PHILPOTT, R., 2013. Engineering opportunities for originality and invention: the importance of playful making as developmental method in practice-led design research. Studies in Material Thinking, 9, 16 pp.
Donald Schön (1995) describes the development of design through making as a reflective ‘conversation with the materials of the situation’. In design practice and research this dynamic dialogue often originates from playful making processes built on intuition and embodied knowledge. Using ludic research methods in practice-led research allows one to work spontaneously and without pre-meditated purpose. It offers opportunities to break out of linear patterns of thought and established ways of working ingrained by institutional education and years of professional practice. But how is it possible to preserve this precious playfulness within institutional constraints that often prioritise intellectualised, rationalised and well-documented methodologies? To achieve balance and rigor it is necessary to devise systems to record and reflect upon both the pragmatic and the phenomenological aspects of the research without losing the spontaneity of embodied, playful and intuitive design practices. This paper investigates the use of methods such as ‘reflection-in-action’ and ‘active documentation’ that allows the later evaluation and analysis of playful research activities whilst maintaining the ability to play authentically at the point of making. It explores how such methods might best support the development of original practice-led design research that retains playful practices of making at its core.