Praxis and Poetics

Last week I submitted the final version of my paper for the Research Through Design conference ‘Praxis and Poetics’. Writing the paper was an unexpected opportunity to explore the disparity between design practices of creating meaning in products, and the everyday circumstances that create meaning for the people who eventually own them.

The call for submissions was a really interesting one: the conference organisers are subverting the conventional conference format of 20 minute Powerpoint presentations, for round table discussions in ‘rooms of interest’.  And the artefacts that are the vehicles for the research are elevated to a visible position – there will be an exhibition in the BALTIC centre, and I’m really pleased that a new installation of Objects in Purgatory badges will be a part of it.


Badge page images copy

The badges given to participants in the Campaign for Objects in Purgatory


My abstract is below:

Campaign Badges: Creating Meaning Through Making

This paper is a reflection on a practice led research project called the Campaign for Objects in Purgatory, which sets out to discover how meaning develops in a possession during its life in the home. It explores the implications for designers seeking to create lasting meaning in their products, particularly in the context of emotionally sustainable design. This paper attempts to unravel the role of a series of badges which I produced and distributed as part of the research.

The Campaign has developed over the last two years and has taken the form of workshops, an exhibition, a series of conference papers and a journal article.  The badges discussed here were made as part of an exploratory research exhibition that took place in 2011 at Sheffield Institute of Arts gallery. Visitors to the exhibition were invited to contribute an uncherished gift, in the form of a drawing or photograph and accompanying narrative, and in return they received a campaign badge. Each badge featured a photograph of an uncherished gift submitted by someone else. By wearing it the participant gave the object a new ‘voice’ and took the Campaign beyond the boundaries of the exhibition space.

In this paper, the badges are the catalyst for a discussion about the disparity between the everyday circumstances that create meaning in possessions, and design practices of creating meaning in products.

© Julia Keyte 2013