Proxy Designer/Pseudo Clients

Andrew Milligan, Cynthia Mohr

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


This paper explores themes of simulation and risk through a collaborative digital experiment. Academics at two universities, one in the U.S., one in Europe, jointly developed an experimental brief that sought to digitally simulate real world scenarios, expose the risks, inevitiable tensions and emergent conflicts often arising out of the relationship between the designer and client. It occurs within the physicality of the traditional studio and workshop, and the formlessness of the web. Improvisational approaches toward method design were incorporated by adopting and swapping roles
throughout a three-week timeframe, switching between roles as proxy designer and / or pseudo client, and seeking gradually through the designing, exchanging and reflecting on questions, the best soft design solution to their clients design problem without conforming to a point where creative integrity is lost, risk is disabled, rather than enabled, and mediocrity ensues. The project explored the inherent risk of miscommunication within the ubiquitous web culture we now inhabit, between two potentially opposing parties, client and designer. Learning and creativity within Interior Design are inherently risky activities that have struggled to fit other academic regimes, and other disciplinary shoes. Design is not about the reliability or indeed readability of
distinct signposts, but a metaphorical map of unknown territory, uncertain where creative risk taking will lead, but in arriving, we recognize the destination. To the skeptical though, ‘risk’ and ‘play’ are distinctly suspect ‘four-letter-words’ with debatable pedigrees, and almost suggest pedagogically deviant terms which threaten to distance us from the serious Interior and academic rigor of a hard ‘work’ ethic. While other disciplines may define their risk through the physical artifacts they produce, (e.g.
painters paint), Interior Design cannot simulate this in a similar artifactual manner. Instead, we operate within a particularly odd, unreliable and distinctly risky paper space abstraction, frequently seeking to simulate, at scale, without the substance of the real
thing, within an exclusive visual language of orthogonal drawing. The risk we now face, as a discipline, is in not facing this paradox in our traditional learning process. Significantly, what Interior Design has within its grasp, is the power and persuasion of
description, and language plays a pivotal part in supporting what the image fails to say. In embracing risk we also risk failure, and in doing so we must confront conflict, but conflict may be as creatively energizing as it is potentially paralyzing. While Interior
Design operates at the intersection of other disciplines, often borrowing both theoretical and pedagogic processes, it also exists metaphorically within a spectrum of spaces of 786 digital flow, to relative fixedness and undeniable transience, from the distinct physicality of familiar spaces, (the analogue studio and/or workshop), to the deviant otherness of heterotopian places (the flow, flux and virtual). In embracing risk we risk failure, but how
can this be nurtured within a growing climate of educational, political and industrial accountability and uncertainty. This paper explores how creativity, risk and a play ethic address the recurring themes of simulation within Interior Design education.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIDEC Interior Design Educators Council
Subtitle of host publicationR-AISON D’ETRE Reason for Being Conference, Montreal
Place of PublicationMontreal
PublisherIDEC Interior Design Educators Council
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2008
EventInterior Design Educators Council: 2008 Annual Conference - Quebec, Canada
Duration: 5 Mar 20088 Mar 2008


ConferenceInterior Design Educators Council
Internet address

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