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My Frustration with Design Research March 31, 2011

Posted by @Karen_Fu in change, creativity, Innovation, Product Design, research.
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I have been reading design research posts to the point I am getting bogged down. I do not oppose research, else I wouldn’t be on the list and join the Design Research Society. I am a staunch believer of methodology, simply because without a sound and effective method of thinking, I cannot get my answers to existing problems.

People have several definitions to research. Design to many people means different things. Design to me is a specific term to a profession that looks into planning of given factors to form a solution. You could jolly call that Strategy, Plan, Architecture,Engineering etc. It basically means the same thing — systems orgainising and execution to form an finalised solution. It could be a policy, it could be a 2 dimensional product or it could be solid 3D form. It’s just that the dimension of the components are different. Different people are playing given factors to a problem differently. Hence the various sayings and arguements. At least that’s how I see it.

I usually do not take on to one theory that seriously. But I do view them as opinions mainly because different cultures sort problems differently. And I value and respect that seriously. They need to do so because that’s their way of living, seeing things in their own individual perspectives. People love to mention Rittel. Then they would also skew in Tim Brown, then John Chris Jones…or someone who can be recently become controversial as Don Norman ; and before you know it, people will start to debate about who failed to understand what and where it went wrong. Honestly, I don’t see that as important as to go down to earth and see the nature of the changing climate. What is crucial and neck cutting is to understand the different sets of problems. An effective design research is one that fully understands the nature of the problem. Once you’ve understood it, it applies to all different kinds of problems. That makes you a whole rounded poblem solver. Hence, to me, someone who cannot sort out social problems cannot be a true problem solver for a product which is going to be used by people. Products, in my eyes, are to be used by a living being. If we fail to understand the living interaction between a living being and the product, there is no point of desigining, and nevermind the innovation. People may dispute this, but I personally find it a good tool to coming up with ideas to solve problems quickly. We can fly to the edges of the universe, but we must always come back to the concept that we must solve problems permanently and not skirting around it in different fashions.

I often wonder when we can get out of the tangle. Perhaps taking the words out and place in pictures could solve part of the problem. Dan Roam and many others offer some cues to visual thinking. Or at some point, take away all the books and make people really brainstorm for a new way of seeing solutions. Then you will understand why I don’t appear to read too much into those books anymore. Not that I don’t respect them, but I won’t drool over them to the point of hanging there for ages. It sometimes gets you addicted, which is not that healthy for design research. To be able to do research, you must be free spirtited, sharp and quick to act on the materials given. Time is important and hence the aptness of mind to sort problems out outweighs stepping over the same areas again.– Karen Fu

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