Join Andy Schwanbeck for an in-depth discussion in this video Design research is designing in context, part of Learning Design Research.
- Research is not a new concept in design. Historically designers of all disciplines have learned to use research to better create and craft their solutions. I'd like to start our conversation by looking at some historic examples of research in the design profession. The study of consumer bevahior is probably one of the most common examples of research in design. It's been used ever since the early nineteen twenties to study everything from the effectiveness of advetising to the design and packaging of a product. In the nineteen fifties, industrial designer Henry Drefuss pioneered the concept of human center design, declaring the users' needs and wants as the main priority of a design process.
He created Joe and Josephine to represent potential users that would interact with the objects he designed. Joe and Josephine embodied a culmination of research that included everything from average body measurements to personality trains and their likes and dislikes. Dreyfuss and his design team would use these fictitious models to test whether they're designs would be successful. He said of the pair in his influential book, Designing for People, "Our job is to make Joe and Josephine "compatible with the environment." The Bauhaus, the highly influential design school that existed in Germany from nineteen nineteen through nineteen thirty three often required students to test finished designs with real users.
The feedback they collected helped to validate their solutions and also inform future iterations of their work. So, when we talk about design research we're really talking about a research-driven process that can help define how a problem is solved, and communicate the value of the solution. One of the reasons design research is at the forefront of today's profession is that contemporary design problems have become increasingly complex. Twenty years ago we might've been asked to design a poster to promote an event or a brochure to help sell a product.
Now, we're being asked to create a lifestyle around a product. Consider the iPhone and how advertising alone has changed the way it impacts our lives. So, as designers we need to not only be experts in form but also experts in how humans interact with what we create and I'd like to share a quote with you that I believe sums this up quite well. "Lately, I've sensed that we're in a third phase "of modern design, when I sometimes call its "ethnographic turn. "We've seen periods of great formal experimentation, "exploding the visual vocabulary of modernism." "We've seen periods focused on the "meaning-making of design, its content, symbolism, "and narrative potential.
"For me, this new phase "is preoccupied with design's effects, "beyond its status as an object, "and beyond the authorship or intentions of designers." Let's look at that last part one more time. "For me, this new phase is preoccupied "with design's effects, beyond its status as an object." So, what this says is that we're thinking more about the effects of the design rather than the design itself and when we shift our thinking to the effects of our designs, our process needs to be much more centered on the people and the environments we're designing for.
We'll talk about context a lot throughout this course. Context is understanding everything relevant to a design problem. It's a general awareness of the user, their needs, wants, and motivations. And also their environment, what it looks like, sounds like, feels like, and more. Understanding context allows designers to take a critical look at what they're creating and figure out whether or not it'll generate the desired outcome. I'd like to point you to our resource files in our Exercise Files folder.
Here you'll find a great list of publications that feature more about design research and show the value it can add to a solution. Take a look through them before moving on in this course. They'll help you get a sense of the impact research is making on design.
- Using research to add value and credibility to design work
- Understanding the different types of research
- Choosing research tools
- Creating a research plan
- Presenting research
- Using research to begin the design process