Approaches to What? 

Georges Perec

(Perec, G. (1973) Species of Spaces and Other Pieces. Penguin, pp. 205-7)

Perec Visage

What speaks to us, seemingly, is always the big event, the untoward, the extra-ordinary: the front-page splash, the banner headlines. Railway trains only begin to exist when they are derailed, and the more passengers that are killed, the more the trains exist. Aeroplanes achieve existence only when they are hijacked. The one and only destiny of motor-cars is to drive into plane trees. Fifty-two weekends a year, fifty-two casualty lists: so many dead and all the better for the news media if the figures keep going up! Behind the event there is a scandal, a fissure, a danger, as if life reveals itself only by way of the spectacular, as if what speaks, what is significant, is always abnormal: natural cataclysms or social upheavals, social unrest, political scandals.

In our haste to measure the historic, significant and revelatory, let’s not leave aside the essential: the truly intolerable, the truly inadmissible. What is scandalous isn’t the pit explosion, it’s working in coalmines. ‘Social problems’ aren’t ‘a matter of concern’ when there’s a strike, they are intolerable twenty-four hours out of twenty-four, three hundred and sixty-five days a year.

Tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, tower blocks that collapse, forest fires, tunnels that cave in, the Drugstore de Champs-Elysées burns down. Awful! Terrible! Monstrous! Scandalous! But where’s the scandal? The true scandal? Has the newspaper told us everything except: not to worry, as you can see life exists, with its ups and downs, things happen, as you can see.
The daily newspapers talk of everything except the daily. The papers annoy me, they teach me nothing. What they recount doesn’t concern me, doesn’t ask me questions and doesn’t answer the questions I ask or would like to ask. What’s really going on, what we’re experiencing, the rest, all the rest, where is it? How should we take account of, question, describe what happens every day and recurs everyday: the banal, the quotidian, the obvious, the common, the ordinary, the infra-ordinary, the background noise, the habitual?

To question the habitual. But that’s just it, we’re habituated to it. We don’t question it, it doesn’t question us, it doesn’t seem to pose a problem, we live it without thinking, as if it carried within it neither question nor answers, as if it weren’t the bearer of any information. This is not longer even conditioning, it’s anaesthesia. We sleep through our lives in a dreamless sleep. But where is our life? Where is our body? Where is our space?

How are we to speak of these ‘common things’, how to track them down rather, how to flush them out, wrest them from the dross in which they remain mired, how to give them a meaning, a tongue, to let them, finally, speak of what is, of what we are. What’s needed perhaps is finally to found our own anthropology, one that will speak about us, will look in ourselves for what for so long we’ve been pillaging from others. Not the exotic anymore, but the endotic.

To question what seems so much a matter of course that we’ve forgotten its origins. To rediscover something of the astonishment that Jules Verne or his readers may have felt faced with an apparatus capable of reproducing and transporting sounds. For the astonishment existed, along with thousands of others, and it’s they which have moulded us.

What we need to question is bricks, concrete, glass, our table manners, our utensils, our tools, the way we spend our time, our rhythms. To question that which seems to have ceased forever to astonish us. We live, true, we breathe, true; we walk, we open doors, we go down staircases, we sit at a table in order to eat, we lie down on a bed in order to sleep. How? Why? Where? When? Why?
Describe your street. Describe another street. Compare.
Make an inventory of you pockets, of your bag.

Ask yourself about the provenance, the use, what will become of each of the objects you take out.
Question your tea spoons.
What is there under your wallpaper?
How many movements does it take to dial a phone number?
Why don’t you find cigarettes in grocery stores? Why not?

It matters little to me that these questions should be fragmentary, barely indicative of a method, at most of a project. It matters a lot to me that they should seem trivial and futile: that’s exactly what makes them just as essential, if not more so, as all the other questions by which we’ve tried in vain to lay hold on our truth.”


Perec 01

From: Paul Finn on Georges Perec at




Essays: Scratching the Surface pre-order price £16.50, the first 100 copies will be signed by the author

Scratching the Surface is a collection of essays and journalism by Adrian Shaughnessy, focusing mainly on graphic design. Essays include: ‘2012 Olympic logo ate my hamster’; ‘Vaughan Oliver – minotaurs in suburban England’; and ‘The myth of originality and the joy of copying’.

The essays have appeared on blogs such as Design Observer, and in publications such as Eye, Creative Review, Design Week and The Wire. Many others have appeared only in tiny circulation publications.

The book’s introduction opens with a disconcerting question: ‘Why would anyone want to read about graphic design?’ Despite assertions that ‘designers don’t read’, there has, in recent years, been a huge upsurge of interest in design writing: courses have been established to teach the subject, and many designers now combine design and writing within their practices.

In 2003, Adrian Shaughnessy gave up studio life to become an independent designer, consultant, publisher, teacher and writer. He wrote the highly successful How to be a Graphic Designer Without Losing your Soul which has sold 80,000 copies worldwide.

Scratching the Surface is a book for anyone who wants to scratch the surface of the cultural zeitgeist to see what’s underneath.

400 pages
ISBN 978-0-9575114-0-8
Pre-order price £16.50
Standard price £20.00

Essays: Adrian Shaughnessy
Design: Spin

Shipping end of May to early June 2013





Dissertation Workshops

Victoria Ahrens is offering follow up dissertation sessions for the Graphic Design students

on Monday 17th June

in three sessions

12:00- 13:30 for groups A + B + C

14:00-15:30 for groups E + D

16:00-17:30 for groups F + G

(if for some reason you cannot attend your designated time slot then go to one of the others)

All will be in room A336

She will focus on a plan for research over the summer and are very import and will be extremely useful for you to attend.


Speculations IV, June 2013, ISBN: 978-0615797861

If philosophy begins in wonder, then where does it end? What is its end? Aristotle said that while it begins in wondrous questioning, it ends with “the better state” of attaining answers, like an itch we get rid of with a good scratch or a childhood disease that, once gotten over, never returns. How depressing! Why can’t a good question continue being questionable or, in a more literal translation of the German, “question-worthy?” As Heidegger puts it, “philosophical questions are in principle never settled as if some day one could set them aside.” Couldn’t we learn from questions without trying to settle them, resolve ourselves to not resolving them? Couldn’t wisdom be found in reconciling ourselves to its perpetual love, and never its possession? Wittgenstein once wrote that “a philosophical problem has the form: ‘I don’t know my way about,’” which was the symptom of the deep confusion that constituted philosophy for him. But Heidegger loved wandering aimlessly in the woods, following Holzwege or paths that lead nowhere, stumbling onto dead-ends which could also be clearings.

–Lee Braver, “On Not Settling the Issue of Realism”

Download Speculations IV as a PDF.

Purchase print edition HERE.


Editorial Introduction


On Not Settling the Issue of Realism
Lee Braver

Politics and Speculative Realism
Levi R. Bryant

The Current State of Speculative Realism
Graham Harman

Weird Reading
Eileen A. Joy

A Very Dangerous Supplement: Speculative Realism, Academic Blogging, and the Future of Philosophy
Adam Kotsko

Speculative Realism: Interim Report with Just a Few Caveats
Christopher Norris

The Future of an Illusion
Jon Roffe

Realism and Representation: On the Ontological Turn
Daniel Sacilotto


“The World is an Egg”: Realism, Mathematics, and the Thresholds of Difference
Jeffrey A. Bell

Ontological Commitments
Manuel DeLanda

The Meaning of “Existence” and the Contingency of Sense
Markus Gabriel

Post-Deconstructive Realism: It’s About Time
Peter Gratton

Points of Forced Freedom: Eleven (More) Theses on Materialism
Adrian Johnston

Realism and the Infinite
Paul M. Livingston

How to Behave Like a Non-Philosopher, or, Speculative Versus Revisionary Metaphysics
John Mullarkey

“The Horror of Darkness”: Toward an Unhuman Phenomenology
Dylan Trigg


Academic Support Workshop Sessions

Year 2 Graphic Design Communication dissertation students.

Academic support at CCW/UAL have very kindly offered you a series of workshops to help you design your dissertation ‘research strategy’ and to help you with your presentations next week.

They will all be in room A336 and be run by Victoria Ahrens. Please contact her if you cannot attend any of these sessions at:

These works will be invaluable and you should attend and will be a great help to your dissertation preparation. If you cannot attend the session you have been allocated to then go on one of the others.
Thursday 30th May 10.00-12.00: Groups  A + B + C  room A336

Friday      31st May 10.00-11:30: Groups  E + D  room A336

Friday      31st May 12:00-13:30: Groups  F + G   room A336


Friday   31st May 2:00- 3:30   room A336

For any who cannot make it to the previous sessions
The workshops are inclusive and open to all students.

They will cover your thesis proposals, what to include in them and how to present them, as well as how to construct a research strategy to follow on from your initial briefing session.

Please contact her if you cannot attend any of these sessions at:


Unit 10 Dissertation + Project Blog 40 Credits 

This unit provides an opportunity for you to engage in a subject area which interests you. Whilst the focus of the topic may be design-led it is recognised that a far wider cultural remit in terms of subject matter can often be more rewarding for you and help you to critically engage with your own practice. In addition, you will put together a Project Blog, through which you will contextualise your progress towards your Final Project and your engagement with contemporary design practice.

5.10 Unit 10 Dissertation and Project Blog Level  Level 6 FHEQ
Location within Course  Weeks 1 – 30
Credit Rating  40 Credits
Indicative Learning Hours  400 hours
Notional Contact Hours  40 hours
Access to Supervised Facilities  160 hours
Independent Study  200 hours


This unit will count towards 33.3% of your final mark. It will constitute the summation of previous units in that you will be asked to submit a dissertation of between six to eight thousand words. The topic, which will have previously been agreed by your supervisor, will explore an area considered relevant to your own personal interests and the discipline of Design Communication. It is expected that you will bring to bear the accumulated knowledge and experience of the previous two years works and assessment.

Indicative Content 

The focus of this unit is your exploration of your chosen dissertation subject area. In addition you put together a Project Blog that contextualises your practice.

Personal and Professional Development 

• Evidence efficient, specific personal learning strategies.

• Demonstrate competence in communication skills.

• Evidence capacity for ongoing learning, planning and professional development.

Learning and Teaching Methods 

This unit is wholly managed through a tutorial system. It is recognised at this stage that you are now of a disposition and capability where you handle the research and writing yourself. Tutorials are there for guidance and direction at a stage where progress is almost exclusively determined through self-initiated work and practice. You are also encouraged to attend and contribute to the professional speakers programme.  

Learning outcomes 

On successful completion of this unit, you will be able to achieve the following learning outcomes: Unit 10 Learning Outcomes  Marking criteria 
1. demonstrate a systematic and critical understanding of historical, contextual and contemporary debates and contexts that inform graphic design practice. AnalysisSubject Knowledge
2. carry out sustained, systematic and extensive critical research, using relevant resources, analysing and interpreting findings, and applying them to new contexts and to your concerns as a designer. ResearchExperimentation
3. effective communication and presentation skills to construct coherent arguments using appropriate terminology and academic writing conventions, including accurate referencing. Communication and Presentation

UAL Marking Criteria 

Your work in this unit will be assessed against University of the Arts marking criteria, which are designed to give you clear feedback on your achievement. The table above indicates how they relate to the unit learning outcomes.

The full marking criteria descriptions for Learning Outcomes and UAL standard student feedback form for assessment can be found under Section 7, Assessment.

Assessment Evidence 

6000 – 8000 word dissertation with full academic referencing and bibliography. The dissertation will count towards 75% of the mark for this unit.

A Project Blog. The blog will count towards 25% of the mark for this unit.

The Project Blog is a vehicle that allows you to underline and contextualise, through both visual language and text, your progress towards the Final Major Project and your engagement with contemporary design practice.

You should acknowledge anyone else‟s ideas that you use in your dissertation by quoting the source of information. All references must be properly acknowledged using Harvard conventions. Guidance on Harvard referencing can be found at:

Overall, this unit will count towards 33.3% of your final mark.

Recommended Texts and Resources 

At this stage on the course texts and resources should be sourced independently as part of the assessment for this unit.


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