You ask 'Just where is design research going?'. It is perhaps worth
considering it in terms of time-lines and trajectories of development of
different areas of design research.
Design research has been advancing in radically different timeframes in
different areas. Design areas are also dependent on each other in complex
ways. This has been relatively hidden unless you research across design
Typically, communities of researchers and practitioners in particular areas
of design have to date been extremely parochial. As a result there has been
little awareness of the advances in design research overall and a relative
weakness in the field's development. This adverse situation has been
reinforced by the defensiveness that comes with parochialism. Many designers
and are upset and defensive when they hear of advances in other design areas
that go beyond their own.
Some broad brush characteristics of the development of design research over
the last 50 years:
1. Productivity of design activity and manufacturing, and has been
massively improved as result of design research - mainly and initially in
the areas of engineering and business system design.
* Times to market are around 1/4 of what they were
* Business productivity is up
* Time lag between events and business feedback is around 1/4 of values
in the 1950s
* Graphics and industrial design teams only require around 1/4 of the
* Output quality of designed products systems, services, documents and
organisations has improved
* Design research has meant that current designers do not have to be so
skilled or creative
2. Some areas of design have been able to piggy back on earlier research.
* Graphic design software (Quark, Adobe etc) has emerged from early
design research to improve business systems productivity and engineering
* Industrial design and web design has built on early work in ergonomics
research and research into collaborative multi-discipline design teams
* Engineering design has benefited from the Art and Design research focus
on human issues relating to meaning and it's drawing and reformulating
philosophical analyses of Saussure, Pierce, Dewey, Husserl, etc.
3. Much design research (and design) is marching order work, E.g. :
* Much of the near future of mechatronics design can be guessed at because
it is a filling out of a design territory
* Much of Corporate image design can be similarly predicted
* Much of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 design and design research can be predicted
as it is effectively defined by XML.
4. Most areas of design research have a deep dependence on the systems
* Design research in the areas of control systems underpins most complex
* Systems research relating to social systems offers considerable benefits
for design research into designing of complex systems involving people.
Mostly this is seen with hindsight where designers and design researchers
produce faulty designs because they haven't used this material.
* Organization design research builds directly on systems research for
example of Deming and Senge
* Environmental design, design research in relation to ecology and saving
the world are tightly coupled to systems research. For example, the classic
book 'Limits to Growth' that identified that resources were finite derived
from a large systems dynamics model.
Where design research is going to depends on where you are standing, how
much of it you see and whether you are at the sharp end or somewhere further
back. The differences are significant.
An example, many design schools are teaching web 2.0 and interactive media
design as a relatively new professional skill. A year ago, I was at a
Digital Ecosystems conference in which delegates and presenters viewed Web
3.0 as already 'old hat'. It is. The working group designing its core
technology, RDF, completed their business in 2004. Service Oriented
Architectures (SOAs) Potentially, RDF will radically change how we view the
web and the distribution of power and, hopefully, relegate XML and Xhtml
back to their original roles as page description languages. The sharp end of
design research is in front of RDF and designing the kinds of world that is
Similar differences can be found in most areas of design research, Health
springs to mind.
Where is design research going? Very fast into unknown territories in some
cases. Nowhere in others.
From: PhD-Design - This list is for discussion of PhD studies and related
research in Design [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Rodgers,
Sent: Friday, 14 December 2007 7:40 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Design Research?
Dear List Members,
Apologies for cross posting.
I am currently writing a short article for New Design magazine
(http://www.newdesignmagazine.co.uk/index.html) on the subject of design
I would like to canvas opinions from list members on this subject. I would
obviously like to include these opinions in the article but I am also happy
to make them anonymous if you wish.
On the subject of design research in general and design conferences in
particular, Professor David Durling has recently stated:
"Though peer review and presentation of good and interesting papers is a
prerequisite for me, the real enjoyment of conferences is meeting people,
debating, and making contacts."
DESIGN RESEARCH NEWS Volume 12 Number 11 November 2007 ISSN 1473-3862, DRS
Having attended and presented at 3 design conferences since August 2007 I am
wondering where we, as design researchers, are going as a discipline. It is
always good, as David Durling has stated, to meet old and new contacts and
discuss ideas, share interests and so on.
However, are we really developing new forms of knowledge and understanding
in the field? Do we give ourselves enough time to write, present, listen,
think, interpret, reflect and engage with other researchers in this frantic
world of design conference after design conference?
Perhaps the following questions (and you may have your own) might stimulate
Just where is design research going?
Does design research help (for practitioners, educators, other researchers)?
Are standards being upheld in design research?
Are there too many design conferences? Or simply not enough?
Does design research help you in your work? If so how?
What are the questions we as design researchers should be addressing or
investigating in the near future?
I appreciate any opinions on this subject and look forward to receiving your
Dr Paul A. Rodgers
Reader in Design
School of Creative Industries
10 Colinton Road
t: 00 44 (0)131 455 2313/2678
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