‘Thinking Design’

Mark Ingham UAL Scholar Application

For the tenure as UAL Teaching Scholar I will develop a scheme that continues my interest into meta-cognitive learning as given in my case study by the meta-project, ‘What is Referencing?’ It will broaden the ideas developed in this writing/research project to cultivate strategies in the Design School at LCC that help students become more aware of the possibilities of ‘Thinking Design’.


Abigail Buchan. ‘Dissertation Transformation Exhibition’ at LCC, ‘draw me a dinosaur’ (Buchan 2015)

In this project metacognition refers to ‘…higher order thinking, which involves active control over the cognitive processes engaged in learning.’ It will be an investigation into ways of we can help students of all levels of knowledge acquisition to understand how they think about their learning. As Ryan Hargrove (2011) suggests in his article Fostering creativity in the design studio: A framework towards effective pedagogical practices, ‘The area of metacognition can be the scaffolding for future problem solving, as the goal remains to enable designers to utilize creative design thinking/processes with optimum efficiency.’

The ‘Thinking Design’ project will be in three main parts. The first part will be about how we think about design to help us teach design even more effectively. The second will be about how we design thinking so we can teach all aspects of the design curriculum more effectively. The third would be about design as thought. During this project I will go beyond the contestable ideas of ‘learning styles’ (Curry 1990) and look more deeply in to the ways we are thinking about meta-cognitive learning.

This project has a number theoretical and practical strands or frames (Bal 2002). The first frame being a philosophical approach which uses key concepts, as discussed by Gilles Deleuze (1997) in Chapter 3, The Image of Thought, of his 1968 book Difference and Repetition. This illuminating and complex philosophical tract has been used successfully by a number of my undergraduate students when they have started to question their own thoughts about the way they think about the topics in their thesis. By questioning what we think thinking is, or philosophical has been thought of as thinking, these students, after an initial conceptual wrestling match, gained a much better understanding that we cannot base thinking on the concept that just because, ‘Everybody knows’.

‘We would do better to ask what is a subjective or implicit presupposition: it has the form of  ‘Everybody knows …’. Everybody knows, in a pre-philosophical and pre-conceptual manner … everybody knows what it means to think and to be. … As a result, when the philosopher says ‘I think therefore I am’, he can assume that the universality of his premisses – namely, what it means to be and to think … – will be implicitly understood, and that no one can deny that to doubt is to think, and to think is to be …. Everybody knows, no one can deny, is the form of representation and the discourse of the representative. When philosophy rests its beginning upon such implicit or subjective presuppositions, it can claim innocence, since it has kept nothing back – except, of course, the essential – namely, the form of this discourse.’ (Deleuze 1997:130).

One example of this use of a philosophical meta-cognitive strategy was Abigail Buchan, a Year 3 GMD student, who wanted to explore the idea around the representation of dinosaurs. She investigated how we know what dinosaurs looked like and how illustrations of them influence our thinking about what they might or might not have looked like.

[Buchan, Abigail Mae – “Man Creates Dinosaurs – A Study of Thought”

Both your primary and secondary Research have combined to make a very thoughtful and thought provoking dissertation. You have taken on a series of complex ideas and critically analysed them with an open mindedness that has enabled you to think about how we think in an intelligent way. This Analysis has been scaffolded with the “Draw Me A Dinosaur” investigation, which gave you a direct insight into how influential popular culture can be and lightening the reading of the dissertation in a witty and humorous way.

You analysis and research has meant that you have increased your philosophical Subject Knowledge and learnt even more about the ‘imaging of dinosaurs’. You have Communicated and Presented your ideas very cleverly and intelligently. The book though needs to be glued better next time you print it as it is already falling apart.

Overall comments: This is an excellent reflection on how thought can be closed down by our lack of open minded thinking. You have challenged yourself to go to philosophical places that you might not have expected to go when you set out to study dinosaurs. Your encounter has made you and the reader think differently, which can only be a good thing.

Authoritative, personally synthesised voice with theorists and the use of primary research drawing to support the narrative. A very pleasing and engaging read, well written.

Possibly the drawings having been influenced by Jurassic Park, could have been discussed in relation to Baudrillard’s Simulacrum, whereby the images are symbolic, and stand for something like something?]

Her thesis developed the Deleuzian ideas in the ‘Image of Thought’ to create an argument about past thinking about a subject being sometimes inhibiting to contemporary thinking about that subject. What for me was even more interesting was the way she then developed this concept from her thesis in a practice-based investigation for the ‘Dissertation Transformation Exhibition’ at LCC called, draw me a dinosaur (Buchan 2015).

IMG_0471              IMG_0475

The success of this investigation was in the way complex philosophical ideas were used to connect theoretical practice with practice in the studio. Abigail now works for Amazon Design and she has said that it was in part her thesis that got her the job. Even more remarkably this thesis has been passed around her department as an exemplar of creative ways of thinking about design.


Another ‘frame’ would be how ‘Thinking Design’ can help the integration of theory with practice and vice a versa. By developing a series of workshops over the two years of being a UAL Teaching Scholar I would like to develop a number of interventions into the curriculum in the Design School that help the relationships between the theories of practice and the practices of theories develop into an even more productive synergy. By using the research gained from the Learning and Teaching Theory Online investigation, I am currently leading, I would develop the Idea of Personal Learning Environments to include all actives the students engage with at LCC and at UAL in general.

‘Thinking Design’ will aim to boost all students’ engagement with their learning at LCC but it will in particular be aimed at students who have difficulties in adapting to the way we teaching art design and media at UAL. By helping students actively take more control over their cognitive processes and by exposing them to deeper thinking about their learning, the objectives of this project are to make it easier for students to learn creatively and critically.

Bal, M. (2002 )Travelling Concepts in the Humanities: A Rough Guide. University of Toronto Press.

Buchan, A. (2015) draw me a dinosaur. https://www.facebook.com/abimaedesign/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE&fref=nf

Curry, L. (1990) A Critique of the Research on Learning Styles.


Deleuze, G. (1997) Difference and Repetition. The Athlone Press. London.

Hargrove, R. (2011) Fostering creativity in the design studio: A framework towards effective pedagogical practices. Art, Design & Communication in Higher Education. Volume 10 Number 1. Intellect Ltd Article. https://www.pratt.edu/uploads/creativity_and_meta-cognition.pdf