The State of Design Research

Susan Roth
1999 Design Issues  
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more » ... essay published in the proceedings of the "No Guru-No Method?" conference held in Helsinki in 1997. Design research is an activity in search of a definition. The range of research methods and applications employed in design education and practice is broad, from the simple process of surveying existing products in the marketplace to the much more complex process of analyzing cultural and cognitive factors associated with new product development and use. Research in professional practice employs multiple methods and approaches including those derived from the social and behavioral sciences, as well as strategic analyses adapted from business and marketing. The degree to which research plays a role in the design process depends on the size and scope of the design organization and its capabilities; it is always related to a specific project and conducted within a limited time frame. Information derived from this research is proprietary, and normally is not circulated outside the client-provider relationship. In the academic environment, design research is becoming more common, but the number of graduate programs with a focus on structured methods and comprehensive theses rather than design production remains relatively small. While other professional disciplines have a tradition of advanced research in academia, design research is a more recent phenomenon. It has yet to establish universal standards related to process, presentation, and evaluation. Faculty with expertise in research are found primarily at large universities and, together with graduate students, they are generating a growing body of knowledge, employing innovative research techniques and focusing on current issues, especially those related to technology and design. Based on this virtual network of research studies taking place in design programs around the world, new knowledge is being produced. Unfortunately, while some of this information is published in journals and distributed beyond academic institutions, most is not. Given the state of design research in practice and higher education, how is the topic regarded in the international forum? Proceedings and events associated with recent symposia on design research provide some insight into the nature of the discourse. Nigel Cross offered "criteria for research" during the Designing Design Research 2 conference at De Montfort University in 1998. Listing criteria by which referees of the Design Studies journal evaluate the quality and appropriateness of articles submitted for publication, he identified the following itemized characteristics of research: "purposive, inquisitive, informed, methodical, and communicable." 1 Ac-1 Nigel Cross, "The Refereed Journal" in Designing Design Research 2: The Desigr Research Publication, Cyberbridge-rD Design at, Editor-Alec Robertson, De Montfort University. Leicester. February 26. 1998. (
doi:10.2307/1511839 fatcat:w7nbzdhhqrfflma7wemoz6mddm