Volume 13 | Visual / Textual: documenting the realities of research through design practice.

Studies in Material Thinking (SMT) in collaboration with the organisers of the Praxis and Poetics: Research Through Design conference is calling for submissions to a special volume of research articles to be published in April 2015.

‘Research through design’ as a practice-based form of inquiry is now widely adopted in design research cultures and beyond. However, questions as to how this form of inquiry is understood, validated, and disseminated are of current debate. In an attempt to progress this discussion, a new conference called Research Through Design (RTD) was held in September 2013, A primary aim of the conference was to foreground the materiality of design research, placing the artefacts of research practice centre stage. A second aim was to create an environment purposefully and synergistically positioned for the presentation and discussion of ‘research through design’ practice. The conference introduced a novel format foregrounding the research artefact through both exhibition and dialogical round-table discussion sessions. The discussions and critical reflections that arose during and following the conference point to the practical and philosophical challenges of this more synergistic approach to the dissemination of ‘research through design’, and highlight the important contribution to be made in the broader discourse on what it means to research through design practice as a form of inquiry.

This special issue aims to open up the debate to a wider audience and enable deeper engagement with the issues and challenges associated with the communication of research through design. One of the burning debates in design disciplines is how to document the realities of practice more analogously. Whilst the traditional conference paper, journal or essay format provides valuable and valid space (we are not disputing this), we also acknowledge that something more multi-layered and dialogical could offer greater potential to reflect the genuine nature of the practice and afford clearer description of the research findings and processes. New formats of dissemination, such as annotated portfolios or exhibited artefacts with a textual exposition are only one side of this coin – there are significant challenges to how these new formats are reviewed and assessed across all components. There continues to be tension in general terms about the wide-ranging role of the artefact within research, along with the role of practice, and how such roles are communicated.

Based on a number of complex and often contradictory issues arising from the realities of documenting research through design, we would like to invite papers that may address one or more of the issues set out below:
- How artefacts are used to tell the story of a research process;
- Reflection on different forms, modes and purposes of research through practice;
- Discussion of the challenges of research through design practice; with particular reference to the role(s) of the artefact therein;
- Reflection on the transition from design practitioner to design researcher and the role(s) that research artefacts play in this transition;
- Reflections on the role(s) of the artefact in the development and subsequent dissemination of research through design practice;

This special issue will signal a constructive break from conventional journal format by inviting: (i) new and alternative conceptualisations of practice-based research; and (ii) work that challenges the expected mechanisms for communicating and translating research to broader audiences. Submissions should document exemplars of research through design practice and, given the SMT publication format, should further demonstrate a rigorous and critical approach to visual argumentation. We are keen to represent a diverse range of disciplines to capture different methods for practicing research through design. We are also open to authors challenging the current journal publication format to support the visual communication of work.

In the interest of offering some guidance, we suggest that submissions should not exceed 6000 words including references and be no shorter than 2000 words. We do not have limitations of the number of images, figures, illustrations or videos and, in keeping with the ethos of the focus of the special issue, we encourage innovative formats for submission that bring the textual and visual elements of the submission together thoughtfully. We welcome conversations to discuss novel formats in more detail.

The submission deadlines are as below:
• CfP: February 2014
• Full paper deadline: 31 August 2014
• Acceptance decision and feedback: October 31st 2014
• Submission of final drafts: November 30th 2014
• Copy editing: December 2014 to January 2015
• Expected publication: April 2015.

Please feel free to contact us to explore ideas that you may have related to the content and format of a submission. We are happy to discuss ideas and in certain circumstances are able to offer a degree of support for researchers at an early point in their research through design practice. For more information about the Praxis and Poetics Research Through Design 2013 conference and to download the conference proceedings, please visit the website http://www.praxisandpoetics.org/researchthroughdesign/.

Jayne Wallace, Joyce Yee, Abigail Durrant
s.j.wallace@dundee.ac.uk, joyce.yee@northumbria.ac.uk, abigail.durrant@ncl.ac.uk

Editor-in-Chief: Nancy de Freitas
Studies in Material Thinking, ISSN 1177-6234
School of Art and Design, Faculty of Design & Creative Technologies, AUT University, Private Bag 92006, Auckland 1142, New Zealand