A/Prof. Mark Roxburgh
|Work Phone||(02) 4921 5790|
School of Design Communication and IT
The University of Newcastle, Australia
|Office||D228, Design Building (aka Building D)|
Graduating with a degree in visuals art, majoring in photography because he couldn't draw for diddley squat, Mark quickly realised that the life of an exhibiting artist was one of low recognition and lower income. Pounding the pavement for 6 months, hawking his folio to all and sundry, resulted in Mark receiving his first commission for the Good Weekend magazine. From there it was a fast rise to the dizzying heights of freelance photo image making in the world of editorial publication. His client list read like a who's of who of the publishing world: Rolling Stone, HQ, Juice, Harper Collins, Time, Allen and Unwin, the list goes on. Burnt out by the jet set lifestyle of the rich and famous after 4 years at the top, Mark sought refuge in the hallowed halls of academe where a life of the mind beckoned. Sadly he found a life of unending admin awaited, the boredom of which was relieved only by the joys of teaching and the occasional glimpse of research. Joining the illustrious Viscom program at UTS in 2000 he quickly organised a coup and installed himself as Director of Program, Viscom, in 2001. He was finally pried loose from the job in late 2005 and has become a valued member of the academic furniture since. Eschewing all management ambition he has finally begun to realise his dream of a life of the mind. He has managed to publish a growing body of papers on design and photography, almost finished his doctorate, and rediscovered his creative joy in photography and making music.
Most recently he was poached by the canny crew at the University of Newcastle, where much to his surprise he was given the gig of Associate Professor of Design - seems like his research wasn't as marginal as he thought. He quickly established the Fun Team and decked out his office like a 70s bachelor pad.
Stay tuned for more thrilling instalments of the Life of Mark...
- Master of Arts (Communication and Cultural Studies, University of Western Sydney, 1999
- Graduate Diploma of Arts in Visual Arts, New South Wales Institute of the Arts, 1989
- Bachelor of Arts, Sydney College of Advanced Education, 1988
- Abstraction (visual and conceptual)
- Design history / theory
- Design research
- Visual communication
I’ve been mucking around with design research methods for the best part for 17 years. Quite a bit of this has been premised on:
• Exploring the idea of user experience
• Aspects of what has become known as co-design
• Observational techniques
• Using abstraction, as an intellectual and methodological framework, set against and playing off the dominant realist paradigm of much design research.
My research has led me to the conclusion that visual communication is THE meta-design discipline - not architecture as architects like to believe - as it is the common vehicle that all design disciplines work through. Consequently my recent work has explored visual communication as both a research method and a vehicle for visualising complex qualitative information - as opposed to the more common practice of visualising quantitative information – with a view to transforming that into propositions of what-might-be. Most recently I have done this in collaboration with the Customer Experience team at Westpac.
I have developed the concept of the aesthetics of research. This frames research as an embodied aesthetic activity that regards reality as fundamentally malleable, rather than something to be observed and reported on. As such our research methods need to be creative acts rather than an objective devices. As a result I take out focus photos (I should have been in the 2010 Biennale not that bloke from Finland).
I don’t think design solves problems. I loathe that paradigm as it is premised on the logic of progress. Design isn’t progress. Design is change. Design creates as many problems as it solves. Sometimes design improves things, sometimes not. The hardest thing to do in design is nothing. Sometimes this would be best but design is inevitable.
Design is nothing special. We all design. Design is the new evolution. Therefor I’m interested in design thinking but I don’t think much of hype around the term, for all humans do it. Whether they do it well or with any sense of self-awareness or reflection is another matter entirely. I’m suspicious that business has jumped on the design thinking and innovation bandwagons. They are the new black.
I like people. I like watching them and talking to them. They are curious beings. I am quite insightful into human behaviour and motivation as well as social trends. I pick up all this stuff from getting my students to research stuff I'm interested in, on the pretext they might learn something about design. I think they usually do. I always learn something about design and people in doing this. ??
I'm also a post-semiotician (not in the John Stewart sense but as in ‘just so over it’). I have coined the term post-definition to indicate that I am also over that peculiarly late 20th century pre-occupation with meaning. This is also why I am interested in developing an existential phenomenological theory of photography, the topic of my PhD thesis.
I think detailed analysis as an intellectual activity has the potential to become redundant, if not impossible, because of the ever-increasing amount of data we are generating. My take on this is that if it becomes almost impossible to pull things apart into their constituent bits then we are better off looking to synthesis as the way forward. This has driven my interest in abstraction and the aesthetics of research.
It is also why I am interested in generalisations and stereotypes - after all isn't that what design personas are???
I like being contrary and doing stuff that seems irrelevant. If everyone is doing something then I'm suspicious of it. I'm ambivalent about technology, though I use it. Sometimes being a Luddite for the sake of it is fun. ??
I suspect most people think my work marginal at best. That's ok by me but I think it might be better than they think.
As I've been beavering away on my PhD for quite a few years now I've avoided most research collaboration like the plague. A few neat collaborations that I did allow myself to get involved in were:
2011 13 Songs for the Rodeo Grrls
I sang on and produced this long playing record with a bunch of reprobates called Decline of the Reptiles. It rocks. In producing this record I explored concept mapping as a tool for creating the final sound.
2010 Light Relief (Part II)
I set essay questions for some of the worlds top design and philosophical academics around the topic of my research. These essays formed the content of this book and I learnt a lot about my research topic. Some of the people I worked with on this were Professor Ranulph Glanville, Professor Craig Bremner, Professor Roslyn Diprose.
2006 Work / Play: 30 Years of Visual Communication at UTS
I curated this highly successful exhibition with Dr Kate Sweetapple. We asked 30 top visual communication designers to interrogate their design process.
Fields of Research
|120301||Design History And Theory||40|
|120307||Visual Communication Design (Incl. Graphic Design)||20|
Work Integrated Learning
University of Newcastle (Australia)
I organised Brooke Hall to conduct her honours research project with Westpac's Customer Experience (CX) Team 3 days per week in Sydney. This involved setting up the relationship with the CX Team, establishing the academic, legal and ethical parameters of the relationship and overseeing Brooke's engagement with them. Brooke won the Faculty of Science and Information Technology's Work Integrated Learning (WIL) Student of the Year Award and was Highly Commended in the WIL Video category
Yikes! Administration. I hope I never have to go there again. What I have done includes:
2001 - 05 Director of Program, Visual Communications, University of Technology Sydney
2000 - 05 Co-ordinator of Photomedia, Visual Communication, University of Technology Sydney
1993 – 99 Lecturer in Photomedia, School of Design, University of Western Sydney
1998 - 99 Offshore Course Co-ordinator, School of Design, University of Western Sydney
1994 – 96 Co-ordinator of Photomedia, School of Design, University of Western Sydney
1997 BDes(Viscom) course co-ordinator, Department of Design Studies, University of Western Sydney
1997 Acting Head, Department of Design Studies, University of Western Sydney
These roles have encompassed the usual stuff like
• managing the workloads of up to 10 full-time staff and more sessional staff than you can poke a stick at
• overseeing degree programs with up 360 fulltime students
• actually making courses better and more fun for staff and students
• being responsible for a discretionary budget of about $1,000,000 per annum for an all too brief 4 year golden era
• but typically listening to colleagues whine about workloads and ever diminishing resources
• avoiding the pointless tsunami like wave of compliance stuff governments require of universities for the piddling funding
- Design history / theory
- Design research
- Visual communication
I don't teach anything. However I'm pretty good at helping people to work out how to learn for themselves. I guess you could say that my students have the teaching expertise because learn a lot from them. Some of the things I've learned from them in my 17 years of scholarly endeavour are:
Visualisation of qualitative information
Aesthetics of research
How to be blunt but polite at the same time