DESIGN RESEARCH FAILURES
Keywords: the role of failure, re-imagining design research, future of design
Design Research Failures (DRF) is a project that poses one single question:
In what way has design research failed in the last 50 years?
The project, launching in 2016 and still ongoing, emerged from the schism I experienced between the way in which failure is celebrated in design practice and education, and how little failure is articulated and valued in design research.
Further, it was sparked by the 50th Anniversary of the Design Research Society (DRS), and their 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”.
Since its successful launch at the DRS 2016 anniversary conference, DRF grew into a broader discourse, including a web platform and a series of engagements (workshops, exhibitions, presentations) within different communities in design, set in Brighton, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Oslo and Nantes.
Deliberately refusing the success-based approach, where a past narrative of success is linearly extended into the future, DRF instead explicitly seeks to nurture an open-ended conversation around the failures of design research, including a diverse set of voices. While the project does not provide a conclusive end point (“THIS is how design research failed in the last 50 years”), it does present an incomplete, growing open data set, from which design research can be re-imagined and practiced differently.
Check the DRF web platform here
Above: A selection of DRF responses. Graphic design of all the responses by Marije de Haas, Søren Rosenbak, and contributors.
THANKS to (in reverse chronological order) Bastien Kerspern and Gaël Guilloux (La Semaine de l’Innovation Publique), 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 Marije de Haas for graphic design assistance throughout. Thanks to Kempe Foundations for financial support of the initial launch, and the Design Research Society (DRS) for their continued support of the project. And most of all a big thanks to everyone who have offered reflective, mind-provoking, cathartic, caring and hilarious responses to the question put forth. DRF is a project carried out as part of my doctoral research at Umeå Institute of Design, and is discussed further in my thesis (available here).