Training in how to design-in mental, social and cultural capital

Want to design obsolescence, regression, denial and projection?

A still from Play Station’s best-selling Killzone Annihilation game, most popular in the 12 -25 age range, worldwide.

Then continue to design within the traditional Design Education model.

Our theory talks and workshops pioneer a new era in Sustainable Design and Sustainable Design Education.

They can be hosted by your organisation or in the Slow Textiles Education Block in London.

The Slow Textiles Theory Series, Making the Myths Visible: A Route to Sustainable Thinking in Design, offers new design vision, language, scope and flexible theoretical frameworks for longterm design success and maturation.

Each workshop, listed below, presents the latest in Psychology, Well-Being Theory, Sociology, Visual & Material Culture, Design and Design Education in a new format for study and dialogue.

Each has the latest in fashion and textiles-related themes as central pivot around which to work, extrapolate, analyse and build upon.

Each offers a space in which to learn, talk and reflect.

Talk 1:

Oppression and Dysfunction Through Design – A Window on to the Destructive Social Aspects of Design

Dolce & Gabbana menswear ad, SS 2007.

What might rape promote?

This talk analyses aspects of advertising, gaming and fashion that promote destructive behaviours.

It addresses the social aspects of design as manifest in growing societal problems such as youth crime, obesity and mental health.

It unpacks the connections between design and behaviour and reveals the cultural implications of asocial media messaging.

Dr Neuberg introduces viral advertising, gaming aesthetics and the rising trend in real/virtual identities – in fashion, gaming and social networking – and analyses the interconnecting threads through the work of British psychologist Herbert Rosenfeld whose terms internal mafia gang and addiction to death help describe and illuminate thinking stuck in projective, unconscious structures.

This talk is essential for designers, educators and all with a working interest in the current climate of nascent real/virtual transitional identities where even an everyday experience such as watching TV proposes the viewer embody Prototype, the survivalist killing machine that is gaming avatar, alongside ads for learning to drop bombs in the Royal Air Force and Joining the Co-operative.

Dr Neuberg explores how non-relational thinking methodologies are frequently embodied by designers and their design briefs, by default, and how these have larger societal impacts.

A space is nurtured for reflecting on these dynamics in view of Professor Huppert’s Population Health Approach (see The Well-being Institute, University of Cambridge) and a larger perspective on the relationship between the designer’s work and societal well-being.

This talk builds upon Dr Neuberg’s essay in The Eco-Fashion Handbook (ed. Sandy Black, Thames & Hudson, 2010).

What is the societal impact of your work?

Talk 2:

Different Ways of Thinking – An Introduction to Making Thought Conscious

Ever had a class in thinking?

This talk elucidates the design implications of thought structures.

It focuses on the interchange between relational and non-relational language and thinking.

If one way of thinking promotes division, conflict and war and another stimulates cohesion, negotiation and hope, what may we glean from these about thinking processes and their relationship with design, design efficacy, scope and sustainability?

Dr Neuberg compares the language of Barak Obama and George W Bush to expose thinking, latent structural dynamics and their social and cultural effects and impact.

Dr Neuberg elucidates the societal impact of thought structures.

By keeping thinking unconscious in the design studio, silence, repression and fragmentation are promoted.

This has a direct affect on the design process and leads to design homogeneity and market saturation.

This leads to landfill.

It also leads to burnout and business failure after a few short years (a problem particularly pertinent in the creative industries).

Participants gain a new language and structure for identifying and observing thought patterns and their direct relationship with design scope and designing-in sustainability.

This workshop opens up new creative avenues, outlooks and dialogues.

Talk 3:

Identification of Designers’ Motivations – Locating & Giving Voice to Designers’ Longterm Vision

Ever wanted longterm confidence in your design vision?

This workshop helps designers locate and identify their design motivations.

By introducing one-to-one exercises and group work, individuals locate their own creative drives, concerns and needs.

Such exercise helps stir and elucidate a longterm design ethos, voice and vision.

It also promotes thinking that leads to cross-fertilisation, differentiation, consciousness, purpose and meaning.

Participants are equipped to develop their practice with new tools for nurturing longterm vision, strategy and standing.

When do designers stop designing?

Talk 4:

Group Dynamics, Power Struggles &  Social Hierarchies: Shedding Light on Old Patterns of Production

Airline company billboards, c.2007.
Airline company billboards, c.2007.

Ever wanted to nurture a longterm philosophy?

This talk demystifies the power struggles between established groups and younger or less powerful ones.

It explains the apparent closedness engendered by established groups and the apparent extremism expressed by minority groups.

By understanding inter-group dynamics, the thinking designer gains insight into the patterns that perpetuate our traditional systems of production from sub cultural subversions to cultural assimilation.

Also explored are the reasons for warfare techniques in marketing, explicit content in advertising and viral seeding and divisive stereotyping in the media – all of which encourage destructive, projective cycles: regression, displacement and denial.

These dynamics encourage dualistic thinking, envy and hardline competition.

Not to mention copy-catting, homogenisation, market saturation and more of the same, with all the associated environmental and societal implications. Longterm.

Man at bus stop, Sao Paolo, 2006.

Learn to navigate the myths. Sooner rather than later.

Talk 5:

Imperative Psychoanalytic Tools for Design Practice – Introduction to Projection and the Mechanics of Enactment

Twist ad, c.2008.
Twist womenswear ad, c.2008.

Clothing ad or recruiting ad:

unthinking young women required for manipulation?

This talk introduces the concept of latent and unconscious dynamics.

A common human impulse is the projection on to others (and objects) feelings that belong to the projecting body but that are attributed to the recepient person (or object).

For many, this is an unconscious dynamic that generates feelings of confusion and loss of identity.

If a person or company of people do not recognise projective patterns then it is possible that they are acting upon their distorted outlook(s).

Designers, merchandisers and marketeers use these dynamics, consciously and unconsciously, to seduce consumers into buying apparently irresistible products.

In fact, they are projecting on to the consumer their needs.

Clothing ad or recruiting ad:

young clones required by Twist Inc. for manipulation?

Understanding this complex process offers a key to creative identity.

The key opens a door on to understanding the work of others as distinct from one’s own;


liberating creativity.

Equipped with such insights, designers make choices and decisions of a more tenable, autonomous, sustaining and sustainable nature.

Better for them, those around them and the environment.

Talk 6:

Repression and Dysfunction in Design – A Window on to the Dark Forces Manifest in Products

Shoe designed by Karim Rashid for Melissa Shoes, 2009.

Since the 1980s design has been heralded as the problem-solving ingredient for all product.

However, for any concept to be heralded and unquestioned there must be an opposite.

This workshop creates a space to reflect on design as problem-generating ingredient.

It focuses on consumables, from cars to clothes, that communicate regression and dysfunction in their very form.

In search of the next big thing and media story-telling, big brands have made their name and profits from designs that stem from regression, unconsciousness and denial.

The effects of these promote nihilism, narcissicism, delusion and dysfunction as winning ingredients for mass-production and mass society.

Marshall McLuhan’s Tetrad Model is introduced, unpacked and explored to act as counterpoise and to encourage insightful, reflexive thinking around this subject.

Talk 7:

Cultural Interpretation – Pattern is Now Good, Pattern is Now Bad

Chuck out your Chintz.

IKEA tagline, 1996.

Einstein’s Relativity Theory was published in 1915.

In it he describes an object’s characteristics to be dependent on the observer’s position.

The fact that this theory still proves awkward today tells us that the concept of an object being affected by its viewer(s) challenges human thinking.

Unilaterlism and one-sided belief systems remain the face of cultural strength, integrity and coherence.

Indeed, most of our ruling spiritual messages appear, at first glance, to expound oneness.

Coherence is the mask used to police the boundaries of a group or story.

Multiple viewpoints are harder to embody, tolerate and sound-byte.

This talk confronts the issue of cultural interpretation as movement and consensus.

For young designers this can be difficult to recognize.

If, however, fads and fashion can be seen in terms of illusions of coherence then the foundations of a more sustaining design ethos may grow.

Participants leave with greater insights into the social and cultural roles of fashion, brand stories and top-down structures.

And have the choice to design accordingly.

Talk 8:

Imperative Psychoanalytic Tools for Critical Theory – An Introduction to Object Relations Theory

The representation of a timeless dynamic directly related to Melanie Klein's Object Relations Theory?

Denim ad or the promotion of a structural dynamic passed down?

This talk introduces Object Relations Theory as tool for reading cultural artefacts.

The theory comes from psychoanalysis and originates from interpersonal relations, primarily in the family and especially between mother and child.

In more general terms, it comes to mean behaviours relating to the experience of the original familial relationship.

Once unpacked, psychoanalytic concepts of Good Object, Bad Object and Lost Object can be used to understand some of the choices and statements made in cultural expression.

These allow insights into the underlying psychic structures of some of our most celebrated artefacts and design movements, thus facilitating new questions.

For example,

Was the didacticism of the Modernists, in style and manifesto,

a sign of trauma, displacement and repression?,

Were the two-tone graphics of the Mods their signage for binary thinking?


Were the cartoon aesthetics of the 1990s relaying the designers’ own separation anxieties?

This talk gives designers a key to bigger questions.

They are then better equipped to read the design stories of their times and make conscious the nameless aspects of their own practice – thus diminishing the frequency of blind, unhelpful enactments that get repeated time and again.

Talk 9:

Semiotics as Starting Place – A Designer’s Constructive Tool

This workshop introduces semiotic theory as starting point in the study of aesthetics.

Simply put, there are three issues at stake:


without insight into the visual and linguistic workings of the surrounding media, young designers float on a sea uncertainty and not knowing, pulled by the manipulative tides of which they are ignorant, unconscious and susceptible;


unconscious of the manipulation at play, complacency, conformism and denial are compounded – leading to unthinking behavioural design cycles.

In view of group analytic theory, where the social influences the individual, this is detrimental to the development and practice of critical thinking, suggesting that,

once an unconscious designer, always an unconscious designer;


if every designer copies the latest trend they contribute to market saturation and landfill.

To date, semiotics have been seen as a tool for deconstructing visual culture.

This workshop proposes it as a constructive one.

One thought on “Cultural THEORY TALKS

  1. There is a lot to take in but all very valid. It all epitomises the state of advertising, politics, manipulation of the mind (masses) and how do we counter that?

    This is my first time comment on this page never having sen it before so unless I have a ‘mind’ clone this is MY first comment and not my twin’s!

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