The question “what is design research and how can it help” has many answers, and is an ongoing subject for research in itself. However, we need to discover ways to explain the amazing things we do, why we do them, and how working with us will benefit other disciplines and organisations. With this in mind our researchers were asked “what is design research and how can it help solve the complex challenges of today’s society”.
Here are some answers …
Design Research is particularly relevant when trying to understand complex and fast-moving problems that require you to consider things from more than one point of view. This is because Design Research is inherently interdisciplinary and capable of making sense of new situations with no existing precedent or data to analyse.
One type of design research is to use design approaches and methods to create new knowledge and address challenges. Design is good at considering complex problems with no single answer, and finding solutions that address multiple different needs. Therefore, it is useful for making a difference in many of the big societal challenges that we now need to address.
… for me – design-based research is about trying to design stuff that does not exist yet, as a means to better understand a future.
I think the simple act of trying to design stuff helps you generate different types of insights. Sometimes it highlights things that you don’t really understand and that need to more consideration. Sometimes you realise the question is wrong in the first place or you are looking at the problem from the wrong perspective. Sometimes you realise the thing you thought was a problem is actually a benefit. Oftentimes the act of designing something helps to build bridges between different stakeholders to consider the implications of different decisions.
Research into design as a process. From service design to graphic design, Design Research investigates an array of design theories and practices and their applications across different sectors and industries. It can help improve your organisational systems and processes, and your products and services, while engaging partners, stakeholders, users and communities in the process.
It allows for new inter and transdisciplinary applications of research across different sectors and industries. It provides methodologies for looking into the past, present and future of research topics, and it allows for opportunities to engage others in the process in meaningful and reciprocal ways.
I know this is debated, but for me design research involves using different processes, methods and bringing in diverse perspectives to address complex problems (not necessarily solving them!).
Design research can help us provoke conversation around complicated issues, as well as understand how people might interact/live with an artefact (i.e., a type of digital technology) before it exists in the real world with the potential to impact people’s lives.
Design artefacts allow us to develop more ‘concrete’ answers to questions, helping us to advance our understanding of theory and query what kind of world we want to create.
This is by no means a complete explanation –
But it’s a start, and if you would like to continue the discussion, please contact us.
http://designresearch.works/telescope – an innovative attempt to share an overview of Design Research simply and effectively
Research in Art & Design (Chris Frayling) – a paper explaining the three ‘designs’, Research into Design, Research through Design, Research for Design (opens as a PDF)
Design Research and Ambiguity – video and link to downloadable paper exploring the inherent ambiguity of design research and how we may benefit from being clearer about what we mean when we talk about Design Research.