Residencies with Resonance
: A case for pragmatism in design-led concept development

  • Saskia Coulson

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis unites the relevant philosophical foundations of design and pragmatism in order to co-design a new model of provision for design residencies in the museum. To achieve this, it considers the transformations in design that have been the focus of much academic debate in recent years. In an attempt to move this vision forward, this study employs the concept development of a design residency as a lens through which the traditional and emerging frameworks of design can be viewed to foster a discussion on the agency of design within a cultural organisation.

    This investigation uses an inquiry paradigm defined by pragmatist John Dewey to shape this design research endeavour. Dewey’s pragmatism can be understood as an embodiment of inquiry: the objective is not to define the properties of reality, but to understand that inquiry is an active and participatory approach, with the purpose of gaining understanding of an experience that can be applied to current and future contexts. As a result, this thesis employs Case Study methodology in order to examine the concept development phase of innovation delivered by design research. This in-depth study examines the role of design research in developing a new model for residencies and investigating the potential opportunities offered by a future design residency to those stakeholders most affected by it. Various methods have been developed using Dewey’s pragmatism, including experience as method, community of inquiry and visual research methods. In addition, the principles of design, specifically that of co-design, have also assisted in bringing the philosophy of pragmatism into the design space.

    Through this epistemology, this research explores the current practices of residencies in the creative and cultural industries in order to examine what is in existence while proposing a future conceptualisation of provision. Initially, a contextual review of the limited literature paired with an overview of the existing residency programmes sets out the scope of the inquiry. This is followed by an in-depth heuristic investigation of the current Victoria and Albert Museum Residency programme, which contributes to this analysis of the existing concept of residency, and provides insight into the potential reach of the residency as a concept. Furthermore, a co-design workshop, which brought together residency producers from around the UK, is discussed as a means to identify the challenges and opportunities within current practices, and uncover possibilities for devising a new model of provision.

    The thesis then turns from problem identification to solution articulation as it examines two co-design workshops devised to develop a new model of provision, with a sample of individuals who would be (or have already) engaged in a design residency programme. As a form of testing and analysis, the concept of a new model which is developed throughout the inquiry, is then presented within a design context to posit new futures for provision. The closing chapter then describes a conceptual model of research and practice which presents the design residency model as a form of design leadership in the changing cultural landscape of design.

    This study contributes a new model for the provision of design residencies which can attend to future challenges presented to the creative and cultural industries. Furthermore, it presents an approach to doctoral design research which offers an example of concept development between academia and industry by engaging experts and key stakeholders in the front-end design development process. Additionally, this study also recognises the implications of the growing interest in pragmatism in design, and indicates potential pathways to highlight the relevance of this philosophy to design contexts, such as visualisation. Additionally, this thesis contends that within the residency space, the concept of design has far greater application than solely as a topic. Indeed, design is not only the subject of what a museum communicates to its audiences or how it communicates that information: rather, it is a way to frame the understanding and development of cultural products and services, and serves as an act of leadership in the strategic management of a cultural institution.
    Date of Award2016
    Original languageEnglish
    SponsorsV&A Museum of Design Dundee, University of St Andrews, Economic and Social Research Council, UK, Victoria and Albert Museum & The Design Museum
    SupervisorLouise Valentine (Supervisor), Georgina Follett (Supervisor) & Graham Pullin (Supervisor)


    • Residencies
    • Concept development
    • Design research
    • Creative and cultural industries
    • Co-design
    • Pragmatism
    • Design
    • residency
    • Dewey
    • pragmatism
    • V&A Dundee
    • Design Museum
    • concept development
    • case study

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