14 July 2016
Editor
Editor

Picks from a design treasure trove

Selected papers from the 50th anniversary DRS conference

Founded in 1966, the Design Research Society (DRS) is a learned society committed to promoting and developing design research. It is the longest established, multi-disciplinary worldwide society for the design research community and aims to promote the study of and research into the process of designing in all its many fields. DRS celebrated its 50 anniversary with an international conference themed ‘Future-focused thinking’ in Brighton (UK).

Design research scholars participated during the excellent #drs2016 conference with great debates, deep thinking and challenging research. The conference website is content-rich and includes an interesting online exhibit covering historical topics on Design Research, such as ‘Systematic method‘, Cybernetic opportunity and Scientizing design.

The conference organizers produced a ten volume proceedings with many interesting and relevant papers. With more than 200 paper presentations, panel sessions and workshops the 50th Anniversary International Conference on Design Research addressed themes like ‘Aesthetic pleasure in design’, ‘Design innovation management’, ‘Sustainable design’, and ‘Objects, practices, experiences and networks’. We selected a few top papers as great reads for anyone interested in digital (experience) design, design in organizations and the value and future of design in society.

Our paper picks

Experience: A central concept in design and its roots in the history of science

(Johannes Uhlmann, Christian Wölfel and Jens Krzywinski)

Abstract: “This paper traces the roots of theories on experience and experiencing in the history of science of the 19th and 20th century. From the concepts of Wilhelm Dilthey (1833–1911) and others, a phenomenological model of experiencing has been derived for industrial design around 1990, which is to be published internationally for the first time in this paper. From a current view, this model does not provide new opportunities on designing or evaluating user experience. However, it can be used to bridge theories and findings from the late 19th and early 20th century with current models of user experience, which are more comprehensive and can be used beyond the description of experiencing. These models also offer methods for designing, evaluating and even quantitatively measuring user experience, or have a stronger focus on emotions.” (full paper)

Design research: What is it? What is it for?

(Victor Margolin, University of Illinois USA)

Abstract: “The slippage in use between design research as an activity without a precise identity and its characterization of an intellectual field has caused considerable confusion. PhD programs in design are now offered and have become vehicles for producing academic design researchers. This has vastly increased the number of researchers with doctorates but it has not contributed to the coherence of a field and certainly not to the formation of a discipline. As more PhD graduates take up teaching positions, they are under pressure to continue their research and publish it. Without a set of shared questions, they are often left to their own devices to invent a research topic. While the authors adopt what appear to be valid methodologies to guide their investigations, the questions they pose are often narrowly drawn, have no relation to a larger set of issues, and are consequently of little interest or value to other scholars. When it comes to pedagogy, the lack of consensus about what course of studies would constitute a doctorate in design is especially disconcerting. By virtue of not having any consensual curriculum, it is difficult to assess the value of someone’s degree. A big problem in the field is the confusion between an academic degree in design and one in design studies. Instead of perpetuating the term ‘design research,” I suggest adopting the related terms ‘design’ and ‘design studies’ to delineate more precisely the nature of the knowledge or capabilities they signify.” (full paper)

Design practice and design research: Finally together?

(Kees Dorst, University of Technology Sydney & Eindhoven University of Technology )

Abstract: “Early design research was driven by the ambition to create a coherent Science of Design – an ambition that was later abandoned in favour of a more pluralist approach. But despite great progress in the last 50 years, Design Research can still be criticised for being (1) too disconnected from design practice, (2) internally scattered and confused (3) not achieving the impact that was hoped for. In this paper we will discuss possible solutions to these conundrums by learning from three professional and academic fields: Marketing, Art Theory and Management, respectively. Based on these three discussions an attempt will be made to create an integrated answer by considering how design research and practice might come together in the creation of a new field, Academic Design.” (full paper)

Framing values in design

(Marta Gasparin and William Green, University of Leicester UK)

Abstract: “In this paper, we outline a framework that explains how creating value in a design product takes place in practice, as a result of a negotiation and translation process. Through an ethnographic study, we analyse how the values of an iconic Scandinavian design product emerged and were managed during the product life cycle, translating the values when new actors or new markets were enrolled. More specifically, the paper uses the notion of features in order to capture and express the value process. It suggests that the work of the spokesperson of associating and disassociating features is the key dimensions that determines the emergence of value. It also argues that value as product is not static rather dynamic that is changed by the process of associating and disassociating new features.” (full paper)

The value of design: An issue of vision, creativity and interpretation

(Mariana Fonseca Braga, Politecnico di Milano Italy)

Abstract: “What is the value of design? Why should firms invest in design? The paper aims at clarifying the value of design, its dimensions and its variables (qualitative and quantitative) throughout a literature review and analysis. The premise is that firms invest in design to create value. Design has evolved, becoming closely related to innovation, and the need to clarify its dimensions and relationships to value within firms and society rises. Despite the global growing interest in design, it is not fully understood how it brings benefits to the company. The concept of value is found in a fragmented literature including economics, marketing, business, management, value engineering, design domains, social and environmental sustainability. In conclusion, the value of design still is under-researched and new dimensions emerge. It is shaped by designers and companies visions, creativity and interpretations. Better cross-fertilization is required to identify the mechanisms of value creation by design.” (full paper)

How companies adopt different design approaches

(KwanMyung Kim, Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, Korea )

Abstract: “Product design process cannot be explained without both industrial design and engineering design. However, the two fields have different design approaches toward product design. This study explored different types of combined design approaches that companies adopt with industrial design and engineering design. Industrial designers and engineering designers from six global consumer product companies were interviewed. As a result, three different types of combined design approaches; Industrial design-led design process, engineering design-led design process, and cooperative design process were identified. The companies adopted the processes differently based on their purpose and situations. In particular, Industrial design-led design process cases were strongly implemented by the CEOs’ strong support who believed industrial design is the primary route to secure competitiveness of their products. However, engineering design-led process was mainly used for redesign of existing products. In cooperative design process, both design groups work collaboratively in concept design phase.” (full paper)

User Design: Constructions of the ‘user’ in the history of design research

(Theodora Vardouli, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA)

Abstract: “Over the past 50 years of design research, the ‘user’ has been consistently invoked as a measure of good design and as driver of design decisions. As scholars have variously recognized, the focus of design has in turn been displaced from physical objects to relationships between things/environments and their future users/occupants. In this paper I identify, compare, and critically analyze different techniques for anticipating or understanding such relationships drawing from original material produced in the context of the design methods movement, the Design Research Society (DRS), and the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA). I combine this material with histories of ergonomics that preceded these organizations’ founding and a brief commentary on contemporary user-centered design (UCD) methods. This paper contributes a comprehensive comparative review of user-oriented design methods, alongside a critical outlook on continuities and ruptures between quantitative and qualitative figurations of the user in the history of design research.” (full paper)

Becoming a more user-centered organization: A design tool to support transformation

(Lennart Kaland and Christine de Lille, TU Delft The Netherlands)

Abstract: “This paper describes how organizations can be supported with design tools through their transformation towards becoming more user-centered. Existing business model tools are starting points and extended through a design perspective, which allows additional flexibility and user-focus within an ongoing continuous change process. In this sense, the tools act as boundary objects facilitating stakeholder
collaboration by creating a common understanding, a shared vision and values translated into actionable insights. The designed toolkit was developed using three design iterations and identifies three key levels of activities needed: on the organizational, customer and empathy level. Each level has its own perspective, involvement and actions. Findings indicate that the designed tool may indeed assist organizations in describing, discovering and developing improved customer relationships with cards and turn them into actions in a organizational context. The card-based approach with keywords and images offers an open-structured way in the modeling process to design tangible user-centered solutions. The paper reflects upon design-decisions in exploring this developed toolkit and suggests further research on usage areas, trials with companies and toolkit usability.” (full paper)

The 2018 version of the conference (DRS2018) is already planned for 24th-28th June 2018 (hosted at the University of Limerick, Ireland). More inspiring information on previous editions of the DRS conference can be found here.

Design (23), Design thinking (16), Events (26)