Within graphic design, the concept of systems is profoundly rooted in form. When such word is invoked, it is normally related to macro-typography, involving book design and typesetting, but also micro-typography, addressing type design, or parametric typefaces, for example. Branding and signage are two domains which nearly claim exclusivity of the use of ‘systems’ in graphic design. This series of residencies, titled Design Systems and organised by the Porto Design Biennale, aims to challenge that tradition by providing a platform to investigate systems thinking in its relation to design—structure and behaviour—openly working towards a politicised understanding of its practice and theory.

Environmental scientist Donella Meadows argues in Thinking in Systems (2009) that “a system must consist of three kinds of things: elements, interconnections, and a function or purpose.” This series of residencies, taking form as collaborative workshops open to a diverse public, will question the systems that shape design and how design reinforces and feeds them in return. By exploring a variety of lenses, from politics to media and journalism, data or economics, these residencies will collaboratively form the fifth volume of Modes of Criticism. With contributions by Luiza Prado and Pedro Oliveira (A Parede), Belle Nuankhanit Phromchanya (ACED) and Ruben Pater (Untold Stories).

Design Systems, Workshop 1: Impossible Methods, by Luiza Prado & Pedro Oliveira (A Parede), 10–12 May 2019, Shared Institute, Porto, Portugal

The act of designing produces other designs into the world, and does so by intervening in relations that are all context-dependent and socio-culturally informed. We understand the act of designing as one o f producing material discourse; we argue that the discourses produced by designed things cannot be anything but provisional and performative.

Participants start out from a designed artifact they are asked to bring to the session – responding to a set of keywords or a statement given by us beforehand – and slowly unpack the networks that inform the existence of that object in the world, as well as its implications in-use. This unpacking can take the form of narrative, performance, mapping, or anything available and/or desired; what matters is not the hows, but the whats and the whys.

Luiza Prado & Pedro Oliveira
Dr. Luiza Prado de O. Martins and Dr. Pedro Oliveira are researchers, artists, and educators working with and around decolonial thinking. Together they work as A Parede, and also are founding members of the Decolonising Design group.

Application details (max 10 participants)
— The workshop will be primarily taught in English, but perfect English skills are not a prerequisite. The workshop leaders speak Portuguese and can switch back-and-forth and provide translations where necessary.
— To register, please send us your name, pronouns, and current affiliation (if any), as well as a two to three short sentences as to why you would be interested in attending the workshop.


Design Systems, Workshop 2: News That Will Change the World, by Belle Nuankhanit Phromchanya (ACED), 31 May–2 June, Shared Institute, Porto, Portugal

The world is changing; which side are you on? Global shifts are infused with fiction, captured through metaphors, imagined characters and invisible powers. As reality becomes the script of our news bubble, fiction becomes a necessary means of dealing with the real. News That Will Change the World​ is a three-day intensive workshop in which participants investigate the subjective narratives of global realities, from fake news, conspiracy theories, and internet’s collective imagination. The program will explore Porto’s journalistic archives of the Municipal Library; microfilms, digital footage, printed materials and historical data. We will use cross-fields research methodologies to discover the unseen patterns and collect new pieces of evidence that can be constructed into a coherent narrative. Using news materials as a propaganda for future scenarios, with humour, sarcasm, and good will, the aim of the workshop is to introduce an alternative version of reality.

Belle Phromchanya (co-founder, ACED)
ACEDis an institute for design, art and journalism with the aim of promoting interdisciplinarity between the artistic and journalistic field. The institute aims to achieve its goal through the realization of experimental production, research & knowledge development and public programs.

Application details (max 10 participants)
— Participants can be design students, designers, journalists, researchers, or writers from diversebackgrounds.
—Please include your name and a link to your work (if applicable).
— Up to 400 words description about your practice and field of interests/research.
— Participants should ideally bring their laptops.


Design Systems, Workshop 3: Means of Production, Ruben Pater (Untold Stories), 20–22 June 2019, Shared Institute, Porto, Portugal

When terms like ‘critical design’ or ‘political design’ are invoked, they tend to refer to the topic rather the conditions of graphic design itself. The underlying economic conditions under which design is produced and consumed remain largely unquestioned. In this workshop we will map, deconstruct, and visualise the means of production of contemporary graphic design in the context of the cities of Porto and Matosinhos. The means of production refers to all the tools, raw material, factories and inputs used for the production of economic value. In graphic design this means the software, hardware, graphic tools, networks, printing companies, inks, (digital) distribution companies, broadcasting channels, and the private and governmental organisations that provide educatlional and exhibitions spaces, etc. Visualisation of the means of production of this particular workshop will be presented as a production line in a narrative form in the public space.

Ruben Pater
Under the name Untold Stories, Pater creates visual narratives that aim to support solidarity, justice, and equality. His work often starts as a collaboration with other disciplines to create new perspectives on complex social and political issues, which are then disseminated through publications, installations, interactive media and film. His Drone Survival Guide(2013) received worldwide attention as a discussion piece on military drones. In his book The Politics of Design(BIS Publishers, 2016) he looks at the responsibilities of designers in visual culture. Pater is a tutor in the BA Graphic Design and the MA Non-Linear Narrative at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague.

Application details (max 10 participants)
— Participants can be design students, designers, journalists, researchers, or writers from diversebackgrounds.
— Please include your name, languages spoken and fields of interest within design (e.g. graphic design, information design, design writing, etc).
— Participants should bring their laptop and sketching material.


To apply, please fill the submission form provide by the Porto Design Biennale.