Abstract

This paper investigates the early history of computing in design and in design research, focusing on individuals who were associated with the Department of Design Research at the Royal College of Art between the 1960s and the 1980s. The authors suggest that the theory and practice developed at that time may be valuable in thinking about the future, particularly when considering how computing may be used, in various forms, by designers in their work. A taxonomy of some early ideas and activities is presented which, it is suggested, displays a different emphasis from the way computing in design is conceived now. It is argued that as computing has become absorbed into mainstream culture, it has tended to “disappear” and its special qualities have become lost since it is regarded as “just a tool” like any other. A contrast is presented between this model of computing focused on facilitating or replacing hand-work and earlier models which prioritised computing’s relation to the mind. The authors note that some other fields seem currently to be reengaging with the idea of computing as something that is not quite like other tools. The article concludes with a list of questions addressed to the design and design research communities based on our analysis.

Keywords:

computing, design research, design history, operational research, art

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Jun 16th, 12:00 AM

The Reappearing Computer: the past and future of computing in design research

This paper investigates the early history of computing in design and in design research, focusing on individuals who were associated with the Department of Design Research at the Royal College of Art between the 1960s and the 1980s. The authors suggest that the theory and practice developed at that time may be valuable in thinking about the future, particularly when considering how computing may be used, in various forms, by designers in their work. A taxonomy of some early ideas and activities is presented which, it is suggested, displays a different emphasis from the way computing in design is conceived now. It is argued that as computing has become absorbed into mainstream culture, it has tended to “disappear” and its special qualities have become lost since it is regarded as “just a tool” like any other. A contrast is presented between this model of computing focused on facilitating or replacing hand-work and earlier models which prioritised computing’s relation to the mind. The authors note that some other fields seem currently to be reengaging with the idea of computing as something that is not quite like other tools. The article concludes with a list of questions addressed to the design and design research communities based on our analysis.

 

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