Keynote Lecture 9: A New Narrative for a Material Culture

13th June 2017

Image for LDoc Keynote 9

The London Doctoral Design Centre (LDoc) would like to invite you to attend its ninth keynote lecture, with Paul Chamberlain and Stuart Walker, at 6.30pm on Tuesday 13th June 2017.


The event will be of particular interest to postgraduate design research students and academics, but is open to all.

Admission is free, but will be by ticket only, so please register in advance.

There will be drinks and networking following the event in the Royal College of Art Senior Common Room.


If you have any queries about the event, please contact



Thinking With Things – Paul Chamberlain


Cultural practices/experiences can be mediated through objects, which in turn can provide vehicles through which to gain understanding of the richness and complexity of people’s lives. The talk draws on the value of ‘thinking with things’ as a method for data collection and creates the conduit, through which societal assumptions can be made visible, explored and challenged. From a critical design position it is proposed artefacts through structured engagement with individuals and communities might help develop insights and inform responses to complex societal challenges.



Useless Design? A New Narrative for a Material Culture of Lasting Value – Stuart Walker


The focus of conventional design disciplines, such as Industrial Design, has been on physical, practical solutions to perceived problems. More recently, areas such as service design and co-design have maintained this emphasis on usefulness and extrinsic benefits. These efforts contribute to economic growth, improve our capabilities in service provision, and lead to innovative products and product relationships through, for example, the Internet of Things.


Design research in universities has tended to align itself with and be part of these developments. However, in doing so, design research is also contributing to a system, and a material culture, that is unconscionably wasteful; that produces short-lived, essentially disposable products of no lasting value; and which is patently destructive and unsustainable.


Underlying these endeavours is a value system and a worldview that is in serious need of reform. In this talk I will discuss how design research within the academy can – and given the urgency of the problem – should be addressing these more foundational issues by creating objects that have no practical utility but which, instead, are a form of argument or display (epideictic) rhetoric that can contribute to new realizations, new perceptions and the development of a new, more considerate, less harmful worldview.



Paul Chamberlain is a graduate of the RCA, Professor of Design, head of the Art & Design Research Centre and co-director of an interdisciplinary research group Lab4Living at Sheffield Hallam University, UK. Paul’s interest lies in designing and developing tools and methods to encourage and engender social innovation and applies this with a focus on healthcare, disability and ageing.


His work explores the multi-sensory aspects of design and the role of artefacts that help define pertinent societal questions as much as present solutions. He has led major interdisciplinary projects and delivered keynote lectures at leading international venues on innovation strategies and sustainable approaches to design and manufacture that have played a significant role in supporting regional industrial reconstruction.


He has achieved two millennium product award from the Design Council UK and his work is included in the permanent collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum London and the Museum of Modern Art, Prague. He won a major prize in the ‘Imagining chairs’ category of the ‘Art on Chairs’ international design competition 2013 (sponsored by the Paredes Furniture Design Pole & Institute for Design, Media and Culture Research, Portugal).



Stuart Walker is Chair of Design for Sustainability and a Director of the ImaginationLancaster Research Centre at Lancaster University, UK. He is also Visiting Professor of Sustainable Design at Kingston University, UK, and Emeritus Professor, University of Calgary, Canada. His distinctive practice-based research explores the environmental, social and spiritual aspects of sustainability. He has received numerous funding awards in Canada and the UK including SSHRC, AHRC and Arts Council England.


His papers have been published and presented internationally and his conceptual design work has been exhibited in Canada, Australia, Italy, at the Design Museum, London and most recently at Brantwood, John Ruskin’s house in the English Lake District. His books include: Sustainable by Design; The Spirit of Design; The Handbook of Design for Sustainability (ed. with J. Giard), and Designing Sustainability. Design for Life: creating meaning in a distracted world was published in April 2017. Design Roots (ed.) will be published in December 2017.