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Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Design Studies and Design Research
When I think of Design Research, I typically think of user research: observing users in order to build a product for them. But Design Research and its sibling Design Studies, aren't about that. Rather, they are looking at Design through other disciplines such as the social sciences in order to make Design knowledge available to other disciplines and to designers themselves.

Design Research ("an activity in search of a definition" according to Susan Roth) is growing in importance and influence. There are three types:

  • Case-by_case. Looks at individual problems in order to gain insight into problems beyond the individual project. These are often case studies.
  • Applied. Looks at groups of phenomenon to discover design principles. The Tufte books are examples of applied research.
  • Theoretical. A rare form of research that tries to understand basic/first principles of a particular phenomenon. This research tries to put design problems into their broadest context.

According to Nigel Cross, Design resides in people, methods, processes, and products. Thus, Design researchers look at all of those things. Namely:

  • Epistemology: the study of how people design
  • Praxiology: the study of the methods and processes designers use
  • Phenomenology: the study of the products that are produced

Prototypes are a valuable resource for design researchers. Since there is typically little time to reflect and document during the late stages of product development, prototypes are often the only artifacts that researchers have about design thinking. And it is really design thinking they are often after, as a source and formal framework for solving problems.

Design Studies is about interpreting and reflecting upon design activities, looking at them through the lenses of other disciplines. The purpose is to tease out insights, since Design is focused on production rather than knowledge per se. Jeff made the observation that Design Studies is to Design what Film Studies is to movies: a field of study that looks at the people, methods, and products of a group of creative professionals.

posted at 12:50 AM in big ideas, design 101 | comments (0) | trackback (0)


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