach to conference design in general tended to favour the latter.

Possibility of testing any innovative approaches using an EAD conference was deemed impractical at present (time-scale and ownership issues). However, we may decide to present our findings at the next large-scale EAD conference in Turkey, 2007.

JW tabled a 2003 paper outlining a more problem-solving approach to design conferences. Emphasis more on identifying and developing important or promising relations between individuals, and/or framing specific issues that might be soluble by a very large collective ‘working party’ of designers design and educators. (hitherto known as a ‘conference’)


that much of the dissatisfaction surrounding many major design conferences was prompted by the frustration concerning their design which, in turn is prompted by the pressures of Research Assessment for design lecturers. JW argued that, with appropriate design of conferences we could see tangible accomplishments, i.e. solve specific problems, establish useful collaborative groups, and/or make important decisions - whilst remaining visible to the Research/Institutional audit mechanism.

Many conferences seem to emphasise/justify the peer-review process, rather than supporting/promoting/enabling the eventual publication of more (design) relevant, high ‘quality’ work.

The habit of giving time for full-length ‘live’ presentation needed re-consideration as it often inhibited full accessibility across a large conference. Maybe we could have ‘>5-minute’ introductions and move on to ‘OpenSpace’ methods plus publication / exhibition / dissemination support for attendees by the organisers.
AW advocated technological methods that would encourage physically remote collaborations – whiteboard/virtual conferencing/etc.
Discussion of moving from A) to B):

A) draft—>finish—>peer_review—>accept/reject-attend_conference—>publish
B) preliminary draft(+questionnaire)—>accept/reject—>attend(+collaborate+co-curate+support)—>publish

In the second example, visitors would be offered support by teams of technical assistants (e.g. ‘on-the-fly’ production of publishable documents such as MindMapping? / Wiki / Blogg / Backpacket / Next D, etc.) and by ‘curating’ teams of editors/publishers/commercial experts.

NG suggested that each attendee be asked to submit two papers, rather than one.
JW wondered whether this might customarily be as one ‘theory/generic/abstract’ perspective and one ‘practical/specific/particular’ perspective that would combine in a ‘stereo’ dimension.