Since starting Design Research Failures, I’ve been particularly intrigued by the schism I experience between the way in which failure is celebrated in practice and education (as epitomised in David Kelley’s famous “fail faster to succeed sooner”) and the way failure is underarticulated and undervalued in design research.
With this in mind, it has been very exciting to run DRF as part of the third RTD (Research Through Design) conference, at the National Museum of Scotland (NMS) in Edinburgh, March 22-24, 2017. As described on the RTD website “RTD is a new, experimental conference that supports the dissemination of practice-based design research”.
As part of this dissemination of practice-based design research, a larger exhibition containing various design research artefacts invited participants to engage and interact across several floors in the conference space. Similar to DRS2016, DRF ran as an exhibit in this space, featuring a wall of failures, with new RTD responses being constantly added through the conference. In addition a selection of existing cards were also available to take away.
One of the pillars in DRF is a state of open-ended dissensus. Rather than aiming to reach a conclusive answer (THIS is how design research has failed in the last 50 years), the project encourages a continuous, sometimes clashing, stream of responses.
During RTD this aspect was amplified in a series of graphics that presented pairs of DRF responses that seemed to interestingly contradict one another. The graphics ran on screens in the exhibition, and on the projector between keynotes and panels, with the intention of provoking informal debate between conference participants. Along with the the exhibit, the physical cards, and numerous tweets, the DRF presence at RTD2017 can perhaps best be characterised as parasitic; a space for ventilation and critical reflection alongside the main programme.
The new responses from RTD2017 will be going online in the coming weeks. Thanks a lot to everyone at the conference who contributed to the project, to Marije de Haas for design sparring and Giovanni Marmont for invaluable logistics assistance. Finally, a big thanks to the stellar organising team, in particular Chris Speed and Jane MacDonald.