Learning Journal – Critical Practices

 Word count: 1151

Constellation is used to support our academic reading, writing and thinking skills by looking at different concepts in art and design fields. We had to choose three different study groups that I am interested in and for the constellation, I was put into the study group “Critical Practice”. Critical practice wasn’t my first choice for the constellation, I was very unsure with what it is and what it meant. When we first started the constellation lecture, a lot of new information thrown into my face and I was quite lost during the first few weeks of the constellation. During most of the lectures, I stayed quiet even when I didn’t understand what something meant. Not asking questions towards the person teaching me have always been one of my biggest weaknesses that I need to improve on. This is because asking for help can benefit me so much during my studies. But also I get to understand the topic more and seeing a different perspective of it. Each week, we were given various tasks at the end of each lecture for us to think independently about what criticality mean. The tasks given were hard, but it made me look further into the topic which helped me gain more knowledge. Though, I still found it very challenging!

During the first lecture for critical practice, Theo, our constellation tutor, gave us a lecture on the key ideas of criticality in art and design. He then showed us a variety of different examples of critical design. An example of this is Thomas Thwaites’ Toaster Project (Figure 1). Thomas used speculative design proposals to create his own toaster using only raw materials. He does this by challenging the norm and using unorthodox methods to create it. Which is what I think critical practices are all about- putting a spin onto the original idea. This toaster project gave me a better understanding of what critical practices are all about.

Thomas Thwaites- Toaster Project (2008)
Figure 1. Thomas Thwaites- ‘Toaster Project’ (2008)

We were then given a task where we had to pick an image of a piece of art/ design that embodies ‘criticality.’ I found this task very challenging as I didn’t have much understanding of criticality, but also because it was only our first constellation session. As I said earlier, not speaking out to them when I don’t understand something is one of my biggest weaknesses. When we were given this task, I didn’t understand anything about criticality, so it was hard to pick something that embodies it. However, this was a paired task, and my friend that I was working with had a little bit of an idea of what critical practices is, even though she knew the slightest, it still helped me immensely. We chose the painting ‘Girl Before A Mirror’ by Pablo Picasso (Figure 2) because this image shows self-criticality. The woman standing in front of the mirror sees a different ‘person’ and sometimes when you’re looking at yourself in the mirror, you don’t only see the external you, but you can also see the internal you.

Figure 2. Pablo Picasso- ‘Girl Before A Mirror’ (1932)

We were looking at the critical perspective of key players on the second week of the constellation. A critical perspective is being able to compare and discuss your feelings towards a subject, in this case, interpretations of art and design. Here, we looked at images that established the norm and criticizing it.

An example is ‘Eleanor’ by Jessica Harrison (Figure 3). This sculpture is showing a lady holding her heart that has been pulled out of her chest. The things Harrison makes explores the body and the things that surround it. This lecture gave me the understanding that critical practice can be viewed in many ways and perspectives, and how it can change contexts. The task that was given to us this week was to define what criticality mean to me as an interior designer. This task was also a challenge to me as I still don’t have a clear understanding about criticality. However, with what I know, criticality means challenging the norm using the unorthodox method and going against the stereotype. Criticality can also be about looking at a situation, responding to the considerations in a way that draws attention to them.

Figure 3. Jessica Harrison- ‘Eleanor’ (2014)

We also focused on the value of criticality, antisolutionism and what the whole point of criticality is. During this lecture, I realized that criticality is very important when it comes to design. The value of criticality might shift which allows us to integrate different ideas to make a new one and this would lead to change. People usually resist change but change lead to inventions. I found this lecture very interesting because it gave me so much understanding of what criticality is all about.

The final task given to us was to choose an essay title. I found this really hard because I didn’t have any clue on what to write about, however, I did a few things that helped me. Firstly, what I did was gather a couple of words that I am interested in. I picked quite a few words to give me more variety and option (words that I chose were modernism, sustainability, evolution, and memories), but with just a word, it was hard to come up with a question because the choices are immense. I was stuck with coming up with a question but I knew I was very interested in sustainability in art and design. Sustainable design is becoming increasingly popular in recent times and society are more aware of how important it is to be sustainable. With the help of my constellation tutor, Theo, we came up with the question: ‘Who Is Responsible For Sustainability In Interior Design? And Who Should Be?’. Doing research on sustainability has benefitted me so much as a designer. I have learned so much about sustainable interior design through intensive research for this essay question. It was very interesting to learn and read about ways of making the future sustainable through interior decoration. Making positive environmental impacts instead of negative is always something that lightens me. Now that I have a better understanding of sustainable design, I can incorporate this knowledge into my work and space and I am very excited to explore further into the topic.

The whole constellation and the topic of critical practice was a struggle, it was very hard since it is all new to me. But once I understood the concept of it, it is very interesting to see how criticality can be used around and in art and design. To think ‘outside the box’ when considering practical ideation within our design. As an interior designer, critical practice has challenged me to become more innovative within my design and how challenging the norm can lead to designs that are aesthetic and practical.


Thwaites, T. (2008). THOMAS THWAITES >>>> [Under Construction] → The Toaster Project. [online] Thomasthwaites.com. Available at: http://www.thomasthwaites.com/the-toaster-project/

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