How long have you been with the Design
What other, if any, professional work positions have you
Before coming to UC Davis, I taught in the School of Architecture at Nottingham University in the UK. I also taught at the University of Dublin, the Open University, and Birmingham City University. For a brief while I worked at a web design firm in London, too.
Where could we find examples of your work?
Think about one of your favorite projects that you’ve
I’m a writer, not a designer, but sometimes I work on projects that are a little like design. For instance, I’ve been working with a University of California cross-campus group called Critical Sustainabilities (https://critical-sustainabilities.ucsc.edu) which creates public scholarship on sustainability practice and theory in California. I’ve contributed short essays on topics which I know about, and met with colleagues in Santa Cruz and over the web. We’ve been able to show that there is no one sustainability nor one way of thinking about what sustainability needs to be. We’re hoping that this is a way of starting and widening an urgent conversation for lots of people.
What led you to become a design educator?
I am fascinated by history, and I’m fascinated by design. It was a real tear for me at school, which path to take, and teaching design studies allows me to follow both passions at once. I recently realized that my role models were probably a couple of history teachers at school. (I tried to find them to tell them but the trail went cold!) I know of no way of more rapidly expanding our understanding of the world than by discovering where we’ve already been and, by extension, where we might be going. And I know of no subject under the sun that doesn’t connect with design—it’s a way into everything.
If you could teach any course, what would it
I’m working on a syllabus about the history of cars. It’s like a taboo subject at university, yet the car has been a determinant of lives, deaths, cities, spaces, desires, the economy, and even climate for more than a century. At UCD there is an Institute of Transport Studies, though I suspect I’m one of the only arts and humanities faculty involved in its Graduate Group.
What do you think is the most difficult challenge
designers struggle with?
How to do what needs to be done—socially, aesthetically, organizationally—given all the political and commercial constraints in which design takes place.
What do you think is the most pressing problem designers
should be addressing today?
Inequality and climate change, though those are responsibilities for all of us, not just designers. But designers can hopefully represent, as citizens, some of the concerns of “the 99%” on the inside of industry.
What are 6 things you believe all design students should
read or watch?
1. Something shockingly utopian and critical. Marx and Engels’ Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848) still has that effect.
2. Something shockingly dystopian and critical, projecting the outcomes of our designs. The British television series Black Mirror (2011-13) is a funny and distressing satire on our fixation with technology and media. (Viewers of a sensitive disposition should skip the first episode of season 1. It arguably crosses a line.)
3. Students should “watch” a living and complex design very closely, perhaps through a really good guided tour of a city or building by an historian. For instance, by catching the monthly tour of Bernard Maybeck’s First Church of Christ, Scientist (1910) in Berkeley.
4. Something that takes them to a different time and place. As a student, I was transported to the 15th-century Florentine Renaissance by Michael Baxandall’s Painting and Experience in 15th century Italy (1972). I learned to see like a barrel-maker.
5. Something that shows the designing and making and use of an object completely. The documnary Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037 (2007) depicts a piano as the center of a small world.
6. Something about the business of design—its impersonal globalism and personal relationships, its money, and love, and cruelty, and wonder. Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs (2011) was a bestseller.