Studio 17: Paths of Desire

Studio brief

"Design needs to be plugged into human behaviour. Design dissolves in behaviour."
Naoto Fukasaw

Desire Paths may be visible as traces of use or wear that signpost preferred methods of interaction, be that with object or environment (including the body). The implicit claim is that they represent an unbiased indication of our authentic response and suggest frequency of real world engagement. They show up as patterns and deviations, experienced in all aspects of our daily lives and have the capacity to affect and shape our ideas. They are seen in diverse contexts such as landscaping, urban planning, user interfaces in technology and in the ways in which we respond to the objects we wear and use. They make explicit our desires for speed, ease, comfort, novelty and beauty.

Though a concept born in the physical world, Desire Paths may also be interpreted as metaphor for anarchism, viewed as evidence of deviation, an "inability or unwillingness to do what we’re told" (Moor), or a "record of collective disobedience" (Ballard). They may be an inherent or learned aspect of individual creativity, or emerge through "the wisdom of crowds" (Surowiecki, 2004) and have the capacity to express essential values beyond boarders and disciplines.

Such traces sit at the intersection of design and user experience. Rather than predicting object or environment interaction or navigation, we will search out desire paths, exploring implications and opportunities. From a ‘me’ to ‘we’ focus, the aim is to support a practice to produce experiences that serve, empower and enchant through audience encounters, outcomes that resonate with the latent needs of those that use/experience them, and that create an emotional connection with us as human beings. How could this approach contribute to your creative practice?

Paths of Desire is for those seeking to explore their practice methodology and/or grow audience desire for their work.  After the first three weeks, the studio will spend five weeks engaged in activities that model the development of a dissertation, before moving into individual tutorials. You will experience each other as a valuable resource in testing and confirming authentic areas of interest, and in developing the confidence to identify and set up key primary research experiences. Through readings, short pieces of writing, talks, exhibition and site visits, and the sharing of individual ideas and research findings, this studio aims to contribute to your strategic thinking, and notions of sustainability, empathy, and understanding of what constitutes creative success.

Suggested readings, resources and preparatory activities




  • Moor, R, Tracing (and erasing) New York’s Lines of Desire, The New Yorker 
  • Ballard, S, Z Joyce, L Muller, 'FCJ-20’, in: Networked Utopias (Issue 20, p.6) 
  • Surowiecki, J, The Wisdom of Crowds (Doubleday, 2004) 
  • Benz, P, Experience Design(Bloomsbury Academic, 2014)  
  • Batra, R, C, Seifert, D, Brei (eds), The psychology of design: creating consumer appeal (Routledge, 2016) 
  • Bachelard, Gaston, The Poetics of Space, (Beacon Press, 1992)  
  • Chapman, Jonathan, Emotionally Durable Design: Objects, Experiences, and Empathy, (London: Earthscan, 2005)  
  • Ingold, T, Making: anthropology, archaeology, art and architecture (London: Routledge, 2013) 
  • Irvine, William B, On Desire: Why We Want What We Want, (Oxford University Press, 2006)   
  • Norman, Donald A, Living with Complexity, (MIT Press, 2011) 
  • Papanek, Victor, Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change, (Thames and Hudson, 1985) 
  • Pezeu-Massabuau, Jacques, A Philosophy of Discomfort, (Reaktion Books, 2012) 
  • Rose, David, Enchanted Objects: Innovation, Design, and the Future of Technology (2014)  
  • Schroeder, Timothy, Three Faces of Desire, (Oxford University Press, 2004) 
  • Schwartzman, Madeline, See Yourself Sensing: Redefining Human Perception (London: Black Dog Pub, 2011) 
  • Simmel, Georg, The Metropolis and Mental Life 1903Blackwell Publishing
A desire path in a green field


Tutor Heidi Yeo

Dissertation Studios


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