A photograph is still evidence of nothing but itself

Craig Bremner, Mark Roxburgh

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


In an effort to overcome the limitations of both artistic and scientific framing, design has turned to ethnography to understand the users of design and the experiences they have of the designed world. In doing so we have lost perspective of the abstract and transformative dimensions of design, as well as the abstract and transformative dimensions of experience. The project of photographing the conditions of the world-as-found produces images of the world that increasingly look the same. We present the case that if we regard photography as a way of asking questions the as-found becomes as-if. We look closely at the distorting effect the design photo has had on design research and propose abstracting the photographic image, or what we call the design photo. We demonstrate that photo-observation does not produce evidence and we illustrate the abstracted photograph as a form of question through which we re-engage in the project of what-might-become. The abstract photograph can illustrate the eternally blurred distance between the as-found (evidence) and what-might-become (imaginary). Observing abstractions of experience creates pictures of the pathways and messages that convey experiences of past design decisions. Incorporating descriptions of this can enrich relationships in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Design Research
EditorsPaul Rodgers, Joyce Yee
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781003182443
ISBN (Print)9781032022277
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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