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The Art of Critical Making: Rhode Island School of Design on Creative Practice by John Maeda, Mara Hermano, Rosanne Somerson

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Thingking

John Dunnigan

How does a RISD education promote critical making? John Dunnigan, Professor and Department Head, Furniture Design, introduces the practice of “thingking” as one path to developing the creative process and understanding the symbiotic relationship between thinking and making in art and design. Drawing from the curriculum and connecting it to the work of alumni, Dunnigan describes how thingking — the union of critical making and critical thinking — supports a creative process steeped in exploration and results in tangible outcomes while promoting self-knowledge, self-expression, and an understanding of one’s relation to the world.

 

Recently I had a conversation with some of my students in which we tried to sort out what was happening as they developed their projects. We talked about what they were making, how they were making it, and why they were making it. We talked about how it looked. We talked about where it had come from, where it might go, and how their thinking was changing as they went through the process. At one point I asked them what we should call this process. Most of the terms we used seemed inadequate to describe it fully but one rang true: “thingking.”

Artists and designers are form givers who bring ideas into the material world. In the studio we think about things. We think around things and through things. Yes, you could say we are engaged in thingking. Thingking expresses the symbiotic relationship between making and thinking in art and ...

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