Created by potrace 1.12, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2015

Shaping change

Shaping Change through Concept Design and Production   

Research comprises creative work undertaken on a systemic basis to increase human knowledge. Basic research is experimental or theoretical work undertaken to acquire new knowledge of phenomena. Researchers conceive or create knowledge through the management of projects that give rise to that knowledge (OECD, 2016 and 2018).


'Conflict Invites Resolution', 2016, 6x12m mural. Portraiture, R. Power; Concept Design and Production, W. Wilding. Using Augmented Reality Technology, Shaping Change 1 engaged with Government, Philanthropy and Industry, and Swinburne University's faculties of 'Health, Arts and Design' and 'Science, Engineering and Technology'. 


Shaping Change 

Shaping Change is a theory based design project that moves between research and practice. Reflecting basic research in experimental artefacts, it explores how humans transform 'existing situations into preferred ones' (Simon, 1996). This involves studying the interpretive frameworks that determine our lives, questioning assumptions that underlie humanity's understanding of natural and artificial worlds, and reconciling the opposition between creativity and rationality that presently polarises design. Equating design with dialectic, Shaping Change designs and produces concepts that make Ideas observable and measurable, or ideal-real. 

Shaping Change's first initiative, Shaping Change 1, partnered with The Centre for Design Innovation, The City of Yarra Council, The Besen Family Foundation, The Australian Cultural Fund, The Australian Graphic Design Association and multiple businesses including David Atkins Enterprises, which delivers the White Night Festival for the Victorian Government. A dialogical product of William Wilding’s research-based practice and Rebeccah Power’s practice-based research, it explored migrant history and gender equality. Emphasising the transformative power of story-telling through research undertaken at the Victorian Police Museum, it incorporated philosophy, portraiture, poetry, communication design, digital media design, product design engineering and augmented reality technology. New understanding embodied in 2D, 3D and 4D forms of design, Shaping Change asserts freedom rises out of necessity. 


'Universal Principle', 2016, 3.9x1.3x0.66m kinetic sculpture. Product Design Engineering, J. Malin; Concept Design and Production, W. Wilding; Video, M. Bainbridge. Embodying Schelling's concept of creativity, 'Universal Principle' explores how conscious and unconscious forces interact with one another. 


Shaping Change through Design Theory

Shaping Change investigates the background of interpretive frameworks that bridge perception and comprehension to form the institutions and technologies that determine our lives (Polanyi, 1969; Feenberg, 2002). It synthesizes speculative philosophy, the philosophy of science and the history of ideas with design history, design thinking and strategic design. Grounded in a post-Kantian view of concepts, it studies how designers transform intuition, imagination, reason and will into design products, systems and services. Asserting conscious and unconscious forces shape our understanding and experience of being across time, it asks how the iterative process underlying design reasoning relates to the productive process underlying dialectical reasoning. It thereby aligns Schon's reflective theory of design with Schelling's reflective theory of philosophy. Claiming ideas emerge through humans like humans emerged through nature, it suggests design may be a practical extension of the humanities in much the same way that technology and politics are practical extensions of the natural and social sciences (Epstein, 2012). 


 Shaping Change works across disciplines to transform ideas into reality through the processes of prototyping. Drawing on the life sciences, the constructive humanities and the philosophy of design, it designs and produces concepts comprised of imagination, intuition, rationality and will. 


Shaping Change through Design Research

Shaping Change examines onto-epistemological assumptions underlying humanity's understanding of its relationship with the natural and artificial worlds. Basic research, it contributes to the recategorisation of possibilities to identify new concepts or new inter-relationships among old concepts (DiMarzio,1980). Grounded in the Schellingian research tradition, it develops new understanding through the interaction of a priori philosophical insight and a posteriori empirical inquiry (Stone, 2015). Claiming humans emerged out of nature like leaves emerge from plants, it combines  phenomenology and process philosophy into a dialectical view of design, which aligns the inner or subjective realm of humans with the outer or objective realm of nature. Aligning complexity theory with Alexander's later design research,  Shaping Change considers individual and social concepts of self-consciousness, while asking how design artefacts mediate between what we think we know and what we want to know. Indeed, Shaping Change speculates what the root causes of problems might be, before raising awareness around those problems with a view to structuring understanding, developing solutions and transforming behaviour through public policy. 


out of nature 

'The Reckoning at the Southern Cross Hotel', 2016, 4min video-piece. Motion graphics, Carlo Cersosimo; Portraiture, R. Power; Concept design and poetry, W. Wilding; Story, R. Power and W. Wilding. Dramatizing research undertaken through the Police Museum, this piece examines how freedom rises out of necessity at the limits of understanding.


Shaping Change through Design Practice

Shaping Change explores the concept of creative rationality in the context of the opposition between creativity and rationality in design (Engelholm, 2017). Focusing on ‘the productive ability’ that signalled the change from the enlightenment age to the romantic era (Kant, 1914; Schelling, 2004; Richards, 2006), William Wilding and Rebeccah Power reflected the research of Shaping Change in the practice of Studio Romantic. While primarily a theoretical project, they this way made a priori insights observable and measurable. This involved embodying three philosophical concepts in three design artefacts: Conflict Invites ResolutionUniversal Principle, and The Reckoning at the Southern Cross Hotel. Together, the works comprise a complex, interdependent whole that exceeds the sum of its parts and denies reduction to any one of its parts. Thereby giving abstract targets of research concrete outcomes through practice, they then presented the works in two public exhibitions - the first to 80 guests at ‘Just Because You Can’t See It Doesn’t Mean It Isn’t There’ (2016) in the City of Yarra, and the second to 70,000 visitors at the ‘White Night Festival’ (2017) in the City of Melbourne.


 Drawing on Schelling's reworking of Aristotle's Poetics, the first science of design, Shaping Change advances through the temporal processes of reflection and projection. Deeply phenomenological, it intends the future through historical techniques, where sometimes painful understanding emerges out of the confrontation between opposites.


Shaping Change through Design Innovation

As basic theory developed through a dialogue between research and practice, Shaping Change contributes to design innovation in fundamental ways. Reflecting in action, its first phase produced dialectical understanding while managing the design, production and installation of concepts (Schon, 1984; Manzini, 2016). This revealed similarities and differences between the more objective, symbolic processing theory of design associated with Simon (1996), the more subjective, situated cognition theory of design associated with Schon (1984), and the more inter-subjective, socio-technical view on design associated with Norman and Stappers (2015). Grounded in the view that consciousness effects human experience of the natural and artificial worlds, Shaping Change considers how science compares imaginary or experimentally designed theories with real processes to produce the future (Epstein, 2012). Amplifying the reflexivity that characterises consciousness (Henrich, 2008), it asserts the dialogue between the biological sciences and the constructive humanities can help humans recast their trajectory through design (Kaufmann and Gare, 2015; Fry, 2012). Thereby disclosing opportunities for low-tech, middle-tech and high-tech innovation (Drucker, 1985; Bennis, 1989; Buchanan, 2015), it helps transition from experimental discovery to applied impact (Seeman, 2018).


Shaping Change, Scot's Church, Collins St, Melbourne, White Night Festival, 2017


Changing Shape

While a product of the collaboration between many people including Rebeccah Power and William Wilding, Shaping Change first began to emerge in design through the Victorian Government's Design Victoria Strategy. Developed further through Craft Victoria 'New Craft Made in Victoria' program, it initially aimed to understand the transformation that Victoria's manufacturing sector was going through. Thereby synthesising the fine, practical and mechanical arts, William Wilding moved into Swinburne University's research program with a focus on strategic design. This involved a



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Shaping Change: Characters


Alice Green (Born 1868, USA) discovers freedom.



John Auburn (Born 1870, on route to Australia) recognizes limits.


Cecelia Anderson (Born 1842, Denmark) loses control.


William Wilding

William Wilding's research explores the transformative nature of creativity. He draws philosophy, art and design into collaborative...

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Rebeccah Power

Rebeccah Power is an active researcher whose practice intersects art and education. She incorporates institutional, archival research into work that...

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City of Yarra Council

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Australian Cultural Fund

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Australian Graphic Design Association

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Besen Family Foundation

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