indiscipline of design


A Place to Start

This book started in a garage in the Silicon Valley thanks to Alex Pang and his family who hosted me for a month when I first arrived for a sabbatical at Stanford. Alex is an amazing writer and thinker of our contemporary digital lives as well as a renowned futurologist. Starting this book in a garage was of course very emblematic of the local culture. More importantly, this sabbatical year as he aptly describes it in his book “Rest” was a turning point in my life. At long last, I could start a long reflexive work, stepping back from the everyday publish and perish (and teach, and manage, and organize). Thank you so much Alex and Heather.

To know more about what Alex Pang, see: and

Research Support

I am extremely grateful for Gerard Pogorel’s advice to look into conception and design of services at the beginning of my career. He has been a true mentor and helped me, through long discussions, to question and explore design practices and productions. Many people from Telecom ParisTech also included me in their projects. I want to thank Jean-Claude Moissinac who was the first to trust that we could bring together engineering, design, social, and human sciences. He opened the way to many other wonderful collaborations with Isabelle Demeure, Catherine Pelachaud, Gérard Cholet, Michel Simatic, Eric Gressier-Soudan (CNAM) who have been regularly quoted in this book, as well as designers from ENSCI, ENSAD, and Strat school of design and in particular Frederique Pain who is a wonderful partner in research.

To know more about Gerard Pogorel ,   Jean-Claude Moissinac, Isabelle Demeure, Catherine Pelachaud, Gérard Cholet, Michel Simatic, Eric Gressier-Soudan, Frederique Pain.


French is my native tongue, English is my adopted tongue. Translation is at the core of my experience. However, I despair of being ever really good at both. Kate Meyer’s English language editing was outstanding in improving the texts. She read every sentence I wrote, fixed the ones she could, and was tactful about the ones beyond redemption.


I want to give special credit to the artists and engineers, designers, social scientists, and humanities scholars, who have been mentioned many times in this book. They all brought me into their worlds where I could wonder at the richness of their contributions to knowledge and aesthetics. During my sabbatical year, I met some great people at Stanford who showed me a wide variety of design research which helped me enormously in deciding where I personally stood: in particular Tim McAloone who does research in service and sustainable design and Mark Nelson and Margarita Quihuis who not only believe in Peace innovation but also supported me when I faced major bureaucratic crisis. You have been incredible friends and a great inspiration.


Writing is a lonely process where we face ourselves and our failings. However, being part of a team changes everything. This book would not have been possible without the support of members of the Codesign Lab and of the MinesParistech Chair on Theories and Methods of Conception (TMC). I especially want to thank Armand Hatchuel for his wise recommendations, his encouragements, and the space of intellectual freedom that he has opened with his collaborators. It is thanks to him that I met so many good people who have helped me again and again like Anne-Françoise Schmid, Mathias Béjean, Paris Chrysos, Muriel Mambrini. My heartfelt thanks also go to the pioneers of the Codesign Lab: Aude Guyot and Camille Jutant, Tiphaine Kazi-Tani, Cédric Mivielle, and Max Mollon, and all the members past and present of the Codesign Lab who have devoted long hours to discussing ideas and eating chocolate.


We probably all need a first enthusiastic reader to muster the courage to jump onto the first blank page, and, more importantly, to go on writing. My heartfelt thanks for Ted Selker, IBM fellow, fantastic pluridisciplinary scientist, whom I met at Carnegie Mellon University-Silicon Valley. He spent many hours sharing with me his amazing stories about all the great designs that he invented and pushed me to question every aspect of my own experience. His support was invaluable at a time of hesitation and doubt. Warren Sack was also amongst the first readers whose scope of scientific knowledge as well as attention to details was an invaluable contribution. I am also especially grateful for Ilpo Koskinen and Peter Vermaas’ patience and enthusiastic support for the book. They, with the anonymous scientific reviewers, provided invaluable advice on making the book more focused and I hope accessible to readers.


I am for ever indebted to Benjamin and Cecilia on so many levels that it is hard to know where to start. I would have done nothing without their love and intelligence. I have tried a lot of my ideas, questions, prototypes, with them. They have been more than patient about my obsessive interest in design. Above all, they have given so much affection without which I would have found difficult to design my own existence. This book is dedicated to them.