As design’s role in society has expanded, various "conceptual" design practices have emerged like critical design, speculative design, design fiction, and adversarial design. With their unique qualities, these forms of discursive design are all tools for thinking. Rather than utility or aesthetics, their ultimate aim is to inspire reflection upon substantive socio-cultural discourses such as climate change, gun control, genetic engineering, immigration, and animal rights. Despite growing interest over the past two decades, there is scant literature that helps designers actually create discursive things. Bruce and Stephanie Tharp’s recent book, Discursive Design, however, is structured around nine distinct facets that inform the production and dissemination of more effective and defensible work. During his Mitchell Lecture, Bruce Tharp will briefly introduce this topic, followed by a discussion with Tim Parsons, Chair of the Designed Objects programs at SAIC, and audience participation in a Q&A.
About Bruce Tharp: Believed to be the first industrial designer to receive a PhD in anthropology (University of Chicago), in 1998 Bruce Tharp began researching the material culture of Indiana's Old Order Amish, focusing on the production & consumption of value. He first earned a BS in mechanical engineering from Bucknell University and a master’s degree in industrial design from Pratt Institute. In between his schooling, he served as a US Army nuclear weapons officer (Captain) in Germany.
After researching the future of work and the workplace for Haworth Inc.'s design research think-tank, the Ideation Group, he began his teaching career. Over the last fifteen years he has been a tenured professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and currently at the University of Michigan’s Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design. His and Stephanie's award-winning design studio has exhibited internationally, licensed designs for local and global companies, and self-produced commercial, experimental, and discursive products.