Contextualise, verb

  1. Place or study in context.

Context, noun

  1. The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood.

Contextualisation at Design Academy Eindhoven means that all design (research) outcomes need to include a reference to the actual context that the design is addressing and to find a way to communicate this. The knowledge or insights created, are expressed by the design itself and/or by associated supplements such as the process, or in research books, audio or visual documentaries, and interviews.

Research into the cultural and social meanings attached to products and events that have developed over time is central to the Contextual Design master’s programme at Design Academy Eindhoven. Some contexts and design (research) objectives demand strong authorship from the designer – as, for example, with designers who aim for originality and therefore base their projects on personal fascinations or inspiration. Others may demand intensive collaborations with designer colleagues, scientific researchers, or architects. Sometimes the results aimed at, will demand an understanding of craftsmanship or a deeper understanding of what the tomorrow’s industries might demand. Other goals require research into the very tools used to create design, or an understanding of how design strategies and tactics may be developed.

According to art historian Mateo Kries, it is becoming increasingly clear that we only do justice to the social significance of design when we show it in all its complex interconnectedness with other facets of society – from technical developments, artistic movements and industrial aspects, through the social and ecological issues that must be addressed by design today. In recent years, this has led to the development of a paradigm for presenting design that privileges complexity over reduction, and contextualisation over isolation.

DAE examples

  • Alissa van Asseldonk, Corpus Commodus, Graduation project Man and Well-Being, 2012

  • Erez Tal, Socialism: Looking Forward. Design for a new consumer, Graduation project Master Social Design, 2011


  • Kries, M. (2012). Modern Cabinets of curiosities: Design exhibitions from Le Corbusier to Jasper Morrison. In Huber, J., Meltzer, B., Munder, H. & Von Oppeln, T. (Eds.), It’s Not a Garden Table: Art and Design in Expanded Field (pp. 42–43). Zurich: JRP|Ringier.