The vacant plot/ The third area in education


What Science and the Humanities leave out.
Science: concerned with the attainment of understanding based upon observation, measurement, the formulation of theory and the testing of theory by further observation or experiment/The scientist is concerned with theory/ generalized knowledge, may study any phenomenon she chooses  and the kind of understanding she may achieve will be limited by the observations she can make.

Humanities: it is distinct from science (unanimous) it is concerned with human values, and the expression of the spirit of man. They exclude the making and doing aspects of the fine, performing and useful arts/ Scholars in Humanities: they study the history and philosophy of science, but do not contribute to its content.

The third area in education could legitimately claim technology and the fine, performing and useful arts, although not their scientific knowledge base (if any) of their history, philosophy and criticism (if any), without trending on anyone else’s grass/ the third area is the collected body of practical knowledge based upon sensibility, invention, validation and implementation/ In Design, the repository of knowledge is not only the material culture and the contents of the museums but also the executive skills of the doer and maker.”

By the end of Archer’s three decades at the Royal College of Art (RCA), London, the discipline that he devised, design research, had become a major force in both theory and practice (…) His Systematic Method For Designers involved six basic stages: programming, data collection, analysis, synthesis, development and communication (…) i n the mid-1960s, the idea that design should be based on a shared set of procedures and concepts was radically new and very controversial. Archer detected widespread confusions about what design was, and what its processes entailed: as he put it later, in December 1976, with his usual directness: “I believe that the very reason why our society is in a state of economic and cultural stress is because it has for too long regarded the kinds of knowledge and ways of knowing of the ‘doing and making’ culture as being of rather marginal concern. You cannot ignore the nurturing of the material culture and still expect to enjoy its fruits. That is why I invented design research as a back-up to design practice.”



Archer, B., 1979. Design as a discipline. In Design Studies, Vol. 1, no. 1, July 1979

L. Bruce Archer ‘Guardian’ obituary

L. Bruce Archer ‘The Independent’ obituary, written by my dear friend Sebastian McMillan. Sebastian, a student of Archer is also curator of the Wikipedia page baring his name ‘L. Bruce Archer’, available here

Image available here

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