Design Research in Space

In our theory class the last couple weeks we’ve read articles from eight different authors and discussed their views on the role of design research. From this we were to create a diagram with an x and y axis to plot these different positions. The x axis of the graph was to show the range between “designing with” and “designing for”, and we were to create our own range for the y axis.

First, for the x axis I decided that I would interpret “designing with” as research where the involved participants were aware of the purpose and engaged in multiple steps of the design process making it more a relationship of back and forth. On the opposite end I interpreted “designing for” as research where participants may or may not be involved, but they weren’t fully aware of the purpose and were more subjects of the study than interacting with the researchers.

Second, for the y axis I decided to follow a common thread I found in the author’s approaches to design research of if they start broad, or narrow. On one end I listed “specific needs” for research that began with a clear problem or focus in mind. On the other end, I listed “broad culture” for research approaches that began by learning about broad themes such as culture, values, or identity before narrowing down to a more narrow focus of a problem, or product.

After plotting these on the diagram I ended up with a relatively even spread of about 2 authors in each quadrant. Please see the diagram below followed by the individual reasons for placing each author where I did, and an exemplifying quote from the reading.



  • Give participants tools to drive research with co-creation.

  • Research informs what should or should not be designed.

  • “The goal of this exploration is to define the fundamental problems and opportunities and to determine what is to be, or should not be designed and manufactured.”

Fulton Suri

  • Aware of business needs, but focused on human culture.

  • Mutual benefit comes from engagement between business and users.

  • “These efforts must go deeper in terms of helping companies understand what is truly meaningful in relation to complex human issues of culture, identity, lifestyle, and values- hence our emphasis on ways to achieve profound insight and non-linear interpretation.”



  • People > technology or business.

  • Learn from people to identify problem, but may not engage further.

  • “Whether the research is pragmatic – as in looking for usability enhancements – or conceptual – as it was for Chipchase – the philosophy of design research is the same: to learn from people and to emphasize people, rather than technology or business.”


  • Research is very broadly focused on gaining cultural insights.

  • Don’t inform participants of reasons for research, and data is interpreted by designer without input from participants.

  • “This tension creates exactly the situation we believe is valuable for design, providing new perspectives that can constrain and open design ideas, while explicitly maintaining room for our own interests, understandings, and preferences.”



  • Users as active participants.

  • Applies context to a specific use.

  • “Accordingly, the focus of design is not simply “how can people get their work done,” but “how can people create their own meanings and uses for the system in use”; and in turn, this suggests an open approach in which users are active participants in the emergence of ways of working.”

Le Dantec

  • Research is participatory.
  • Evaluates the needs of multiple publics.

  • “By presenting this work we hope to extend our understanding of how framing design around the notion of publics, combined with a participatory design process, foregrounds not just the needs of a particular public, but also the design opportunities at the boundaries of that public. “



  • Focused on a participant’s interaction with an object. The framework informs the research so participants may not always be involved.

  • Select research methods based on the design problem.

  • “By using a framework to select design methods, designers can avoid prescriptive design processes and choose research methods that best discover information about the relationship between phenomena constituting the design problem.”


  • Focused on the specific needs of the technology.

  • Focus on enhancing and improving technology for the user not necessarily with.

  • “Once a product direction has been established, research with customers can enhance and improve it. Beforehand? Leave it to the technologists.”

After reading these articles I have started to develop my own view on design research. Because the plotted points made me think of stars I used their locations to create constellations to point me in the direction of what role I think design research should, or should not play. I’m sure this will continue to develop over time as I add more stars to the design research night sky, but after these readings it’s a little less dark up there.