Design Research Failures was originally spurred by the DRS 50th Anniversary call for projects that “furthers our understanding of the origins of design research as well as the role and contribution the DRS has played in its development”. As the longest established, multi-disciplinary worldwide society for the design research community, the anniversary of the society seemed like a timely, appropriate moment to reflect on what design research has achieved, and as part of this, how it has failed.
50 years is half a century. In a sense it’s a crossroad, where we (design researchers) look simultaneously towards the past and the future. As a critical, constructive hinge between past and future, the following question was put forward to a range of different design scholars affiliated to the DRS in various ways:
IN WHAT WAY HAS DESIGN RESEARCH FAILED IN THE LAST 50 YEARS?
As a result of this enquiry, 26 responses (each max 100 words) were produced and designed for DRS2016. We hoped these initial responses would act as a catalyst for further reflection at the conference, as we put together a physical exhibit where conference participants were encouraged to hang their own answers to the central question.
The response and reception during DRS2016 (both at the conference and online) was overwhelming and we were pleased to see so many participants sharing their thoughts. At this point it has become clear that there is a need for this discussion beyond DRS2016. Since the launch of http://designresearchfailures.com/, a continuous stream of new responses have been uploaded. Additionally, Design Research Failures has had a presence at RTD2017 and PhD by Design 2017, extending the call for participation, catalysing discussion and running a workshop.
One of the key objectives for this project is to continue to facilitate an inclusive, open-ended conversation characterised by fruitful dissensus, rather than aiming for a single conclusive answer (THIS is how design research has failed in the last 50 years). In this pursuit we embrace the discipline of design research in its entirety and diversity; across gender, age, race, geography, politics, religion, institutions (or lack thereof), academia + industry + third sector.
Importantly, asking the question: IN WHAT WAY HAS DESIGN RESEARCH FAILED IN THE LAST 50 YEARS is not about reflecting on “why didn’t we” but instead taking a shortcut towards “why don’t we”. In this sense, Design Research Failures is ultimately about anticipating and co-creating the future of the design discipline.
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Design Research Failures is part of the ongoing PhD research of Søren Rosenbak (Umeå Institute of Design, Sweden).
Design of responses/cards by Marije de Haas, Søren Rosenbak and contributors.
Big ups in particular for (reverse chronology) Maria Portugal (with the PhD by Design team) & the Sheffield organising team (PhD by Design 2017); Giovanni Marmont, Marije de Haas, Chris Speed, Jane MacDonald, and the rest of the organising team (RTD2017); Marije de Haas, Giovanni Marmont, Ilteris Ilbasan, Tom Meades and his friend Jack, Peter Lloyd and the organising team (DRS2016). And of course thanks to everyone else who have offered useful critique, inspiring ideas, and critical assistance with making things happen along the way.
Thanks to the Design Research Society (DRS) for their continued support. And most of all a big thanks to everyone who have offered reflective, mind-provoking, cathartic, caring and hilarious responses to our question.