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1_Research Territories and Questions (Oct 15)

This introductory session aims to support students in defining and evaluating research projects and their territories

Karen Bull

on 6 October 2015

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Transcript of 1_Research Territories and Questions (Oct 15)

Why do research?
MDes Research:
Setting out to Where?
7 global issues –starting points for 'Big Thinking' and 'scenario exploration'
these topics represent some useful starting point for asking questions about design


What do humans need and desire?
(culture, context, meaning)
Integrated Transport and Logistics
Digital Media
Ageing Community
Low Impact Buildings
Sustainable Agriculture and Food
Low Carbon Vehicles
How can passengers be better informed about their journeys?
Why does assistive technology lack design appeal?
Is it possible to create an affordable, low impact school space?
Can food and farming be more sustainable?
How can a car park help promote ecological vehicle usage?
Generate 5 spin-off questions
an aspect of society or a cultural activity
enhance an experience
challenge predictive design
the environment,
improve a process,
advance a mode of manufacture or explore a potential technological opportunit
develop a particular knowledge/skill base
demonstrate creative and critical thinking skills
develop a research rich portfolio
prove a specialist focus
show that I can push boundaries and be innovative
show that I can go beyond practitioner focus
Improve myself:
What are my foci?
Ask more questions about it
Define your topic area
Prepare a problem/opportunity statement
Try to explain the background to your project
Define/list/prioritise the issues that you will explore
Analyse where relationships/connections exist between the issues you re exploring
immerse yourself in the subject/experience
How can I refine a topic area?
What makes a good project?
What is the question around which you wish to have a conversation, build an argument and draw conclusions?
broad enough to allow you to get plenty of material
focused enough to indicate a clear direction

How might car drivers respond in a future scenario where cars are not 'stand-alone' devices but 'responsive' to an intelligent mobility infrastructure?

How might 'digital reading' habits and opportunities be captured within the design process to aid the conceptualisation of future reading spaces and furniture?
Clear and simple
Improve the world:
get thinking?
Define a focus or angle for research
What is my question?
Individually reflect on your topics and their value using the priority matrix

You will conduct an investigation into a design opportunity and produce a detailed design brief, design specification or a set of design guidelines.

You will use questioning research and curiosity to define your creative direction and define the parameters for your final major project.

Depth of designerly thinking involves asking good questions and critically seeking data to generate fresh design directions

Your overall success will be determined by producing an innovative specification/guideline evidenced by research
Design Thinking

We believe the future of design lies not in design doing, but design thinking.

“The next generation of designers will need to be as comfortable in the boardroom as they are in the studio or the shop, and they will need to begin looking at every problem – from adult illiteracy to global warming – as a design problem.”

Tim Brown, IDEO
a critical and creative activity
a procedure
an organised activity
question focused
about finding a solution – not always the expected one
Have I got a good research question or research statement?
Does it act as a useful signpost to your audience e.g. indicate the direction your study is heading towards or your main target of doing research?
Does it identify a proposition, argument or question that can be feasibly proved or resolved?
Is the question/statement achievable with the time and resources you have available?
Always think about how this question is going to support you and your career.
Peer review your questions. Work together to refine questions and ask people outside your field to comment.
Consider how do-able your research is. Can you imagine methods you may adopt e.g. practical experiment, interviews with particular specialists
Keep rewriting your question and use clear language. Don't be afraid to readdress the question later.

BA study has a more practical approach, investigating to underpin and embody design decisions during projects.

You must consider your strengths and aspirations and identify whether they are aligned to the MDes approach.

PG level assessment is centred strongly on the ability to make critical and creative connections from a range of data.

This is what makes you distinct from BA. It requires a deeper critical of examination of design issues to inform new innovative design directions.

PG design research refocuses design practitioner skills and equips you engage in a possible ‘beyond design studio’ career in creative direction, design management, strategy or leadership.
For M154ID
Prepared by: Karen Bull - October 2015
BA students will take an already strong idea of a design brief e.g. to design an off-road rescue truck for use in Scottish mountaineering resorts’ and conduct research to define design details e.g. user issues, manufacture, marketing, ergonomics and/or benchmarking.

PG students will step back to a broader question e.g. What are the main challenges for rough terrain rescuers in UK?

The design researcher would then have to identify the issues e.g bulky equipment, inexperience; poor planning; or, lack of usable equipment.

The analytical phase would be centred on identifying a key innovation angle in the form of a brief or specification from interpretation of data findings. In this case
'How might we develop a flexible lightweight rescue pack that can be carried by one person?'
The module requires that you:

develop a research question,

define a strategy for investigation and set of objectives for critically investigating a particular design-related issue.

critically analyse the findings and creatively transform the outcomes into a set of conclusions

formulate a design brief and performance specification derived directly from your research
A research question can be broken down into a connected set of research objectives (sub-questions/goals)
You may consider thinking about the industrial design balance within your project
Continue to draft a research question and begin to think of possible project sub-questions/goals
Clear objectives can be turned into manageable research tasks that lead to data for analysis
Analysis & Interpretation
Research is...
What makes research valuable and significant?

“it is perhaps all too easy to collect facts without having a clear purpose or objective, to list the facts we have researched without evaluating or interpreting them, or to use the word ‘research’ just to get ideas noticed. In order for our audience to find our research credible, believable and relevant, we need to ensure that our research presents a systematic and organised way of finding answers to significant or pertinent questions”

Colins (2010) Creative Research – The Theory and Practice of Research for the Creative Industries.
Example Conceptual Frameworks
Research is an active, problem focused activity that requires a good question as a starting point

You must define a clear focus and direction
by producing a well written design research question

The best way to get going is with a question. It could be about an issue, an opportunity or a process
Research process - centred around proposing and defending a design related argument
Tim Brown urges designers to
'think big'
Human Security
How do we know our children are safe when out playing?
Dave Hakkens, founder of PhoneBloks
“Every year millions of mobile phones are thrown away because they are broken or obsolete. In most of these cases it is just one part that needs repairing or upgrading and all the other parts work fine.”
analyse the data to draw conclusions
provide a starting point for exploration and questioning about our future lives, needs and opportunities for design
Future scenarios
"A prototype is a question embodied"
Diego Rodriquez (IDEO Designer)
Participatory systems for exploring design questions
Design becomes research
3D Printing - rapid prototyping
Experience prototyping

times of change require big ideas

Question Storming

A questioning attitude will allow you to open up your mind to greater possibilities and more opportunities to explore ideas in a designerly way. If you only think of outcomes then you will close down possibilities too quickly and narrow your ideas and the scope of your project.

These first few weeks should be about getting curious and following a trail questions in a connective and inquiring way. Ask Why? Why? Why? Why & then Why? Suspend any judgment until later and share your collective and divergent minds and experiences.

Van Phillips (1980s) who invented the Flex Foot - Cheetah.

He was motivated by the limitations of existing prosthesis having lost part of a leg himself and unsatisfied by solutions of the time. So he took on an immersive research study which involved becoming a biomedical design engineering student himself and after great many attempts to develop, experiment and test out ideas and at times recombine ideas (e.g. the diving board, the animal leg, curved Chinese swords to lead to the Cheetah) he produced a foot that stored kinetic energy from the wearer's steps as potential energy, like a spring, allowing the wearer to run and jump. Its impact was more than a superior artificial foot but brought a whole positive angle on a traditionally negatively perceived situation.

[changed the meaning of prosthetics]
What if a clock had wheels?
Why am I oversleeping, why isn't my alarm clock getting me up?
What does shelter really mean?
How can digital spaces enhance educational experience?
How can biomimicry inspire rapid-build self supporting structures?
Can additive manufacture and biomimicry inform the next generation of ecological automotive design?
Look for new meanings - not always driven by need
Be an interpreter?
Look holistically
Understand 'experience'
Innovate 'breakthrough ideas'

Design Driven Innovation
Bigger question?
Until Clocky, there hadn't been any major innovations in the alarm clock market since the 1950s, when General Electric-Telechron started selling clocks with snooze buttons.

"For some reason, we had relegated the alarm clock to be a low-involvement, low-cost item with no emotional involvement, albeit with a very specific function," Ofek says.

But for most of us, our relationship with alarm clocks is both intimate and codependent. It's the last thing we see when we go to sleep, and the first thing we see when we wake up. We rely on it every morning, but we resent the living daylights out of it.

interplay between Question and Vision
A good question will lead to a strong answer
A clear vision will help you prepare a good question
question the question
Full transcript