Photo: Boudewijn Bollmann, DAE
Photo: Boudewijn Bollmann, DAE

Applied Design Research / Experimental Industrial Design

As researcher, I create design processes and concepts for installations, digital publications, experiences, workshops, and exhibitions. A specific set of methods, influenced by design thinking and my experience as a furniture designer, helps shape these processes openly and sustainably.

Design Studies

As a design scientist, I engage with the intellectual history of design, its concepts, and relate them to practical applications. I present my ideas in lecture formats and through publications.


As an educator, I am interested in the connection between science and applied design projects. An attentive, empathetic approach in dealing with various projects is helpful. Empirical and scientific work are interwoven with design practice in a reciprocal manner.



Design is the practice of creating plans for daily artifacts, for systems, and signs. Due to its simplicity and its inconspicuousness, many parts of design often remain invisible (Burckhardt 1995). These parts of design should not be overlooked. Design can also tackle transport networks and political systems which are usually not immediately associated with ideas of design.[1]

Every intentional action with a specific goal in mind relates to design. Opposed to that power and importance, design does usually not play a role in political decisions or even in many business contexts. It is rather considered to be a sub-discipline of the arts, mainly in the area of furniture design, fashion design, or consumer goods. Such a common view of design (that is extremely narrow) hinders the creation of a differentiated picture of the design discipline, as the complex process of making plans for novel daily artifacts and interactions, is reduced to designed products and their shapes. It is neither taking systems or signs into consideration nor the contexts in which designs are located. This is because design products appear simple and self-evident when we encounter them. The context, meaning, and correlation of a designed object are defined beforehand in an invisible activity: the design process, which I consider as the biggest part of design. 

Designing is a complicated, lengthy, and exhausting practice. It includes research and visualization, it relies on the use of language and writing although it results in a simple (nontextual) object. Designing is never the result of a single person’s work, it is a non-linear, collaborative network-like structure (see Latour 2008: 6, 12). A reason for an otherwise reductionist view that is also tackled by the poster can already be seen in the term itself: Designing as a practice and its products – ‘the design’ – are sharing the same English term, as ‘design’ can be a verb and a noun. We thus need to differentiate between, firstly, design as a practice and, secondly, design as its outcome and – thirdly – the discipline including the discourse around the question of what the term design means. 

Although contemporary design discourses such as the Actor-Network Theory by Bruno Latour with whom we can define design as the practice of many actors in network-like structures reject the idea of design as creating novel, revolutionary ideas, yet the concept of novelty remains a driving force in design. It is of importance here to say, that in my concept of design, every product (or system or sign) marks a difference to previous designs of the same kind. Novelty can be created by using a new material, technique, or by referring to a social or theoretical concept as it is often the case in gallery design pieces. 

[1] That very wide view of design relates to the English term that can also mean computer sciences or engineering. The German term “Gestaltung”, in contrast, particularly addresses the creation of artifacts of daily use. See, for instance: Diefenthaler 2008: 177.

(From my article ‘Improvisation in Design Processes’, 2021)







Designing Design Education

Paradoxically, in design, something is concretized that doesn’t yet exist because it emerges through the process. The design process is thus taught and learned differently than ‘normal’ subjects. Learning to design means creating projects. Tacit knowledge and experimental iterative work are essential when creating designs. This process has, for example, inspired the method of Design Thinking.

Nevertheless: When looking at contemporary design education, for instance, we can observe that it suffers from a paradigm of patriarchal power that is often overlooked. Only because we design new shiny things this does not mean that the teaching process behind these innovative projects is shiny and new, too. What if design education was open, accessible and participatory? Overturning traditional concepts of the ‘design school’ and questions how design education I am currently experimenting with new practices of networking, communication and digital learning spaces to challenge the idea of the school as an enclosed, spatial entity.

What if we applied principles of Open Design to design education and thus hacked the art school as an institution with its problematic power structures?


Opposed to planning and often associated with dysfunctionality, improvisation is typically not considered to be a part of design. Typical associations with the term improvisation would be unpredictability resp. unplannability, novelty, spontaneity, speed, freedom, openness, and volatility. All these factors also seem to guarantee the aesthetic autonomy of an artwork (Landgraf 2011). They characterize the most common modes in which we can experience improvisation – mostly in a performative situation – in the arts. But when having a closer look at the process of design, we can observe that the products of design, although not aesthetically autonomous in the sense of an artwork, are neither emerging solely from careful planning and thinking, nor are they the result of autonomous artistic practice. They emerge from a process that is located somewhere between art and engineering (Munari 2008: 30).

(From my article ‘Improvisation in Design Processes’, 2021)


In a common understanding, design means the process of conceptualizing things that will be industrially produced. It is a central feature of these industrially produced artifacts that they all look alike. Therefore, when considering only the finished and perfect serially produced object, we cannot see improvisation that was necessary to design them anymore. In order to ensure quality, industrial processes need to be repetitive; they need to use the same steps of production over and over again, and thus the shape of the industrial product has to be the same each time. But still, the fact that these objects have to be produced in a planned and repetitive – industrial – process does not necessarily mean that the process of creating them has to be planned and repetitive as well.

As a next step, we now have to distinguish between product and process – not only when looking at the particular phenomenon of improvisation – but also when developing a more general concept of design. In a very problematic way, etymology here comes into play: The English term [design] (design vs. to. design) we are using means both: product and process. When looking at the German word design in itself – Entwurf // Entwerfen– we can understand Entwurf as a product – but also as a practice.

Unlike other, mostly historical approaches that look at the finished and enclosed products of [design], my project now shifts the focus from the product to the process [process-product-difference]. Within that concept, more other presuppositions have to be taken into account, in particular the material dimension of design. Materials, techniques, and the subjectivity of the designer all influence the design situation and therefore the emergence of the product. The design process in itself is unpredictable, as every particular situation of design is unique and cannot be decoupled from the materials and techniques that are used to make drawings, models, simulations, and prototypes. Furthermore: we cannot know what the outcome of a design process will be, as this outcome is the design in itself. Designing therefore gains a paradoxical quality, by designing, we develop a product, object, or system that we cannot know yet.

This process is also completely driven by digital tools and interfaces since the early 1990s, but still these materials, techniques, and the designer’s subjectivity obviously haven’t become obsolete.

Insisting only on idealistic or maybe utopian concepts and ideas of design – such as the concept of good design, on the contrary, would cover the real materials, circumstances, and techniques of the process. However, that would be Modernity’s view on design – here designers appeared above all as individual experts, and design appeared as a mere cognitive achievement. A canonical example from this discourse on planning and expertism would be the Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander show Patterns or diagrams with feedback loops which Bernhard E. Bürdek discusses in his thesis on design methods at HFG Ulm.

Network and Openness as well as the design of interfaces form the core elements of contemporary design. We are neither designing mere industrial products nor can we focus on artsy singular pieces. Design within the culture of digitality is process- design as we are dealing with hybrid objects between digital and analogue.

(From my inaugural lecture at Muthesius Academy of the Arts in Kiel, 2017, translated in 2020)


Network and Openness as well as the design of interfaces form the core elements of contemporary design. We are neither designing mere industrial products nor can we focus on artsy singular pieces. Design within the culture of digitality is process- design as we are dealing with hybrid objects between digital and analogue.

(more coming soon)




The term Metaverse relates to Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, and retrospectively, the 1985 game Habitat. Another form of the Metaverse is the 2003 platform Second Life. The Metaverse is a continuation of the Internet, where databases enable a parallel world to the physical world: Real-time simulations allow experimentation with new forms of the physical world. Virtual environments created with AR, VR, and holographic technologies can tentatively map future scenarios of shared urban living, climate change mitigation, economics, and politics. A central component is participation. 

Talk of the Metaverse has caused more astonishment than enthusiasm in the design world (see here, for example, The vision of some high- tech corporations is in the process of merging this world into a single ‚Metaverse’, made tangible through VR goggles and data gloves, in which we will work, live and consume in the future. This seemingly dystopian vision, reminiscent of the film ‘Ready Player One’ (2018), has little in common with the democratic and participatory potential once inherent in social media. Who will create the content of the Metaverse? And who will make money from this content? Will access to this world be reserved only for the privileged who have elaborate technical equipment? 

Still, the idea of a 3dimensional Web offers many opportunities, in particular for designers. The Metaverse could instead of the dystopian vision become a new place of cultural production, learning, and research. We want to be an example of an open, transparent vision of the Metaverse – different from the dystopian scenarios of some Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Wouldn’t it be desirable, just as in the development of the first FabLabs and the self-construction of 3D printers, to create open participatory access to the Metaverse, and to shape it within academic institutions as places of open knowledge production? After all, openness and participation are not exactly highlighted by the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs of the Metaverse. It is unclear, for example, how the Metaverse will be connected to the ‘real world’. Still, there are numerous technologies, such as augmented reality and 3D scanning, that make it possible to create an immersive experience that is also connected to the real world apart from just using VR Glasses. 

The term Metaverse is based on transferring the ‘social’ Web 2.0 into the three-dimensional virtual world. All kinds of marketing and future experts have gathered to sell the space and products of the ‘Metaverse’ before it even really exists. First and foremost is Matthew Ball, who initially wrote a foresighted essay on the phenomenon, but who became an agent of the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and then became completely absorbed in the hype about the ‘Next Big Thing’. The most common definition of what the Metaverse is also comes from his essay The Metaverse: What It Is, Where to Find It, and Who Will Build It (See: Following Matthew Ball, the Metaverse is: persistent, synchronous, and live, it will provide every user with a sense of ‚presence‘, it will be a fully functioning economy, It will connect digital and physical, and will be ‚Populated by experiences and content‘ from an incredibly wide range of contributors. So it is easy, from the point of view of a cultural pessimist, to find most parts of the ‘Metaverse’ problematic. Perhaps it would be better to say Betaverse, simply to mark that there is more to it than just the idea of a radicalized cultural industry that no longer even sells ‘real’ products but only produces experiences, in the sense of Horkheimer and Adorno’s ‘fun’, and keeps us trapped in a permanent loop of distraction. 

Here, however, traditional structures of design and knowledge production are also renegotiated based on computer-assisted processes. It uses process-based design rather than product-based design. It is based on collaborative processes rather than on individual authorship. 

(From an EU-Proposal for the Project ‚Hybridlab‘ in cooperation with DAE and Prof. Dr. Sandra Schramke, 2022)

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write an email: frye(at)

Design is an infinite collaborative Process. We are constantly building things based on other things. Research is always part of design.