The IT-University of Copenhagen

Design research and the designer

- As both a designer and a student of design, reflections upon design from a academic perspective is both interesting and indeed purposeful. These are my thoughts on the current state of design research, the role of the designer in an academic perspective and the connection between theoretical and practical knowledge.

The field of design research and academic approaches to design is growing, and the awareness is increasing as the area has become much more complex throughout the twentieth century. Therefore, design can be described as a knowledge intensive field that play an increasingly important role for many companies and organizations today.

Such a development contributes to growth and innovation, and as a results design services is required in strategic business development, in creative and innovative processes and in the making of products, concepts and services. This demand proves the relevance of academic studies of digital design, which provides a basis for a greater understanding, knowledge sharing and building of common frameworks for design. The interplay between practical approaches, theoretical knowledge, reflection on design practices, and the ability to articulate the design process itself, can and will afford competitive advantages, which is important for the before-mentioned companies and organizations.

This highlights the discussion of professional knowledge of design, and whether design practice should be based upon the basis of knowledge of methods, or on the basis of the artistic skills of the designer. This discussion underlines the contrast in the way design can be exercised, which supports the importance of design research in general. The same focus on differences in design is emphasized in the discussion of whether design should be seen from a conservative and methodological account, a romantic and artistic account, or from a more mixed and pragmatic account. Furthermore, it leads to an inherent motivation for designers to identify themselves as more than designers, which is another argument for the academic approach to design.

“Designers are not only designers, but also researchers and scientists in their own field”

Designers are not only designers, but also researchers and scientists in their own field, which obliges the designer to contribute with knowledge from his or her specific design field. This opens up the discussion on how design can be considered as a contribution to science, and therefore we must continue to develop ways on how content and design can be evaluated in terms of its contribution to the field. This is necessary as the normal measures of performance are not sufficiently useful in the measurement of the designated complex multi-dimensional landscape in the design field. Thus, design research and the role of the designer in this knowledge intensive field is increasingly interesting to examine and reflect upon.