University of Calgary

Barry Wylant

  • Associate Professor
  • Graduate Program Director

Currently Teaching

Not currently teaching any courses.



Personal Statement

In his essay "Wicked Problems in Design Thinking" Richard Buchanan notes that design has no distinct subject of its own*.  Industrial designers will tackle the design of all types of artifacts and in doing so apply knowledge from a wide spectrum of inquiry.  This includes insights from art, science, engineering, material science, manufacturing technologies, emerging technologies, ergonomics, psychology, anthropology, business development, kinesiology, culture, history, and so on.  Indeed the list continually expands with emerging areas of sustainability and bio-mimicry as recent additions.   

Yet, for design thinking, it is not so much ‘what' designers think about, but rather ‘how' they think about things that is important.  In effect, design, when considered as a subject, represents an area that addresses the application of knowledge in resolving a specific problem.  The ‘how' of such design thinking is evident in Buchanan's notion of "placement,* Krippendorf's view of "context"* and even ideas of 3D composition as espoused by Kostellow*.  And all of these insights can further be seen to echo Lehar's discussion of Gestalt perception*.  The intent of my research then, is to build on and tie together these ideas of perception and sense-making into a theoretical framework that addresses the elements and mechanisms inherent to design thinking.

*Richard Buchanan, "Wicked Problems in Design Thinking" in The Idea of Design ed. Victor Margolin and Richard Buchanan, 3-20 (The MIT Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1995): 10.
*Klaus Krippendorf, "On the Essential Contexts of Artifacts or on the Proposition that ‘Design is Making Sense (of Things)'" in The Idea of Design ed. Victor Margolin and Richard Buchanan, 156-184 (The MIT Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1995): 159.
*Gail Greet Hannah, Elements of Design: Roweena Reed Kostellow and the Structure of Visual Relationships (New York, New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2002): 50.
*Steven Lehar, The World in Your Head: A Gestalt View of the Mechanism of Conscious Experience.  (Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers, 2003).

Selected Work


  • Manzini, E., Walker, S. and Wylant, B. 2008. Enabling Solutions for Sustainable Living: A Workshop. ed. Manzini, Walker, Wylant. Calgary, Alberta: University of Calgary Press.

Journal Articles

  • Wylant, Barry. 2008. "Design Thinking and the Experience of Innovation" in Design Issues. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, Volume 24, Number 2.


  • Wylant, Barry, 2009.  "Design Thinking and the Question of Modernity," Design Connexity:
  • Eighth International Conference of the European Academy of Design Proceedings. Malins, ed. Aberdeen, Scotland: Gray's School of Art, The Robert Gordon University.
  • Wylant, Barry, 2007.  "Harmonic Contexts and the Gestalt of Design Thinking," Proceedings for the Hawaii International Conference on Arts and Humanities.
  • Wylant, Gellion, & Badke, 2005.  "Futurism & Dada: Theoretical Adventures in Design Context" in Crossing Design Boundaries: Proceedings of the 3rd Engineering and Product Design Education International Conference. Rogers, Brodhurst and Hepburn, eds.  London: Taylor and Francis.

Industrial Design Work

  • 2007: Footpod (activity monitor pod) completed for Dynastream Innovations and now marketed internationally by the US based GPS electronics firm Garmin as part of its Forerunner 50 product line.
  • 2005: Spider Boot industrial design for Tenet Medical Engineering, Calgary: device to secure a patient's foot and leg in traction during hip and knee surgeries.  Tenet markets its product in NA, the EU and Asia.
  • 2005: ‘Versa-Wing' design for Chariot Carriers Inc., Calgary: device that allows the mounting of various configuration kits (jogging, strolling, XC skiing, hiking, cycling) for multifunctional sport child carrier (CCI markets to NA, the EU & Asia).
  • 2004: Industrial design for Xplorer 1800, digital imaging device (digital x-ray) for Imaging Dynamics Company, Calgary.  Note that IDC is a recipient of the Manning Award for Innovation.  IDC markets its products in NA, the EU, the Middle East and Asia.
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