The architecture of frivolity and mess

Ward, Matt. 2011. 'The architecture of frivolity and mess'. In: Design principles and practices. Sapienza University, Rome, Italy. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

This paper sets out to explore the fragmentary and spontaneous nature of design practice whilst evaluating and demonstrating rigour and quality. It focuses on collaborative work by designers Jimmy Loizeau, Laura Potter and Matt Ward.

Experimental and speculative design practice is often difficult to validate as academic research. Within the Design Research community our ability to verify quality is heavily reliant on theoretical explication or scientific testing. Validation frameworks have been borrowed and adapted from the social sciences, yet many of these methods are unfit for purpose. The paper begins by charting the unpredictable development of a conceptual design process: mapping the shifting terrain of ideas and investigating the notion of mess, complexity and disorder in order to propose new modes of (anti)validity.

Building on the unpredictability of creativity, the paper goes on to examine the importance of frivolity. In recent years design has been recognized as a transformative practice: a means of enabling social and behavioural change. Consequently, the tools and methodologies found within design are being mobilized in new contexts where the ethical implications of our actions are profound. In this context it is difficult for designers to embrace and value frivolity. By investigating how playfulness can generate robust research problems or propositions, the paper argues that design can be employed as a positive disruptive force, not only throwing open possibility but also acting as a cultural provocateur.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



4 February 2011Completed

Event Location:

Sapienza University, Rome, Italy

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Date Deposited:

30 Nov 2011 11:21

Last Modified:

24 Sep 2021 13:37


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