Design Vocabularies



September 2021 — June 2022


This work was completed in collaboration with Paolo Ciuccarelli, Director of the Center for Design at Northeastern University.

What do we mean when we say the word design? We encounter design in many kinds of spaces – public services, academic research, professional practice, and mass media. These spaces afford different lenses for understanding what we mean when we talk about design, whether that be the design of products and services, formal theory, or entertainment and culture. As we become more aware of the ubiquitous presence that design holds in our daily interactions with the world and one another, the language we use to articulate those encounters continues to evolve in tandem.

This work investigates the semantic spaces we stumble into through these encounters, through a textual analysis of conference proceedings from the Design Research Society Biennial Conference Series and articles in the Design Studies journal. Using word vectors, this work examines how the language of design has changed over time, offering provocations on where design discourse has come from, where it is now, and where it might go in the future.

This project features work completed while Steven served as the Designer in Residence for the Center for Design in the 2021–2022 academic year.