The syllabus and lectures for my Research Methods in Art and Design course
is available on my blog. The first few lectures are also Podcasted. It got
too time consuming to post each week's lecture, so I only got to the forth
The results of the course in terms of the student's work is located here.
I will send you a zip file of all my lectures and exercises separately.
The course was based on H. Russell Bernard's Anthropology Research
Methods, 4th Ed. Altamira Press, 2006. I found that I did not have to
adapt the content of the course to make it accessible or relevant to
designers. As designers they still have to (1) define their research
questions, (2) describe how it fits within a wider body of design thought
and practice, (3) select the appropriate methodology to answer their
questions, (4) provide their qualifications to conduct research, and (5)
articulate their research's contribution to the field of design thought
and practice. Any qualitative research course should provide you these
With the exception of the Visual Annotated Bibliography assignment and the
fact that their research had to be grounded primarily in the art and
design fields (with lots of excursions into the social sciences), the
course could have been just as easily given to anthropology students. The
VA-Bib just required that they select images to go with each annotation
card and arrange them in a 2 x 2 matrix.
While I respect the desire for design to establish its own modalities of
knowledge creation, I think it is also important to teach design students
to understand other (i.e. social science) vocabularies and concepts if
they are going to pursue systematic research.
First, they will often work with social scientists on interdisciplinary
teams, so to not know what a variable is or the difference between a
hermeneutic and a schematic analytical approach puts them at a
communication disadvantage as a researcher. This I speak of from personal
experience at E-lab/Sapient, where all the design researchers were talking
about AEIOU (activities, environments, interactions, objects, and users)
and the anthropologists, who came along later, thought it was ridiculous.
"Oh, you mean external states, internal states, artifacts, environments,
and behaviors. Why didn't you say so? Is this research for dummies?" Yes,
in an ideal world this would not happen, but in the jockeying for power,
it does happen on teams.
At least in the US, their are no major funding bodies for academic design
research so if you are to get a grant, it will be in the guise of a social
scientists, humanities scholar, or an engineer. Here is it imperative that
you use the correct vocabulary and concepts without too much adaptation.
Again I know this from personal experience when I returned to academia, I
wrote an National Science Foundation (NSF) grant proposal using the
corporate design research speak of Sapient and a reviewer asked in his
comments if I knew how to conduct an interview. Ouch.
Again, its all about context and intentions, but I feel I've been really
successful in training designers to do systematic research using