Designing Design Research 2 :

    The Design Research Publication

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    DDR2 photo photo photo
    DISCUSSION PANEL Alec Robertson Dr Tom Cassidy Prof. Nigel Cross
    photo photo photo photo
    Prof. Martin Woolley Prof. J. Woudhuysen Prof. Jeremy Myerson Dr Ranulph Glanville


    From: John Cook, Head of Department of Industrial & Graphic Design , DMU

    How can design research interact with the student learning experience?

    Prof. James Woudhuysen

    For a start I want chalk and talk, and IT. I think design research has to be significantly visual for it to qualify since 50% of the term says design. Therefore outcomes such as exhibits have to have that 'delight factor', otherwise we may as well be in accountancy or whatever.

    From: Professor James Woudhuysen

    I have done non-refereed works in industry but I would be sued if I revealed them to anyone. I therefore seem to retain an image as a pulp fiction merchant so what can be done about this in RAE terms?

    Professor Martin Woolley

    PhD studies occasionally stray into this area and methods can be employed. The RAE panel is 'closed' and can therefore be exposed to sensitive material. There may be a problem with feeding such items into the student learning experience.

    Professor Nigel Cross

    I welcome articles with direct contact with industry, and we are also looking for (in Design Studies) work outside a scientific journal, although we do not stray far from this.

    Dr Tom Cassidy

    The RAE should not be the reason why we do research. It should be done because you want to... you love to do it.. and you want to teach students the latest material.

    Professor Martin Woolley

    The RAE is 'peer group assessment' and takes place in a small arena. It is not just what is on paper but 'what is known' in the field by the assessors. Those who play the 'numbers games' are easy to spot.

    Dr Ranulph Glanville

    At undergraduate level in design education, the end of a design project is important - it should be reflected upon and summarised. Reflection using the 'project crit can improve the student learning experience. This can also introduce them to the wider role of what research can do.

    Question: Piotr Kozak, Course Director, Product Design, Central St Martins School of Design

    What are the trends in British design?

    Dr Tom Cassidy

    'Designer Empowerment' - To empower creative designers who are often misunderstood, even thwarted, by technicians, engineers, etc. To give more credibility to research in the design community and to provide tools to empower designers in manufacturing.

    Question:(Course Director, Product Design, Central St Martins School of Design.)

    Research as a tool for cultural investigation is needed, where there is investigation as to a products immaterial qualities. For example, the 'virtual world' is receiving much press, but what are the implications for the physical world, where fashion meets product. What are the consequences on our culture does research have?

    Alec Robertson

    More and more consultancies are reporting that their work increasingly involves design of services and strategy, as well as, and sometimes before, the design of products. John Stoddard of IDEO in a recent Design Week feature expressed this view, and he also criticised design education for not taking on a wider perspective at the last IDATER Conference in Loughborough. For example, 4D design . focuses on the immaterial in relation to dynamic form, with and without new technology, and this has yet to make an impact on design education.

    Prof Jeremy Myerson

    Counter trends are appearing to the 'virtual world' as the more we discuss it, the more a group of designers discuss 'physicality' - the revival of craft - interaction of the traditional role of the craft object with the world - symbolic - tactile qualities.

    A designers role is to make a technological world livable in. We can all get carried away with technology but I think there is a backlash - and that is a trend.

    Question: Piotr Kosak, (Course Director-Product Design, Central St Martins School of Design)

    What are the consequences on our culture in design does research have?

    Prof James Woudhuysen

    Design research needs to have a practical element in it. At DMU we call this 'design research pragmatism' where we consider the 'real world' relationship of research to counter the navel gazing.

    As for trends, there is a need for center of research excellence for materials and design.

    A positive trend:
  • I see is a willingness to have more fun'.

    Alarming trends:

  • to publish too much.
  • there is a loss of willingness to accept responsibility and ownership of what is done.
  • Question: Prof. Gillian Crampton Smith (RCA)

    Traditional design research has concentrated on the functional side and engineering, and not the cultural side. Universities are a place where the cultural side of design research can be done. This area is difficult for design groups. There is a need for more speculative design research and for Universities to do the kind of design research that is difficult to do elsewhere. Is not this what design research should be doing more?

    Alec Robertson

    'Design Research' has neglected research of cultural issues in design, in preference to for example engineering design and product development issues. Some performing arts have had a particular problem of capturing the full richness of experimental cultural aspects within research 'documentation'. 4D design research has a similar problem.

    Question Piotr Kosak, (Course Director-Product Design, Central St Martins)

    What about 'speculative design as an RAE output?

    Prof Martin Woolley

    Designed artefacts as a research activity output can be considered if they get to production. A new area of research which has yet to be embraced is the graduate designer finding their way into entrepreneurial activity. My apprenticship assumed that a job would be found somewhere. So research is needed into how entrepreneural activity operates and how to prepare a graduate for this activity.

    Alec Robertson

    'Speculative design' work is I believe one of the Cinderellas of design research. It can in my view be viewed as 'strategic' research or even 'basic' design research where new principles are explored and these are then fed into applied design projects. Therefore in some circumstances an artifact designed does not have to get into production to be a valid research outcome in my view. Many designers find their way into advanced product research units and all their work can be considered research. If such work is 'exhibited' then certainly should count as a research publication or one sort. Only a fraction of the designs/artefacts prototyped in experimental design will get into production and we should recognise the value of these and their contribution to knowledge.

    Prof. Nigel Cross

    Exploratory practical work is good alternative to conventional practice. I do not go along with a view often promoted in higher education that teachers of design have to be practitioners. Conventional design practice is NOT research so there is no advantage in teachers doing it from the research perspective. The Design Research Society could be more active in providing a variety of publication formats for exploratory design work.

    Dr. Ranulph Glanville

    The idea of practical work as a refereed publication is being taken seriously in Australia. A product design can for example by submitted for inclusion in a kind of catalogue. The submission is sent to international referee and if accepted it is included. Publication of it in visual form in this catalogue is considered to be equivalent to a 'research paper'. This is the kind of new publication we should consider.

    Prof. Malcolm LeGrice, Central St Martins.

    The exhibition is an undeveloped 'publication source'. There is a real need for a set of exhibition venues to be established for practitioner design researchers. This is something the Design Research Society could encourage.

    Alec Robertson

    Exhibition of work is important for new dynamic 4D designs such as multimedia because so much is lost when reduced to a photo and text in a journal, more so than even traditional 3D designs such as furniture. You have to experience a new design and appreciate its full richness to access its contribution to the body of design knowledge. Research papers in 2D print media fail to communicate the value of such designs adequately.

    Prof Brian Allison (ARIAD)

    Is the climate for research changing in design practice? Specifically as:
  • research building on work done before
  • communicating work done?
  • In my experience with the ARIAD it has been very difficult to get people to submit entries especially from industry. A C change is needed. In this context does industry do research?

    Prof. Jeremy Myerson

    Yes, industry does research, but 95% of design research documented and made available is done in the Universities. Industry has not a culture of 'sharing', but one of 'hoarding' information. We have to provide bridges and outlets for industry with the media and show something is to be gained by sharing. The refereed journal has a lot to do here. In the medical profession journals such as the Lancet and BMJ distill and synthesize information based on their contents for the media into a digestable form. Design researchers and their journals have to learn to do this.

    Question: Prof Brian Allison

    There is a vast array of materials available for design practitioners but they do not read it. There is much 're-inventing the wheel' going on because designers are not aware of what is already available. The BBC is not the forum for this as it is aimed at a mass audience and not the profession. So why do not designers have a professional attitude to research and find out what has been done through the literature.

    Prof Jeremy Myerson

    This has been a perceived problem for many years and I have heard the criticisms of designers many times before. It is because they want information in a form that they want it. It is no use complaining that they do not read research papers. They are the audience and it is for researchers to provide their results in an acceptable form.

    Sales of illustrated design books are going through the roof. They have a roundup of what design in going on now, which serves them on their terms and not design research terms.

    Prof James Woudhuysen

    The design community can barely read. Jeremy has corned the market in design coffee table books. What would be really interesting is if the Martin Woolley RAE research culture could meet the coffee table book market.

    Design has been 20 years in the wilderness but suddenly as Prime Minister Blair mistakes business for show business we have seen designers at the forefront of public attention with the London Millennium Dome et al.

    Alec Robertson

    A first step is to make it as easy as possible for potential research information to be located irrespective of the form of publication. The ARIAD (Allison Research Index for Art and Design) is a good example of such a facility.

    Question :Ben Shaw (Royal College of Art)

    How do you view practice as design research?

    Dr Tom Cassidy.

    I mentioned we have some excellent consultancy work being done and we are trying to ensure this is thoroughly documented during the design process to results can be made available to make a contribution to the body of knowledge.

    Alec Robertson

    A design has to add something new to the body of design knowledge to be defined as design research. Something practitioners might say 'I can use that in my designs'. If an exhibit of a new design is seen by those respected at the top of the profession as in the RAE, and they agree it is new, then that is one way of deciding if a design is a research publication. If it gets another formal recognition, for example as a patent, that is another. If it is featured in a 'respected' design magazine or book then perhaps it could be too, as it is most likely featured because the editor, with an overview of the contemporary design, feels readers need to know about it and it is contributing something to the body of design knowledge.

    Question :Denis O'Brien.

    Multidisciplinary research is growing and 'lean engineering' is one new way of creating a product. Research is needed into the social processes that encourage creativity between people. These are rich processes.

    It is said that what can be modelled on a computer is modelled by computer. It is said that what is measurable is not worth doing, and what can be spoken about can only be put into words. It is however the conversations, the 'mood culture' with people that is the key to high creative outcomes

    Do we not need to do research beyond just artefacts?

    Prof James Woudhuysen

    I cannot agree that we need fewer 'numbers'. Many designers are not only illiterate, but they are not numerate either. There is always the need for numerate information on prices, markets, users etc. in briefing design. This is essential for good design.

    Alec Robertson

    The design of social organisation for encouraging creativity in a design team is a challenging design problem, as is the design of 'work' in general. I agree there should be more attention to designing the social dynamics as well as the physical hardware. The two are not inseparable though, the 3D and the 4D, however the balance is currently biased towards 3D hardware in the design profession.

    Design research should be able to assist practitioners in this, however publication of results is difficult as when people walk away the design disappears so you cannot exhibit it easily or, take a photograph of it. Perhaps such research publications will need to 'performed'.

    Question: Ms Cooper, Northumberland University

    I would feel better about all this if I could see more practitioners in the audience. Practitioners need support from design research but the two groups rarely meet. The pseudo intellectual jargon of design research puts practitioners off a dialogue with the DRS.

    It is perceived by practitioners that, like going to the guide book when things go wrong, when their intuition and creativity fails them then that is the time to start design research, as a last resort.

    Dr Tom Cassidy

    Many people here (at DDR2) are design practitioners as well as researchers.

    Alec Robertson

    This attitude has to be tackled as there is a 'lose,lose' situation rather a 'win, win' one at present. It probably relates to the nature of design research publications and their form, and a general failure to recognise and respect the value of creative and systematic approaches in different circumstances.

    Question :Ben Shaw (Royal College of Art)

    It is important to know why practitioners feel this way about design research. One reason is the impact of projects on practice has not been seen, and what is done is not generally of interest. Should not design research projects be of interest to practitioners?

    Alec Robertson

    If design research is to establish itself so practitioners respect what is done in the name of 'design' then more dialogue between research and practice is needed, although 'down to earth' practitioners should recognise that some ideas have to be explored well before practical application is realistic and the 'here and now' usefulness should not be the only criteria for doing research. Has the medical profession anything to offer here, where there is a good relationship between general practitioners and medical researchers?

    Prof Jeremy Myerson,

    Design research is relatively new compared to other professions and there is still a chance for this all inclusive cooperation. We have not got to the state as in some mature research areas, such as where one scientist will spend a lifetime trying to stick the research knife is anothers research.

    Dr Ranulph Glanville.

    Those involved in design research are again asking questions about how it can benefit from other disciplines, we should look only for the disciplines that studies circularity and the included observer (the observer-participant) for the insights it may be able to afford us into the operation and consequences of those processes in how we can research and what that research might mean to us. That is, disciplines that are, at their base, in sympathy with design. Otherwise we forsake our primacy and dance to the wrong tune played by the wrong fiddler, who doesn't even really believe in the tune any more but is happy, nevertheless, to call the tune when we ask him to because to do so retains his primacy. For, design is the form.

    We need to learn to believe in our activity, and to live this view, no longer apologising, but refusing, instead, to play down the significance of what we do, no longer kowtowing to old and falsely raised positions and understandings. We should not let the misrepresentations of (scientific) research be forced on us as an insensitive straightjacket.

    Question: Tim Coward, Head of Design (UWIC)

    Will this discussion be able to continue beyond this meeting, perhaps electronically, as it is diffcult to think of a short question here when time is short?

    Alec Robertson

    Yes. There is a web site for DDR2 and you can email me for points to be added to its Discussion page. There is also the electronic discussion list of the Design Research Society, which is available and can be joined free of charge, I would encourage discussion to take place here.

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    Thank you

    Please use the following to cite material from Design Design Research 2.

    Discussion, in Designing Design Research 2:The Design Research Publication, Cyberbridge-4D Design /drs2.html, Editor- Alec Robertson, De Montfort University, Leicester. 26 February 1998.

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