In 2008, the Design Research Network (DRNetwork) conducted the Design Research Conference “Questions & Hypotheses” (Q&H) in Berlin. Since the goal of DRNetwork is to foster rigorous discourse among young design researchers, the aim of the conference was to to bring our young researchers together in a “real” event, to complement the virtual discussions taking place on the DRNetwork.
Q&H had three distinct characteristics: The conference was characterized as a “learning conference” because the first priority of DRNetwork has been to benefit student researchers.
The format was discussion-oriented, focused on face-to-face interaction. Not least contentwise, a major aim was to promote rigor in conceptualizing. Design Research has been self-conscious about its lack of systematic methods and theories in comparison to other academic disciplines. This self-consciousness, on the one hand, has advanced the quality of design discourse to a certain degree; on the other hand, it has resulted in much research that is methodologically rigorous but conceptually weak. “Here is the solution and what was the problem?” seems to describe the unfavorable character of much design research. It is forgotten that it is questions and ideas that give meanings and values to meticulously executed research. Q&H aimed to promote rigor in formulating research questions and conceiving new ideas, thus the conference title.
However, still the conference was joined and highligthed by “senior” researchers, including the keynotes of Alain Findeli and Keith Russel, who gave important and helpfull input and comments to the “juniors”‘s works. These special guests were: Design-against-Crime activist Mike Press (Dundee/Scottland), Clive Dilnot (Parsons, NYC), Susan Vihma from Helsinki and the Editor of the “International Journal of Design Science and Technology” Khaldoun Zreik.
Now, two years later, this beatiful (Layout: Joshua Marr) and smartly conceptuzalized book has been published: Edited by Rosan Chow, Wolfgang Jonas and Gesche Joost, Questions, Hypotheses & Conjectures, originally created with research students in mind, collects issues and ideas that are relevant not only to students but to all members of the design community. Current design research projects are compiled here, which meet debates, dialogical thinking, and intellectual struggles involved in arriving at research questions.
The concept: Two contributions from each author are presented: the original conference abstract or poster with comments and a final paper. The comments highlight the paper’s positive directions and ambitious goals, point out critical issues to explore, and also expose oversights common to the early stages of academic research. The papers are arranged to follow the typical steps a researcher takes in the journey of arriving at grounded questions, plausible hypotheses, or informed conjectures. Each group of papers gives a sense of what is generally required or achieved at that step. Taken as a whole, the papers show that arriving at research questions, hypotheses, and conjectures is an achievement and requires a demanding process that is often unfamiliar to and underestimated by beginning researchers.
The themes presented and discussed in this book include “service and socially oriented design, design thinking and method development, management of multidisciplinary design teams, and design as meaning construction. The special articles raise the fundamental and not-yet-resolved issues of the bases and purposes of design research” (Ed).
Info about the Editors:
Rosan Chow is manager of the DRNetwork and senior research scientist at the Deutsche Telekom Laboratories.
Gesche Joost is co-initiator of the DRNetwork and professor in design Research at the University of the Arts Berlin.
Wolfgang Jonas is co-initiator of the DRNetwork and professor in system design at the University of Kassel.