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Guest Thathertz

Design Research Needs A Re-design

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Guest csven

I participated in some design research with Philips last week; something I've wanted to do myself but couldn't find a client with whom to test the method. I won't discuss it (partly due to confidentiality issues), but I think it shows promise. The big issue I see is relying too much on established methods instead of developing new approaches.

 

There's to be a roundtable discussion at some point. Should prove interesting.

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Guest Grant Howarth

What kind of research are we talking about? Design research is pretty vague...

What aspect of design does the research relate to?

Is it research related to identifying product requirements?

My thinking is that research is fundamental to the entire design process...

It's used to:

  • identify the problem from which a brief can be developed
  • validate findings throughout the design process

There are some pretty established research techniques and methods out there to deal with this.

Maybe i'm just not understanding the topic?

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You know I've been designing products professionally for over 20 years and I keep coming up against academia promoting design research as a means to "adding value" to a design project. Convince me that this is the future. The problem with research on the scale that I think is being described here is that it does not actually generate or help generate an ideal solution. it generates a researched solution and that is not necessarily great design.

 

Now before you young guns shoot me down in flames let me just clarify my statements. Many areas of design REQUIRE a great deal of research into how the product will be used - example being the medical sector. In design in these areas many times the designer is actually just navigating a sea of regulation and expectation to get to an outcome that may not be world beating but will make the customer serious money (and that is after all what designers tend to do, or should do). An example. I recently designed a new speculum. I researched this by visiting health clinics and interviewing nurses actually doing smear tests. I reported back to my customer. The research was considered but mostly ignored as the people actually buying the products had different expectations of function. Who is right? The practitioner doing the test or the specifier or senior consultant? The answer is each have their own merits and part of the job of the designer and manufacturer is to meet that demand.

 

The result is that our product is a slightly better version of many on the market today, but it is not ideal for the practitioner. Design is not a simple task whereby you can sit and generate reams of research material to back up your ideal design. it has to consider both the human element and the financial element.

 

Over the last 20 years as a professional the most successful products I have been involved with have been driven by gut instinct (from a design point of view and from a customer point of view). it has to "feel" right. On the other hand I once spend 3 years working on a radical new playground equipment modular system that started off as pure gut instinct then the customer insisted it was researched and backed up by empirical data, focus groups and so on. After 3 years of going nowhere a competitor launched a very similar product and effectively took that market.

 

I'm not saying research is bad, but sometimes you really do just need to run with it and get it to market ASAP. So in answer to the original question, design research needs a re-design...no....it just needs the project manager to take a considered view of what the project requires and to focus on getting to market quickly and not to dilute that instinctive design input with too much "reason". The simple fact is you can create an argument for not doing something much more easily than doing something. This is why they people at the top need the guts to say "just do it, make it happen".

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Guest Gappie

I get the feeling that there are two different ways in which people in this topic describe design research. One is the basic research on the topic your designing for (benchmarking, background on topic, user testing, etc.), similar to what Grant and KQD are explaining, but the other looks fundamentaly different to me which is research on an academic level, research projects with the goal to gain knowledge not market ready products. Could be that Im misinterpreting the topic but which kind of research are we talking about here?

 

On an academic level I think that it doesnt necesseraly needs a re-design since they are still trying to figure out how to do research on an academic level in a correct way. Traditionally academic research is seen as taking one variable at a time and see how the end results differ when this variable is changed. But design holds such a vast amount of factors that its next to impossible to filter and research just one variable. On our faculty many of the design research projects cooperate with traditional sciences like psychology in which the projects are often about applying research knowledge from that field into products. By investigating the impact of this product, knowledge is gained about the psychological theories, and frameworks can be created to link theoretical knowledge to human-product interaction.

 

This is of course still just one example and Im still not quite sure whether its fully on topic but im curious to what extend people on this forum have worked in such a research project before.

 

 

 

btw. research in this case is often misinterpreted being information gathering through field and literature research, but Im refering to using design as research thus performing research through design.

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Guest Bowl of Soup

I going to have to side with KQD on this one.

 

There are a lot of industries, there are a lot of stakeholders with their own ideas (demands) in each industry and organization. Everyone thinks they are adding value, will try to sell you that they are adding value... in the end, often, when the whole design process is kept within a small group that is willing to take the (financial) risk themselves, the best products are produced. The research methods used by these small groups are often more relevant, efficient and effective. In my opinion, this is why outsourcing design is starting to become very attractive, not because small groups have better resources, but because small groups are less hampered by "loose-canon" stakeholders. It also helps to have a group of designers that are involved in a lot of projects, most organizations can no longer generate this tempo internally, so design groups are now trending towards external organizations.

 

I like the idea of research, I wish the academic side of me would win out on this debate, but here is what I have determined after a few years of experience:

 

I ask a lot of questions, I compile this information in my own personal neural network. And I let the associations happen based on experience and information. The process that happens in my brain is exponentially more complex than one that can be written on paper. This is why new multi-million dollar projects ask for me by name, this is why people call me everyday and drop into my office for advise, this is how I add value to a new product.

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designers can evolve to be able to run this multidisciplinary teams, as well being a part of them. but they need to increase their knowledge accordingly.

 

 

I agree. Design is not necessarily far behind, it's just that it is difficult and complicated because covers a wide range of interests, needs and concepts. There are so many things to focus on and the "best" among potential characteristics of a design. Also, a designer must know what to highlight and prioritize less. I don't know anything that actually has everything and satisfies everybody.

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