Design Research at the Design Academy

STBY was asked by the Design Academy in Eindhoven to prepare and facilitate a workshop on Design Research. There are several excellent examples of work in this area within the Design Academy, but there seems to be no coherent overview of these activities nor a framework of facilities to support and nurture them. The aim of this workshop was to enable the management team of the Design Academy to develop a strategic vision on what Design Research is and what the position and ambition of the Design Academy is in this area is or should be.

To clarify the definiton, historic background and the current international environment of Design Research, we brought a pile of example publications and summarised some of the key references on Design Research (e.g. Christopher Frayling 1993 and 2007, and Peter Lunenfeld 2003). We then facilitated a discussion among the management team about the current and future ambitions of the Design Academy in this field.

An interesting aspect about Design Research is that it occupies an area between the traditional silos of Science on the one hand and Art & Design on the other. Peter Lunenfeld describes Design Research as “the demilitarised zone” between science and art. Working in this zone offers exciting opportunities to make new connections and develop new discourses. This cross-over also seems to confuse people however, and this regularly forces design researchers to justify their work against more traditional clichés of scientific research and/or autonomous art & design.

The international discussion on Design Research so far has ascertained three main strands of Design Research:
1. Research into design (e.g. historical and aesthetic
studies of art and design).
2. Research through design (e.g. project-based design research, including materials research and development).
3. Research for design / Design as research (e.g. creation of object and systems that display the results of the research and prove its worth).

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