Design: The Frontiers of Art and Science

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Design: The Frontiers of Art and Science

Chair: Sarah Kettley


Bettina Nissen – making, meddling and designing with data

Beverley Hood – investigating the impact of technology and science on the body, relationships and human experience through the creation of digital media and performance arts projects

Dave Murray-Rust - exploring the interactions between people, matter and computational systems

Rachel Harkness – at the intersections of ecological design, ecology and social science

“Makers are the key to society above all others” – Patrick Geddes

The School of Design at Edinburgh College of Art is in a unique position among design schools. We have over 20 programmes across under- and post-graduate levels, all of which engage actively with the city and society across Scotland, and we sit alongside four other schools within ECA. Add to that our close proximity to research and innovation across the University of Edinburgh and our students and staff are in an enviable position to cross boundaries and practice ‘post-disciplinarity’.

Our students this past year have diversified; Illustration students have elected to also study Greek philosophy, Performance Costume students have taken Calculus, and Fashion students have learned to use Electronics. Students are encouraged to bring their experiences and knowledge back into the studio and explore the limits of their programme disciplines, and to contribute actively to the evolution of their professions.

The idea of the T-shaped designer is not new. Design is never just about itself, but has to engage with other domains to be relevant and meaningful. Designers need depth, but also the enquiring mindset that allows them to develop breadth and the ability to work effectively with others, and in different environments. We believe in STEAM, rather than STEM – that is, the addition of Art to the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics acronym. The future of the digital is not immaterial, but embedded in our everyday material lives. Who will design textile sensors, if not textile specialists and electronics engineers? Should we really leave the design of smart homes to engineers alone? What about architects and interior designers? And what about ‘wearables’? Still to realise their full potential, these devices need fashion designers, jewellers and even historians and theorists of personal display. And then we need to consider carefully the ethics of species and sentience, the shifting boundaries of what it means to be human, and what the limits of creation should be.

STEAM includes ‘abductive’ thinking – the ability to act on ‘what if’ questions as part of the creative process, to explore a landscape of possible futures, and to do it through making. In this way, making becomes critical in more ways than one. It helps us to think through and experience possible ways of being in the world, to assess, critique and appreciate all forms of the world we build around us.

Please join us and hear from our panel, who will tell us a bit about their own ‘what if’ processes and projects. Each will speak for about ten minutes, and then we will open the floor for extended questions and discussion.

Period9 Apr 2019
Held atEdinburgh International Science Festival, United Kingdom