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Honorary Degree Orations


Professor Ken Friedman

Public Orator, Tony Hodgson presented the Honorary Graduand at the Degree Ceremony held on Monday 23 July at 3.00pm

Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Lord Mayor, honoured guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, and Graduands.

Professor Ken Friedman graduated from the San Francisco State University in 1971, with a MA in Interdisciplinary studies in education, psychology and social science. He gained his doctorate from the United States International University (now the Alliant International University) in 1976.

He is currently Professor of Leadership and Strategic Design in the Department of Communication, Culture and Language at the Norwegian School of Management, in Oslo. In addition he is Associate Professor at the Design Research Centre at Denmark’s Design School in Copenhagen.

Between 1976 and 2003, when he began work in his current posts, Ken has developed a prestigious portfolio of design and design-related activity.
These include being the Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Contemporary Art, San Diego in the late 70s and President of the Art Economist Corporation, New York, in the mid 80s.

As a practising artist and designer, Ken has been active in the international laboratory of experimental artists, architects, composers and designers known as Fluxus. Fluxus may be described as a global community of artists in the widest sense, who pursue their own artistic goals rather than a conventional market-driven view of what art should be. It embodies a strong feeling ‘do it yourself’ art and design, and is sometimes explained by a ‘music’ or ‘musicality’ metaphor – meaning that anyone can create work of any kind from a score, acknowledging the composer as the originator of the work whilst working with it in different ways than the original composer might have.
More recently, Fluxus has embraced the internet and cyberspace. This opened up a community of vibrant artists who see their work as experimental, multimedia, simple short or brief, and above all – fun! It is best described as an attitude rather than a style or movement.

From a research perspective, 'design' is a comparatively new academic discipline and Ken has been one of the key players in building the foundation of this discipline - using his polymathic knowledge of other disciplines like Science and Engineering, Business and Economic theory, and the Social Sciences.

The first time I met Ken was at a design conference held in the Dept of Design and Technology here at Loughborough. This highlighted his research activity aimed very much at the foundations of design, attempting to develop a philosophy and theory to anchor robust practice in the field. At that time he spoke about the creation of design knowledge and the move from research into practice. I remember discussions about Philippe Starcke’s artefacts – dare I call them products – and the positive nature of their dysfunction.

To describe the breadth of Ken’s research in this field is not possible in the short time we have today, but suffice it say that it spans design theory, the philosophical and scientific foundations of design research, curriculum development (particularly in relation to problem-solving), management, leadership, the knowledge economy and the information society. All these areas are particularly relevant to the role of design and designers today, as professional designers increasing work in multidisciplinary teams and grapple with rapid changes brought on by, for example, increasing globalisation.

To gain a feel for the breadth, depth and quality of Ken’s research activity you only need to visit the PhD-Design list which operates as a design research forum on the internet. As a member of the forum myself, I am bombarded by scores of email messages each day, picking up on threads of discussion or activity in design. To be honest, I only engage with those nuggets of discussion that particularly interest me, but Ken’s interaction with the forum is prolific. He is able to reply to a relatively short question or comment, on so many of the topics, with a few sides (I mean screens) of pertinent and incisive comment that reflects his great depth of knowledge, understanding and experience of design research. What is more, he does this so quickly and regularly that I wonder he finds time to cover all his other research activity. It is clearly an excellent means of disseminating and sharing his work with other research practitioners.

There is no doubt that Professor Ken Friedman has made a most significant contribution to design and design research, and that he will continue to do so for many more years to come.

Therefore, Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you, and the whole University, Professor Ken Friedman, for the degree of Doctor of Science, honoros causa.


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