There is a transition underway in the design industries, boosted by economic forces, emerging societal challenges, and advances in design research. Whether unsettling or affirming, this shift is changing the tectonics of design research, design delivery, and education in ways that can quickly make current and commonplace approaches outdated. What are examples of these shifts?
Design research adds and defines value. Innovative clients are demanding metrics and means to demonstrate return-oninvestment for design solutions. Likewise, it is critical that design research engenders an atmosphere of equity through immersive and engaged activities within the very communities it is meant to serve. Whether at the personal or planetary scale, innovation within the design fields has the power to increase the development of new research paradigms and incentivize the continuation of emerging and ambitious initiatives that include, but are not limited to sustainability, quality of life, and global health. In coming years, the shift may dramatically redefine the design roles and services that clients and the general public will value. Is your work shifting values? Tell us how.
Design research must be rigorous. With increased rigor come the challenges of stretched funds, heightened scrutiny, and the need for both specialization and collaboration. Whether quantitative, qualitative, metric-driven or action-oriented, research methods undergird the process of making new discoveries. Additionally, the creation and transfer of technology related to the development, distribution, and collection of data is paramount. Contemporary tools and trends, from automation to the Internet of things, may offer great benefit to historic methods and best practices, but may also hold potential for problems and pitfalls. Consequently, a critical discussion is needed to (re)imagine how various methods might be used autonomously or in combination with one another to advance environmental design research. Is your work shifting methods? Tell us how.
Design research informs practice; practice informs design research. The results of integrated teams and partnerships developed in the space between practice and design research have never been as evident, or more important, than they are today. Design research opportunities surrounding public/private and town/gown partnerships abound. However, challenges are equally abundant. For example, the pace and duration of research versus professional projects may conflict, bureaucratic hurdles and roadblocks may lie in wait, and/or compensatory structures may be incongruent. Therefore, case studies of organizational, policy, and operational frameworks and outcomes need to be shared, as well as strategies and tactics related to the practice sector’s ability to integrate research with design, market, and promote these value-added services. Is your work shifting practice? Tell us how.
Shifting the SPECTRUM
Research is expanding environmental design’s influence. Be it theoretical or applied, large-scale regional resiliency plans or small wearable devices, the scope and complexity of design research exploration is rapidly expanding. Because design investigations occur across such varied timeframes, physical space, disciplinary and organizational boundaries, and individual experience, the need for systematic, systemic, and holistic applications becomes fundamental. Is your work shifting the spectrum? Tell us how.
Shifting the LEXICON
Research is moving the scientific and professional realms of environmental design toward a new lexicon. This synthesis represents a crucial milestone in the evolution of integrated design/design research because the syntax of the two realms has not always aligned, and misunderstanding can lead to unnecessary confusion, miscalculation, and/or confrontation. However, all great design, at its roots, is collaborative and transdisciplinary. Great design research, then, is no different. The ability of designers and design researchers to find common ground intimates greater transformations within and across various disciplines and their respective approaches. As a shared vocabulary helps weave the collective mosaic of environmental design more tightly, teams can advance into new territories where they can collectively confront emerging problems, large and small. Is your work shifting the lexicon? Tell us how.
For forty-seven years, the Environmental Design Research Association has been the international leader and community for design research on all environments. For EDRA47, EDRA comes home to its birthplace Raleigh, North Carolina, to convene a global look at the driving force of innovation in environmental design-you. How is your work shifting your field? This will be your chance to tell the world. Contact [email protected]
if you are interested in attending or sponsoring EDRA47Raleigh.