Relational Design


Jia Lee

Required course for juniors in graphic design at RISD> See course website

Design is no longer limited to a one-directional process where a visual expert creates a fixed form for a pre-determined audience. The role of designer itself varies from expert to facilitator to user within a single project. The field of Relational Design focuses on effect: the non-subjective area of design that effects experience. It can also be described as contextual and/or conditional — more concerned with the placement and lifespan than with its form.

Contrast this to the previous era of design, which was concerned with creating a universal language of form that could transcend social class (Modernist emphasis on simplification, reduction, and essentialism). In the more recent past, importance was placed on design’s symbolic value and its content (meaning-making). We are now looking at design’s performative dimension (relationships and context) and its effects on users, its pragmatic and programmatic constraints, its rhetorical impact, and its ability to facilitate social interactions.

This course will pair contemporary design methods with the communicative opportunities of our increasingly connected society. Projects will purposely alter the conventions that have defined form, function, meaning, and audience. Responding to the paradigm of collaboration and integrative thinking, we will incorporate group dynamics, consider alternative end forms, explore new ways to solve problems, and stimulate innovation.


March 3, 2013