Miriam Sorrentino


The Design Studio as a Social Organism and Ecology | Presented at DRHA 2016


The design studio is at the same moment a place, a process, a concept and an ecology. It is a place of negotiation based on both visible and invisible codes of behavior. It is a delicate system at the mercy of the relationships of the inhabitants and their environment.  Design teaching and learning within studio practice has been of pedagogic interests from as far back as Dewey (1958), and Schön (1985). Assistant Professor Colin M. Gray points out  (2013) that while there has been some research on the role of identity and socialization in the studio (Crysler 1995; Webster 2008) more is needed in both trans-disciplinary and domain specific contexts. For our research we focused particularly on the design studio practice in a collaborative project over a very short five-week period on the Graphic and Digital Design Degree, in order to investigate the group social dynamics within the design studio experience and how that affects the work produced.


Our premise is that the design studio acts as an organism and ecology. In order to observe each student group as it builds its own unique design studio through a mix of place and digitality we followed Pink’s (2007) multisensory observational strategy in which we were able to detail a fuller context, as well as what the participants found interesting/difficult and their activities (Heisley and Levy, 1991; Schensul, Schensul and LeCompte, 1999.)  We have used a number of visual data collection methods, filming, photographs, diagrams and mapping; with an awareness of 1960s Situationists’ psycho-geographies. We also used more traditional qualitative data such as group meeting notes, social media transcripts, wearable tech data, student feedback and audio recordings.


Crysler, C. G. (1995) Critical pedagogy and architectural education, Journal of Architectural Education, 48(4): 208-217


Debord, G. (1983) Society of the spectacle, London, Rebel Press.


Gray, C. M. (2013) Informal peer critique and the negotiation of habitus in a design studio, In Cumulus, Oslo, pp. 702–730.


Dewey, J. (1958) Experience and Nature, New York, Dover Edition


Heisley, D. D. and Levy, S. J. (1991) Auto-Driving: A Photo- Elicitation Technique, Journal of Consumer Research, 18, pp. 257–72.


Pink, S. (2007) Doing Visual Ethnography: Images, Media and Representation in Research, 2nd ed, London, SAGE.


Schensul, S. L., Schensul, J. J. and LeCompte, M. D. (1999) Essential ethnographic methods: observations, interviews, and questionnaires (Book 2 in Ethnographer’s Toolkit), Walnut Creek CA, AltaMira Press.


Schön, D. A. (1985) The design studio: An exploration of its traditions and  potentials, London, RIBA Publications Limited.

Siemens, G. (2005) Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age, International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning, 2(1).


Webster, H. (2008) Architectural education after Schön: Cracks, blurs, boundaries and beyond, Journal for Education in the Built Environment, 3(2): 63-74

*Design *studio practice *social media *visual ethnography *social semiotics

*data visualisation

Beyond the grade: Can assessment practice help prepare students for Industry experience?

Since 2008 the creative industries have grown by 15.6 %, yet 14% of design businesses currently employing young people felt that commercial awareness could be better developed. Part of this commercial awareness is an ability to give feedback and to take feedback as this builds employability skills, self reflection and criticality among our students. Students need to be to be reflective practitioners to prosper in design and they need to gain confidence in their own judgments (Cross, 2007; Schön, 1985.) Though peer feedback is a key part of many art and design course designs, utilizing ‘incremental’ formative assessment practice (Race) the practice of peer assessment common at L3 is relatively underutilized in HE. Eight Years ago I introduced a system of 3rd year peers assessing 2nd years. This practice was noted by the HEA panel as exemplary when awarding my Fellowship; they advised sharing this with colleagues through a journal or conference. The paper to follow will explore the Industry and educational benefits felt by alumni.


Crysler, C. G. (1995) Critical pedagogy and architectural education, Journal of Architectural Education, 48(4): 208-217


Dewey, J. (1958) Experience and Nature, New York, Dover Edition


Gray, C. M. (2013) Informal peer critique and the negotiation of habitus in a design studio, In Cumulus, Oslo, pp. 702–730.


Race, P. (1995) The art of assessing, new academic, DeLiberations, Autumn 1995 3 - 5, Spring 1996 3 - 6.

Schön, D. A. (1985) The design studio: An exploration of its traditions and  potentials, London, RIBA Publications Limited.


Skillset (2011) Sector Skills Assessment for the Creative Media Industries in the UK, Alliance Sector Skills Councils, [online] Available at: http://creativeskillset.org/assets/0000/6023/Sector_Skills_Assessment_for_the_Creative_Industries_-_Skillset_and_CCSkills_2011.pdf (Accessed 19 January 2016).

*Design industries * Student experience * Assessment practice

* feedback * innovation * pedagogy

I am part of a small group of academics at the University of Greenwich called Creative Conversations that run a programme of events and research. We investigate the relationship between creativity and commerce in the creative industries, from publishing to policy to ethical values in business. I have been particularly involved with the research strand looking at the new business models in publishing.



A panel discussion looking at the new business models that are opening up for publishing. The panel included; Steve Carsey, Director of Original Programming for Audible, Katrina Hopewell, marketing consultant in broadcast and digital publishing, Kate Pullinger, award winning novelist and digital storyteller and Jeremy Thompson, MD of independent publisher, Troubadour and its self publishing arm, Matador. The chair was Justine Solomons of Byte the Book



A panel discussion looking at how to develop communities of readers and how those committed communities can support and develop work. The panel included;  Sci-fi author Kate Russell, and Alexis Kennedy,  Creative Director of Failbetter Games both spoke about drawing on existing communities to build new ones. Meike Ziervogel from Peirene Press spoke about creating specialist, highly interested communities. Auriol Bishop & Alex Pheby, co‐directors of Greenwich Book Festival, spoke about creating a festival and from that a community where there was a gap in Greenwich.



A panel discussion exploring the creative possibilities inherent in co-creation or collaboration with readers. The panel included; Olumide Popoola & Annie Holmes, co-authors of forthcoming book Breach, who explained their process of working with refugees in Calais to create a story. Jean-Paul Flintoff, author of How to Change the World who spoke about involving his audience in editing and trialing processes. Sarah Haynes, Head of Media Production at the Liverpool Screen School who spoke about the challenges of creating interactive collaborative web based stories and Maya Chowdhry, poet and interactive artist spoke about the interactive process of people involving themselves in the stories as they walked around the city in any order they choose.



* publishing *self-publishing *new business models * authopreneur *content *co-creation *communities


Creative Conversations |

Co-presented at AHRC 2016 |

Co-developing and designing the groups first publication




Department of Creative Professions and Digital Arts at the University of Greenwich, in association with the Stephen Lawrence Gallery.