Design PGR Seminars

This series of seminars is open to all PGR students in the School of Design. Seminars are planned and led by students, so if you have any feedback or requests you can get in touch with the organising committee (Derianna Thomas, Dhrumin Giasotta, and Kai Hsu) at


These bi-weekly seminars are on Tuesday mornings 9:30am-10:30am, and are held in CCE2-012, the CoCreate meeting room on the ground floor in School of Design, hidden behind the Amazon Locker.


A video conference link will be shared on this page, by email and on the calendar event for each seminar for remotely located students to take part in the discussion.



Upcoming Seminars

This seminar is currently pending a host and paper. Suggestions for papers are welcome at

This seminar is currently pending a host and paper. Suggestions for papers are welcome at

This seminar is currently pending a host and paper. Suggestions for papers are welcome at

Past Seminars

The first session of the year was positioned by Lars Erik Holmquist on the theme of ‘how to write a paper’.


Cross, N. (2019) Editing Design Studies – and how to improve the likelihood of your paper being published. Design Studies, Volume 63.


Sørensen, C. (2002): This is Not an Article — Just Some Food for Thoughts on How to Write One. Working Paper. Department of Information Systems, The London School of Economics and Political Science. No. 121.



Sørensen’s paper, though situated firmly in design informatics, had implications for the presentation and publication of design research for all of us at Northumbria. Students discussed the tension between academic fields and the lines that design practitioners and researchers have to walk between paradigms as interdisciplinary researchers. This led to broader discussions about how we communicate our work well with other audiences, and which audience we choose to engage with in the first place.


Sørensen’s arguments are comfortably situated within ‘The Scandinavian’ model of design research, which served as a catalyst for Research through Design (RtD), Human Centred Design (HCD), Experience Centred Design, and many other design methods and methodologies employed by Northumbria’s design research community.


Our students saw a parallel between Cross’ bullet points for good publication [Purposive, Inquisitive, Informed, Methodical, Communicable] and good design practice itself. Similarly, the author’s call for us to earn the right to deviate from the norm offered parallels into traditional visual arts practice where one is encouraged to learn the ropes before experimenting.


On the nature of interdisciplinary work and the design researcher’s need to bend to suit many different academic and structural paradigms one of our cohort posited “Design is the invisible glue that holds society together!” We notice that taking on the challenge of working in these ‘real world’ contexts, with real users and partners, is one of the great strengths of Northumbria’s Design community.



Paper Ratings*

⭐⭐⭐⭐(3.7/5) Cross, N. (2019) Editing Design Studies

⭐⭐⭐⭐(4/5) Sørensen, C. (2002): This is Not an Article

The seminar was positioned by Anne Spaa


Zimmerman et al. emphasises the need for research through design to find its own format for scientific research, focusing on 3 requirements (let go of developing novel theories, be upfront about the goals and problems of a research project, and critically reflect on the ‘how’ of design) for the field to develop. In contrast, Gaver suggests that design has no need to adapt as it might rid the area of its diversity, resulting in a single-perspective practice. Design is generative, the problems faced are ever-changing, therefore it might not be possible to be upfront about the problems and outcomes of a design research project.


Both papers state the need for a form of theory in design, a core to build on – Gaver would look for patterns as they appear, while Zimmerman et al. would choose the methodology ahead of time. Gaver would also prefer that each piece of research defines the basics each time, whereas Zimmerman et al. would like to build on pre-existing knowledge. This was reflected in the structure of the papers, with Gaver providing context to design research that was appreciated by our students, unlike Zimmerman et al. where knowledge of design is assumed.


Students agreed with Gaver in that flexibility is needed in design – design is influenced from other areas and so can’t fit into one methodology like Zimmerman et al. suggest, however it was noted that it is important to define what is flexible and what is structured about your RtD process. Students also questioned what the issue with legitimacy in design research is – our collaboration with other disciplines makes us “Drunken Monkey Masters” where we adapt to the best research method, which perhaps provides its own validity. It was concluded that having multiple evaluation and validation points during the research process will help legitimise it, as the outcome is not always immediate


Gaver, W. (2012). What Should We Expect From Research Through Design ? In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 937–946). ACM.


Zimmerman, J., Stolterman, E., & Forlizzi, J. (2010). An Analysis and Critique of Research through Design: towards a formalization of a research approach. In DIS 2010 – Designing Interactive Systems (pp. 310–319). Aarhus Denmark: ACM.



Paper Ratings*

⭐⭐⭐⭐(3.8/5) Gaver, W. (2012). What Should We Expect From Research Through Design 

⭐⭐⭐(3.3/5) Zimmerman, J., Stolterman, E., & Forlizzi, J. (2010). An Analysis and Critique of Research through Design

The seminar was positioned by Henry Collingham.


Ghodsee, K. (2015). From Notes to Narrative. From Notes to Narrative.



Paper Rating*

⭐⭐⭐⭐(4.3/5) Ghodsee, K. (2015). From Notes to Narrative; Why Write Clearly?

The seminar was positioned by Dhrumin Giasotta

B. Wylant, “Design and Thoughtfulness,” in Design Issues, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 72-82, Jan. 2016.
doi: 10.1162/DESI_a_00366 The MIT Press
A. Findeli, ‘Rethinking Design Education for the 21st Century: Theoretical, Methodological, and Ethical Discussion’ inDesign Issues, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Winter, 2001), pp. 5-17 The MIT Press



Paper Ratings*

⭐⭐⭐ ⭐(4.1/5) B. Wylant, “Design and Thoughtfulness”

⭐⭐⭐⭐(4.2/5) A. Findeli, ‘Rethinking Design Education for the 21st Century


This seminar was positioned by Kiersten Hay



“HIV saved My life”: toward a translational model of design research through participatory design in public history and public health (Matthew Wizinsky, 2019):



Audience as Co-designer: Participatory Design of HIV Awareness and Prevention Posters in Kenya (Audrey Bennett et al., 2006):

The seminar was positioned by Sena Cerci.


Design-oriented Human – Computer Interaction (Daniel Fallman 2003)


This session began with the Fallman paper, followed by attendees positioning their own research and research artifacts in regards to the following questions:

  • What do they want to learn? And why?
  • What do they plan to do (method and process)?
  • What will be made (the role of research artifacts)?
  • How do they plan to share this knowledge with others, and who would they be


Paper Ratings*

⭐⭐⭐ ⭐(4.6/5) D. Fallman, ‘Design-oriented Human – Computer Interaction’

The seminar was positioned by Derianna Thomas.



Perceptions of Industrial Design: The “Means” and the “Ends” (Pietro Micheli et al. 2012) DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-5885.2012.00937.x



Paper Ratings*

⭐⭐⭐ (3.5/5) P. Micheli et. al, ‘Perceptions of Industrial Design: The “Means” and the “Ends”‘

*About our Ratings

These are not critical comments on the papers themselves, but an insight into the papers in the context of our cohort. This is in a hope that future students can get a feel for the emergent design research ethos of our community. At the end of each seminar, papers are ranked by a show of hands. These random acts of democracy are specifically to express how we feel the paper in question has helped us in our individual PhD research.

Get Involved

PGR Seminar Committee

As a student led initiative we are always happy for you to get involved and make the seminar series what you want it to be.

If you would like to help or suggest any feedback, get in touch with us at