Design and Research

Ever since I moved from product design to studying Master of Industrial Design, I have been in love with research. So I decided: I want to go into ‘Design Research’. But what is design research? Ever helpful Rob Tieben provided me with a clue, in the form of this little list of four ways to do design research:

  • design for research
  • research for design
  • design through research
  • research through design
I  wanted to know more so tried to find out more about what that actually means. I will try to explain it here:

Design for research: Making a prototype, model or functional product to use in User Research. For example, making a prototype with a new kind of light source, so that others can evaluate how people react to such a light source.

Research for design: Developing knowledge about the way people interact with each other, products and their environment, so designers can make better choices and ultimately better products and systems. One example is research that shows that we can perceive a lot of information in the periphery of our attention, knowledge that could lead to less intrusive communication technology.

Design through research: Design as an institution for human-centred innovation:

Research through design: Focusing on isolated questions producing knowledge for/about design.

An interesting paper on design and research by Wolfgang Jonas concludes with:

The Scientific Paradigm has to be embedded into the Design Paradigm:
– research is guided through design process logic, and
– design is supported / driven by phases of scientific research and inquiry.

This sounds exactly like what I want to do! The language is not as clear-cut as I would like it to be, so how can I say this in other words?

“It would be beneficial to the design process, to adopt a more scientific way of working. Research is adapted to the design process when and how it is needed, and the design process is in turn supported by scientific research and evaluation”

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