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New dissertation by a DESMA doctoral student


The dominant approach in design research is based on observations of how designers work. A new dissertation by Ariana Amacker, a DESMA doctoral student at HDK, argues that this approach limits the understanding of design practice, as the bodily experience does not count to the same extent.

On Friday 1 September Ariana Amacker defended her research project Embodying Openness: A Pragmatist Exploration into the Aesthetic Experience of Design Form-Giving. It is a project that has evolved from her interest in design as an artistic and creative process. Approaching design as a physical experience differs from the traditional, analytical way of doing research in design. Her research project is empirical and the artistic method she uses reflects and theorises around design practice based on her aesthetic experience of Butoh, a Japanese form of improvisational dance. The defence of the thesis started with Ariana performing an improvised dance that truly demonstrated her thesis.

“The traditional approach in research tends to objectify and simplify the design process. This does not capture the central importance of the aesthetic experience through different aspects of sensory feelings and intuition in the design work.”

Ariana Amacker has a background as an architect, but also in modern dance and her research projects have evolved from the interest in design as an artistic and creative process. The project is based on a bodily approach and the inner experience of design. Ariana’s notion of design research is to actively practice and exercise her own capacity to embody a sense of openness in action.

“As I imagine it, design is reflection of one’s own boundaries for what we see as our ‘self’ or even how we want ourselves to be seen. So, when a designer can open up his/her own self-image, he/she can open up his/her own perception to see something new.”

The dissertation shows how creativity in design has its roots in bodily experiences. It also contributes to the methodology of design by introducing a movement-based methodology based on the perception of artistic expression. Ariana Amacker also hopes that the thesis can contribute to the development of a theoretical platform for design, where the bodily experience also has its rightful space, a space that is central to further developing research and education on artistic ground.

For more information about the research project contact Ariana.amacker@hdk.gu.se