Doctoral study in design.

20 Feb 2009 - 2:20pm
5 years ago
3 replies
173 reads
Eirik Midttun
2009

Why the exclamation mark behind engineering?

I find some of the things in "What Does the Field Think about
Research?" rather scary. I don't live in the US so maybe it is
better elsewhere. Anyway it has to change, or the discipline won't
survive.

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Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=38981

Comments

23 Feb 2009 - 2:38pm
Jesse Zolna
2008

I agree Eirik. I am
surprised, given the recent discussion of design education programs, that there
has been little to no response to this topic. I suspect it is because the following statements are true, and many of
the designers on this board do not find it as scary as you do, but rather find
it appropriate.
“Few undergraduate design students, especially those in
single-discipline colleges of art in the USA, engage in original, disciplined
inquiry intended to inform design decisions, nor do most learn how to read and
apply research findings from other fields.

A small portion of American undergraduate design students
eventually enroll in master’s programs, where the dominant educational model –
borrowed from the studio arts – addresses the refinement of practice-oriented
skills and portfolios.”
In the interest in sparking discussion, I’d like to mention
that I myself have witnessed many events where designers say ”research shows …”
and have wondered if they think saying those magical words is simply a bullet
proof way to win an argument. There have
been times when I have doubted the existence or relevance of said research, and
that makes me nervous about those other times when I trust such an
assertion.
One top-of-mind example is when I recently read the
following words on these boards: “Studies show people go bananas for
"FREE".” I do not usually
disagree or doubt designers when they make these statements (especially
something as self-evident as this), but I rarely if ever actually see the research
or a reference, which I can say from first-hand knowledge would not fly in a
PhD program. In this example, I would
bet there are some caveats to users’ jumping on free things (e.g., if they
think they might get SPAMed or compromise their privacy or download a virus,
etc.). Perhaps a research informed
education would reduce this practice.
The article suggests the creation of a dependable research
database. Providing a place for
designers to ‘get’ and share their research would be great.
Even better, I believe that applied-research is most valuable
when it is conducted in context, and providing (some) designers with the chops
to do so would be of great value to the field. Rather than the blanket "research shows..." statement,
designers should more often say "I did research in this context on this question
and and it shows..." This is of
course difficult, and requires the progression of rapid design research
methods. What are people's opinions on
useful rapid (as in, more rapid than even one day of lab-tests) research? What do you use? Maybe a database of this is also necessary.
As the authors conclude: “…it is also clear that development
in this area will be slow without broader recognition that research matters to
the future of the design professions and that the outcomes of design decisions
have consequences in society.” It matters
folks, and I think this community is as open to research as anyone. How do you use research and what is your
advice for or argument against the
authors of this article?
__________________
Jesse S. Zolna, Ph.D.

________________________________
From: Eirik Midttun <emidttun at gmail.com>
To: discuss at ixda.org
Sent: Friday, February 20, 2009 6:20:12 AM
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Doctoral study in design.

Why the exclamation mark behind engineering?

I find some of the things in "What Does the Field Think about
Research?" rather scary. I don't live in the US so maybe it is
better elsewhere. Anyway it has to change, or the discipline won't
survive.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=38981

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23 Feb 2009 - 3:32pm
Anonymous

Why the exclamation mark behind engineering?

I knew it was going to tickle some bellies : )

"What Does the Field Think about
Research?" rather scary.

This is a question regarding how research should be tackled in
design, be it interactive, product, graphic or whatnot. I understand
RCA has a very interesting way to tackle research in design, and
that's by validating the actual design practice as a research
process, but from where I am from, this approach is getting trouble
to go through classic research institutions, because it's not purely
scientific, nor social-science oriented either. It's true there's a
need to do research, the question here is not how to do it (maybe it
is too), but how to make it understandable to those looking from
across the fence.

Some countries might be beyond this, but as I said, in my country
we're not, and I'm trying to figure out the path as I walk.

////

...enroll in master’s programs, where the dominant educational model –
borrowed from the studio arts – addresses the refinement of practice-
oriented
skills and portfolios.

I did enroll in a master program with a hybrid model in the US, but
in the end, final research conclusions weren't as important as the
wow-factor, and that leaves me with a bad mouth taste : (
Design education as I know it from experience is definitely practice-
oriented, is RCA's way the right way? Is practice what makes us
designers?

It's easy to see questions are arising from multiple fronts here, and
to start, Jesse is putting out some good questions too.

Best,

Leonardo.

23 Feb 2009 - 3:49pm
Phil Chung
2007

Hi Jesse,

This is exactly why I eschewed a pure design education back in the late 90s, both as an undergrad and grad. The explanation I received from my instructors (two leading US design schools) about their design decisions / rational left me completely dissatisfied as a young design student. Most of these institutions have since introduced design research electives into their programs as well as interdisciplinary team projects / theses. What kind of research training those courses actually provide, I don't know. Having taught research methods to industrial design graduate students, I do realize that they are not always receptive to pure research or fail to see the real value (I probably would not have recognized either as a college student), but I may have been partially to blame for that.

On the other contrary, I also find that pure researchers / engineers / business people often get caught up in a sort of analysis paralysis, where every design decision must have supporting data, which is in itself is an impossible problem as you know, given that such data does not always exist (or is simply reflective of past solutions). Moreover, I often come across design recommendations (or "managerial
implications") in research publications generated by engineers,
marketing science, human factors folks that are completely devoid of
creativity or innovation. I feel that human factors / marketing / engineering doctoral programs need to include additional interdisciplinary design education (as Davis suggests), along the lines of Stanford's d school model, and perhaps this is where doctoral programs in design find their niche.

Long story short, I agree with Davis's statement that the lines are no longer clear: businesses are aware that design has a real effect on consumer behavior with the fast transfer of information on the web multiplying any effect of good / bad product design (online product reviews, etc.) and this makes design research all the more important. Design students need to be trained to understand (business / engineering / social sciences) research, and there is a definite need for good infrastructure / database to support the transfer of information (a designer's version of ACM's digital library or PsycInfo), and talented educators...designer / research hybrids...to fill the current gaps. I think there are a lot of highly qualified people on this mailing list who can do it.

Phil

“Few undergraduate design students, especially those in
single-discipline colleges of art in the USA, engage in original, disciplined
inquiry intended to inform design decisions, nor do most learn how to read and
apply research findings from other fields."

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=38981

________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
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Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
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