We Speak Art and Design Here


Design and creative technologies, creative and cultural industries, and artistic practices, are all characterised by the significance of material considerations in the emergent processes of experimentation, development, application and production. Research in these areas is usually practice-based or practice-led and the rapidly growing level of practice-led postgraduate research courses world-wide has led to an exciting new wave of contemporary academic interest in appropriate research approaches for this type of work.

This paper deals with current methodological imperatives in the fields of design and creative practice. This is an evolving field of academic investigation, dependent on a shared understanding and critique of the range and significance of practice-based approaches and methods that are currently being differentiated in the creative disciplines. The recently established AUT University ‘Material Thinking’ initiative is a challenge to all researchers in art and design disciplines to examine their conceptual approaches toward research and scholarship, including ways of learning, levels of engagement, integration and discovery. A focus on material thinking may open research horizons beyond the notion of practice as a derivative of theory, and contribute to good practices at postgraduate level, enhanced collaborative opportunities, and ultimately to a robust research discipline.

For this development to take place, we need to take a bold, professional position in relation to the identification, naming and articulation of the generative and working practices that underpin the work and the methodological approaches that are developed in the studio. Attention must be directed to careful comparisons and assessment of these approaches and to the discovery of relationships between these approaches and the various philosophical and conceptual underpinnings of practice-led projects.

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Nancy de Freitas is an associate professor in the School of Art & Design, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand. Her current research deals with practice-based methodologies for artists and designers. De Freitas did her undergraduate work and first degree in Communication Design at the Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto. Her postgraduate studies were at the University of Auckland where she obtained a Masters degree in Fine Art. Since that time she has been active as both a professional artist and academic. As a professional artist, she has exhibited her work in solo and group exhibitions, including major installations at regional public galleries in New Zealand with support from University research grants and private sector funding. As a university academic, she has been involved in assessment and curriculum-based research and in the development of innovative collaborative teaching strategies for art and design.