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What is a Design Atelier?

A cloud to prompt discussion about what you think a Design Atelier is?

Cloud created by:

Jennefer Hart
27 November 2009

Prompted by an interesting discussion at a JISC Cluster Meeting I have created this cloud to explore further what a Design Atelier actually is? 

The ATELIER-D project takes as its starting point the centuries-old methods of learning and teaching in the studio of a master artist or craftsperson. The project brings the spirit of the atelier into the 21st century. It develops the notion of the ‘virtual design studio’ using ICTs to create powerful learning and teaching environments.

 In his keynote presentation at the OpenLearn conference 30-31st October 2007 at The Open University (OU), John Seeley Brown used the term ‘atelier’ to characterise an emerging form of learning and teaching based on social networks, a distinct participatory approach by learners and teachers and pedagogy rooted in practice. Seeley Brown drew on his experience in architecture education but many in the parent domain of design education will recognise the well-established and powerful approach offered by the atelier (see link below).

As part of the JISC funded ATELIER-D project the OU are researching how a virtual atelier can be created using the latest Web 2.0 tools that support a wide range of distance learning designs students.

This cloud
This cloud seeks to promote discussion about what you think a Design Atelier is?

  • What are the key attributes that make up a Design Atelier?  
  • What makes it so special?
  • Is the nature of the physical space important?  Should it be large and open or small  and private?
  • What type of teaching methods should be used?
  • How can communication be used to support learning? 

This link below takes you to a short video clip to prompt the discussion.
Your thoughts and views are most welcome.

Extra content

Embedded Content

What do you think is a Design Atelier?

What do you think is a Design Atelier?

added by Jennefer Hart


nicole schadewitz
7:23pm 27 November 2009

The design atelier always was a place for me where I had a quite corner where I did my work and left some stuff on the table for others to look at. Then eventually I engaged with others through my work as well as purely socially, in the tea corner. In the tea corner harmless discussions often turned into a harsh critique of our work. But other times, I worked from home and just brought my work back to the studio. The studio was then a space for presentation rather than production. The studio mixes all up, private, collaborative, social and presentation space. Some even moved into the studio to live there.

In a way, the design atelier is all around you. Maybe it is not this one distinctive space that we always think of and refer to. One example of a physical design studio that was not in one space is a workshop I participated in, in Ogaki, Japan - We had a variety of different rooms and places available for discussion and designing. In effect, we carried our studio around with us. Maybe the studio is more an attitude than a space?

Derek Jones
2:38pm 13 June 2010

Nicole - your experience and reflection of what it meant to you is definitely recognisable to me (especially living in the studio...)

Are we perhaps saying that an Atelier is as much a place of the mind as a physical space? Would it be more appropriate to take a phenomenological approach to this type of 'space' before rationalising it?

The Bachelard reference is one of my favourite starting points for the idea of architectural space as a cognitive space and I think it really might have some relevance here. In college I looked a lot at emergent (cognitive) spaces - how people use and create space to relate to one another (e.g. in meeting places, in pubs, in public spaces, etc ).

Westfall and Van Pelt define all architecture as political - that the reason for, and primary use of, architectural space is for human interaction (cognitive space).

Also, the feedback coming in from U101 is definitely worth bringing into the discussion in terms of how groups relate in virtual spaces and what analogies between physical cognitive and online cognitive spaces we can draw and make use of.

Definitely worth discussing ...


Derek Jones
3:09pm 13 June 2010

But, to answer the original question, my 2pence would be :

The [good] Atelier is a perfect mix of private and public space for an emergent designer (inside and outside your head). 

It allows, encourages and incubates (and mirrors?) the private thoughts and ideas inside your mind - allowing these to be expressed privately, semi-privately, semi-publicly, and publicly, in degrees as you grow as a designer.

It is a place where things are brought to it - the Atelier is simply the node to facilitate this, in itself it creates nothing (it only 'allows').

So, as Nicole suggests, perhaps it is an attitude and this 'space' is an Atelier (after all, I want to get a coffee and discuss this right now with some coloured pens...).

Martin Weller
10:06am 25 June 2010

Hi Jennefer

I think I commented back on the other space too, but I like the way you've used this vid not to just say what the project is, but to provoke discussion. You could see how you could ask students/peers to produce videos in response, setting out their views and then you'd have a really useful YouTube playlist which is an academic resource.

More of this!


Gráinne Conole
6:26am 26 June 2010

Hi Jennifer

thanks for this and the related Cloud providing an update on the project. It's really interesting to see the range of approaches you have adopted and your reflections on their success or not to date. I am currently at the ConnectEd design conference in Sydney mainly talking about our Learning Design work but I think alot of people will be very interested in what you are doing in Atelier so I will point them to this. Will put up slides for the presentation in due course!

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