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The Center for Sensibility
Thesis project


The Center for Sensibility (Thesis project)
A project by communication design grad student Amanda Thomas
February 11-15, 2013
Discussion of the project: published on September 20, 2013,

Statement: (excerpt) «The Center for Sensibility, my thesis project, antagonized the practice of design and sought ways to productively work against prescribed notions of design practice. Inspired by Klein, I sought ways to immaterialize design, and to show that the doing nothing aspects of design—like research, writing, and organizing content—are viable parts of practice. I explored immateriality in two ways: 1) as a research-based process that enables me to bring new ideas to my practice and share them with others; 2) as immaterial design, forgoing a designed artifact for a designed experience, that permits a community to participate in my project. Inspired by relational design, I sought to eliminate disciplinary boundaries of my university (a school of art and design) to permit a cross-disciplinary dialog about graphic design. These ideas, I thought, could build towards interesting applications for critical practice. […]
Critical practice is not the same as expressing opinion or criticizing a finished design; it is not about taking to the comments section of a blog to tear down a designer or a design. Although that form of criticality is productive in its own right, critical practice is more about expressing disciplinary issues or concerns in ways that help define and strengthen the graphic design discipline.
The motivation for critical practice is within problem finding: locating issues or concerns within a discipline and exposing them to discussion. Or, in the case of Yves Klein, creating in a way that exposes and investigates the concern.
Immaterial design could be explored in two ways: first, as relational design that opens up the design process to others to contribute content […]. Relational design creates a system that permits relevant collaboration and production; it subverts design by allowing open-ended content that enables the ideas from many people, versus the sole authorship of the designer. Second, as the design of spaces and experiences—in other words, my system for relational design—that permit learning.
My research into Yves Klein manifested as a designed experience that, unlike finished designed artifacts, permits participants to be thoughtful and draw their own conclusions. I sought a dialogue about design; not a monologue.
I designed the Center for Sensibility, modeled after Klein’s own proposal for a center for sensibility, which was an interactive installation that, for one week, transformed a vacant hallway of my school into a collaborative, open-format workspace for collective thinking and doing. I used design to explore design, and as a means to connect to my community of other designers and artists. Encompassing the hallway walls, a large-scale typographic installation featured Yves Klein quotes and housed three interactive activities. These invited participant contributions which manifested as content within the installation. […]
I created a collaborative, open-format work zone by establishing three distinct areas within the 30′ hallway for content production. Each zone was nestled within one of the quotations on the wall. These invited participant contributions—via scanning books and displaying the print on a wall, or via open-ended responses to questions— which manifested as content within the installation. As the week went on, more content and more ideas about design enriched and sustained the investigation. Participants selected postcards that featured quotes about design (zone 1); they redefined design in their own terms using supplied books and scanning their definitions (zone 2); and, in a conceptual exchange inspired by Klein’s Zone of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility, they traded responses to open-ended questions (zone 3).»

Read the full discussion of the project (and of the notion of critical design) posted by the project’s author/curator, Amanda Thomas, on