Topic outline

  • This seminar course acts as a core of your first year studies: it introduces you to the learning community at VCD as a safe space to define your own design practice. 


    The course introduces an alphabet of critical concepts as necessary tools of diffracting design practice. 


    By way of lectures, presentations, readings, and discussion, criticality is introduced as means to recognize normative ways of being in the world, and to imagine alternative ones.


    You learn to develop your understanding of your own practice by writing, documenting, annotating, and/or archiving your work. The  “Designer’s Archive” assignment suggests that the archive could perform the roles of a diary, a sandbox, a laboratory, a storage, a library, a publication, a portfolio, and — an archive.


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  • Not available unless any of:
    • You are a(n) Teacher
    • You are a(n) Student

    You will be assigned one of the topics in the seminar alphabet. 

    You can choose either one of the following:

    1. Plan to host a 10-minute session about the topic. 
    2. Prepare a 5-minute video of the topic to show in class.

    Hosting means you welcome others in the class into your thinking space.

    So for ten minutes, let us move through that space as you want. Let us know what your questions are, and what you think is or is not important or interesting in the topic. Let us see it through your eyes.

    In order to familiarise with the topic you can start with the reading below, if you want.

    This does not have to be a conventional slide presentation, but can take any form you wish.
    For example, you can prepare

    • a speech or a letter
    • a news broadcast
    • an interview with a person you want to talk about the subject
    • a pre recorded video
    • a play, a game, an exercise
    • a discussion session
    • a monologue or spoken word
    • a performance
    • something else.

    Preparing your hosting session is estimated to be equivalent to 6 hours of work.


  • Submit your assignment here (max file size 400 MB)


    As discussed in the seminar, let’s imagine there’s a need to reimagine the way designers document and present their work to others and themselves—the portfolio and the CV. There is a growing discrepancy between the knowledge that can be produced through design, and the established job market that has decided the requirements for a professional designer. The portfolio intent on selling yourself and your work can easily lead to decisions led by aesthetics and individual designers and projects, rather than knowledge, collaboration, and accumulation.


    How to take charge of your own knowledge production? How to communicate designerly knowledge? How to subvert and/or expand the portfolio and the CV?


    Let’s also imagine there is a need to reimagine the way we designers document and care about our work, in order for it to last to future generations. What will be the future archives of our current work look like and what will they communicate? Is the work worth archiving? If not, why? If yes, how should we go about it? The models for archiving are scarce and technologies are challenging. The work of previous generations is held in cardboard boxes in garages, or on floppy disks and obsolete file formats. 


    What kinds of ruins will we make?


    The seminar assignment: ”Designer’s Archive”

    Create your own contribution to this discussion by choosing one of the approaches below.
    Think and work independently during the autumn semester.
    We willl have a work-in-progress checkpoint on 28 October.


    Submit your assignment here (max file size 400 MB)

    You will share your contribution shortly on the final session of the seminar 29 November, where you will have about 5 min to talk about your thinking. 

    Scope of the assigment is 2 credits
    = equivalent to 54 hours
    = equivalent to

    • 10 hours of reading
    • 20 hours for thinking
    • 22 hours of writing and/or designing
    • 2 hours of preparing for presentation.

    Choose ONE of the following:


    Goal: you want to say things about archives or portfolios, and the content/literature of the seminar:

    1) Essay

    Write an essay on the topics discussed in the seminar (work) that is of most interest to you, using the literature provided in the seminar, as well as your own interest. The essay may include visual/design elements.

    > Submit as pdf/video/website equivalent to 5 pages / 17000 characters and minimum five literature sources. 

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    Goal: you want to develop your own portfolio:

    2) Portfolio update

    Update your portfolio in the context of the discussions in the seminar and in the provided literature. Make conscious choices and imagine what you could do to shift the current notions of a portfolio. This exercise can also mean trying out parallel versions of the portfolio for different contexts (a mirror, a database, a product…) .

    > Submit as pdf/video/website and a written description of your process, 3500 characters.


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    Goal: you want to reimagine your career and skills so far: 

    3) CV Update

    Update your Curriculum Vitae with elements that are currently unusual, even imaginative. Think about a reverse side for your CV, that can reveal your failures, your networks and collaborations, your biographical details and/or data, or any other information you may think is missing from a conventional CV. 

    This exercise can also mean trying out parallel versions of the CV for different contexts (a mirror, a database, a product…). 

    > Submit in the format most applicable to your concept and a written description of your process, 7000 characters and minimm 2 literature sources.


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    Goal: you are interested in starting an archive of your own work:

    4) Concept for an Archive

    Create a concept, a beginning, for an archive for your own work in the context of the discussions in the seminar and in the provided literature. What would the platform and format be? Might there be categories, and what are they? What choices are made and what purpose? How do you want future researchers and curators to find you? Present a demo version in the most suitable format (pdf, website, video, etc.) 

    > Submit in the format most applicable to your concept, along with a description of 3500–7000 characters, using minimum 2 literature sources.




    In addition to the seminar readings, some references you can start with:

    Zoe Sadokierski: Critical Journal / Contextual Portfolio: A Framework for Documenting and Disseminating RtD as Scholarly Research In: Proceedings of the 4th Biennial Research Through Design Conference, 19-22 March 2019, Delft and Rotterdam, The Netherlands, Article 38, 1-16. 
    (Note: This is a very scholarly approach, if you happen to be reseach oriented.) 

    Quote: ”The Critical Journaling Guidelines foreground documenting how and where design practice informs, and is informed by, literature and design precedents. As ‘synthesis documents’ Contextual Portfolios provide an evidence base by which to evaluate contextual research, critical thinking and novel processes which may not be evident in a design artefact. ”


    Rachel Berger: The Death of Design Portfolios. How Big Tech is changing the way designers show their work. 
    Quote: "As contemporary design practice evolves from “I made” to “we made” and from static artifacts to dynamic systems, designers will need new tools and tactics for sharing their work. One detailed case study explaining a designer’s contribution at each stage of a project could be more useful than a dozen flawless product shots."


    Tommi Musturi: The Prison of Style (and an Escape plan)
    Quote: ”Pigeonholing is a symptom of capitalism—in the beginning there was voice and rhythm, later music, much later ”adult rock” and finally a concept shop where you can choose between a hip-hop and a goth rock uniform. The artist must not think about genre, but instead, what is the message? It's dangerous to develop your own art in terms of style. You must be conscious of what you're doing, but act on instinct.


    Janwillem Schroffer: Building Block: Curriculum vitae as synthesis. Pages 228–244 in Plan and play, play and plan: Defining your art practice. Valiz 2019.
    Quote ”It is a major exercise to draw up a CV like this, but it is worth while. You have
    - a mirror, logbook and signpost;
    - a personal database of your network;
    - a basis for data management, and
    - a document for when the occasion arises, with application to an institute, or upon request.”


    Joosung Kang: Re-building a context-oriented graphic design portfolio in the social media age (MA Thesis), 2019
    This study identifies systematic factors which lead to passive participation in showcasing a portfolio and build the alternative portfolio as an experiment with the self-directed formation, and context of design. The newly suggested website portfolio is investigated with in-depth interviews of seven graphic design professionals and check its validity as an alternative or additional portfolio besides current portfolio platform services.



  • “A couple people seem to be reticent about the term ‘study,’ but is there a way to be in the undercommons that isn’t intellectual? Is there a way of being intellectual that isn’t social? When I think about the way we were using the term ‘study,’ I think we were committed to the idea that study is what you do with other people. It’s talking and walking around with other people, working, dancing, suffering, some irreducible convergence of all three, held under the name of speculative practice. The notion of a rehearsal – being in a kind of workshop, playing in a band, in a jam session, or old men sitting on a porch, or people working together in a factory – there are these various modes of activity. The point of calling it ‘study’ is to mark that the incessant and irreversible intellectuality of these activities was already there. These activities aren’t ennobled by the fact that we now say, ‘oh, if you did these things in a certain way, you could be said to be have been studying.’ To do these things is to be involved in a kind of common intellectual practice. What’s important is to recognize that that has been the case – because that recognition allows you to access a whole, varied, alternative history of thought.”

    —Fred Moten in The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study by Stefano Harney & Fred Moten (Minor Composition, 2013)