Have I Got a Proposition for You: Developing the capability for compelling arguments through rhetorical practice in the design studio

Veronika Kelly, Myra Thiessen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearchpeer-review


Designers draw implicitly on rhetorical modes of appeal (ethos, pathos, logos) in the way they talk about their work in terms of its strategic, social, and cultural impact. Rhetorical practice on its own, however, may not align with an ethical position. Yet design’s increasing emphasis on values, behaviours, and social action indicates a practice that requires expertise in formulating compelling design propositions that inspire people to act. This has significance for design education in relation to developing learners’ capabilities in making more compelling arguments for their design work that emphasise the social and ethical impact of design in use. This paper proposes that such capabilities can be developed by examining the rhetorical modes of appeal integrated with the dialogic aspects of design studio learning (Shreeve, 2015). We discuss results from observations of studio critiques at four Australian universities that sought to gauge the degree to which the rhetorical appeals were implicit or explicit in students’ presentations. We argue that examining how design students describe their work and think about their role as designers improves understanding of the value of rhetorical practice within new and developing fields of design.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of DRS 2018 International Conference: Catalyst
EditorsCristiano Storni, Keelin Leahy, Muireann McMahon, Peter Lloyd, Erik Bohemia
Place of PublicationLondon UK
PublisherDesign Research Society
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)9781912294220
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes
EventDesign Research Society (UK) International Conference 2018 - University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland
Duration: 25 Jun 201828 Jun 2018


ConferenceDesign Research Society (UK) International Conference 2018
Abbreviated titleDRS 2018
Internet address


  • design education
  • design practice
  • rhetoric
  • criticism

Cite this