Academic journal article Visible Language

PERSPECTIVES OF DESIGN RESEARCH: IN DESIGN: Collective Views for Forming the Foundation of Design Research

Academic journal article Visible Language

PERSPECTIVES OF DESIGN RESEARCH: IN DESIGN: Collective Views for Forming the Foundation of Design Research

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT:

Based on a wide-ranging discussion of design research that sought to establish its nature, controversies and types, this paper uncovers some ongoing difficulties in understanding ways to structure and communicate about variations in design research. Two basic types of design research are defined in order to establish greater clarity for what follows: research that advances design project development - this is particular in its nature; and research that provides theory, principle, method or tool - this is academic and more general in its nature. The discussion stresses the second area of research. Participants brought in research cases to anchor the discussion; these are presented as snapshots and are referred to in the larger discussion. Also Ph.D. dissertation models are presented as yet another way to define research variation. The paper concludes with unresolved issues that impede access and use of research.

"What is Design Research?" was the general question throughout the two-day meeting to discuss "Design Research." The intention of the session was to explore the nature of design research from different viewpoints and derive models of design research that the design community can share as a foundation for further development of research practice and advanced education.

Research in design has a short history - it would be safe to say it is no longer than fifty years. This history might be relatively long compared with some new research areas - that emerged from established areas of science and engineering. The difference between those areas and design research comes from the degree of inheritance from existing models of research. New research areas usually inherit basic resources to establish their own system from related areas of research. Research in design, on the other hand, does not have much default asset inherited from other areas. There have even been skeptical views about the legitimacy and usefulness of developing design research in the sense other areas of research exist as a system of scientific inquiry or an intellectual foundation for practical pursuit. The skepticism relates to several reasons. One is the diversity of the areas and cross-domain nature of its concern, since design is a practice that deals with diverse types of artifacts. Another is the complexity of human cognition involved in various aspects of design. For example, to understand design practice itself requires one to know how designers understand and solve problems through their manipulation of information. Design as a discipline responsible for the interface between people and technologies needs to deal with various aspects of human behavior as the main entity, such aspects as cognitive, emotional, cultural, social and organizational factors. Since most knowledge in these domains remains underdeveloped in comparison to science and engineering, research in design suffers from a fundamental difficulty with regard to its origin. Yet, the mission of this symposium is specifically to nurture an optimistic and constructive community of design research through self-critical discussion and collaboration.

Before we start our argument on the nature of research in design, it is necessary to distinguish two types of so-called "design research." Without this distinction, as historically experienced, our discussion will be confused and obscure in our attempt to view a wide range of research cases. One use of the term "design research" is the practice of developing information for a particular design project. Here, we use the term "research" in the same way as market research or user research as an activity intended to develop understanding about the domain of concern that includes user needs, social issues, markets, competitive products and related technologies. The other indicates the practice of developing a generalized body or system of knowledge commonly applicable across different cases and commonly validated or agreed to by general academic standard. …

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