The study of failure(s) is subject to biases of classification (what constitutes a failure), of selection (which failures) and interpretation (what their significance is). Design research may have missed the ‘bigger picture’ by sticking with certain classes of problems, selecting ones that don’t raise big intractable challenges and being over-sure what ‘right’ interpretations of success and failure are. Arguably, it has been good at working on design process, on engagement with humans as consumers and ‘users’ but perhaps too easily satisfied with answers that are defined by the limits of these problems. Future design research should acknowledge explicitly the ‘taint’ of design’s apparently value-free nature by commercial and political interests, resist the ghettoization of ‘social’ or ‘environmental’ concerns and unlock design’s power of humanistic reason.
Tom Fisher, invited respondent for DRS2016