Workshop - Practice Based Research

Dr Andrew Kaniki, Executive Director: Knowledge Advancement and Support of the NRF
Dr Andrew Kaniki, Executive Director: Knowledge Advancement and Support of the NRF

Professional Practice-based research was the topic of a recent workshop organized by the Design Education Forum of Southern Africa (DEFSA) on 8 June 2018.

Over 60 design educators packed into the NRF, Albert Luthuli Auditorium in Pretoria, while lecturers from NMU and CPUT participated via simulcast. The state of the art facilities provided by the NRF set the scene for a highly professional and informative session. The workshop was facilitated through the cooperation of Dr Dorsamy (Gansen) Pillay, Deputy CEO at the NRF.

"The workshop had achieved the objectives of providing a platform for participants to discuss and exchange ideas," explains DEFSA President Dr Sue Giloi.  "It gives design educators a sense of how each institution is approaching practice-based research and the evaluation of creative outputs."

Dr Andrew Kaniki

As opening speaker, Dr Andrew Kaniki, Executive Director: Knowledge Advancement and Support of the NRF provided participants with the context of practice-based research in South Africa. The recent policy document defining funding for creative outputs and innovation means that financial support is available for the research output in fields such as music, photography, design and fine art. He went on to describe how the NRF supports a range of research through subsidies and grants. Dr Kaniki encouraged DEFSA to participate in the process of establishing criteria for evaluating creative outputs through a peer review process.

Angus Donald Campbell

In the second part of the workshop, three speakers from the University of Johannesburg, a long time institutional member of DEFSA, took the stage. They discussed practice-based research in the field of Industrial Design. 

The first speaker Angus Donald Campbell, Head of Department and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Industrial Design provided an overview of this type of research. He went on to describe some of the work that students in the Industrial Design department had created. Examples included hardhats for construction workers, prosthetics, vibration free tattoo machines and food storage units for small scale farmers.

Each project generated in the department aims to consider those who are on the fringes of society, be human-centered, sustainable and situated in the local context. These goals were demonstrated in the work presented by two of the MTech Industrial Design students from UJ.

Ashton Bullock

Ashton Bullock provided an entertaining background to how she had become fascinated with medical devices and identified that they are seldom designed with children patients in mind. This became the impetus for her MTech project in which she analysed a number of existing medical devices in order to establish a model for designing pediatric medical devices in South Africa. Her project merged design thinking and processes with more traditional research approaches.

José Antonio Marín Pacheco

José Antonio Marín Pacheco took the audience through a fascinating project in which solar energy was harnessed for use by small and micro businesses. Through engaging local business people, he designed a power system to support the three key elements needed to produce products such as soap and ginger beer. The system is completely off the grid, and harnesses energy from the sun. Through using sustainable energy sources, the resulting time and money saved has the potential to make the small businesses more profitable.

DEFSA will continue to facilitate discussions on design education and research with a second workshop planned for September this year. This will be followed by an International Conference to be held in Cape Town in September 2019.


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