Design Education and Learning









“Dis-course is Killer!” Educating the critically reflective designer  

Veronika Kelly 

University of South Australia

Keywords: design education; design practice; discourse; culture; theory


Design practice knowledge is culturally and socially mediated, and historically situated. It is a discourse. Discourse, when conceived as a social practice, is simultaneously a method of understanding and signifying the world, a mode of acting upon the world and other persons, and also a means of transforming these operations (Fairclough, 1993). The significance of conceiving of design as a discursive practice is that it draws attention to the ways in which design knowledge is (re)produced by a particular culture and tied to human conduct. In these terms, a critical approach to analysing discourse as a social practice can be an active force for rethinking ideas about design and what it means to “be” a designer. In the context of design education, such an approach provides a means of enabling students to take up more critically informed positions in their practice. This paper discusses research into the development of a theoretical framework that follows Fairclough, Foucault, and Schön in linking their thought on discourse, culture, and practice respectively as the basis for a critical pedagogy. The framework is discussed in relation to the results of a pilot study with undergraduate communication design students at an Australian university. The paper argues that applying the framework through the integration of theory and practice has recourse to students’ conduct as emerging designers that also presents a potential to transform design practice and its operations. 

This paper is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence.

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Cite this paper: Kelly, V. (2016). “Dis-course is Killer!” Educating the critically reflective designer. Proceedings of DRS 2016, Design Research Society 50th Anniversary Conference. Brighton, UK, 27–30 June 2016.

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