Scholarly article on topic 'Design Research at the Crossroads of Education and Practice'

Design Research at the Crossroads of Education and Practice Academic research paper on "Educational sciences"

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Abstract of research paper on Educational sciences, author of scientific article — Elizabeth B.-N. Sanders

Abstract This paper takes an experiential perspective in describing the current situation in design education and design practice as seen through the eyes of someone on the ground at the crosshairs between research and design in education and practice. The current situation is marked by the fact that practice leads education in the integration of research with design. The integration is going well. The biggest challenges are the incompatibilities between how design research is done in practice and how research takes place at the university. With the rise of sponsored projects in academia, the need for integration becomes imperative. The North American Design Research Organization (NADRO) aims to serve that need. The paper will conclude with actions that the newly formed NADRO can take to explore and cultivate the new design space between research and design in education and practice.

Academic research paper on topic "Design Research at the Crossroads of Education and Practice"

Elizabeth B.-N. Sanders, The Ohio State University, USA; MakeTools, LLC, USA

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Design Research at the Crossroads of Education and Practice

Abstract This paper takes an experiential perspective in describing the current situation in design education and design practice as seen through the eyes of someone on the ground at the crosshairs between research and design in education and practice. The current situation is marked by the fact that practice leads education in the integration of research with design. The integration is going well. The biggest challenges are the incompatibilities between how design research is done in practice and how research takes place at the university. With the rise of sponsored projects in academia, the need for integration becomes imperative. The North American Design Research Organization (NADRO) aims to serve that need. The paper will conclude with actions that the newly formed NADRO can take to explore and cultivate the new design space between research and design in education and practice.


Design research





Received November 20, 2016 Accepted May 26, 2017

Elizabeth B.-N. Sanders (corresponding author)

Copyright © 2017, Tongji University and Tongji University Press.

Publishing services by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the

CC BY-NC-ND license (

The peer review process is the responsibility of Tongji University and Tongji University Press.

1 John Zimmerman, Carlos Teixeira, Erik Stolterman, and Jodi Forlizzi, "A New North American Design Research Organization," Dialectic 1, no. 1 (2016): 14-17, DOI:


This article was inspired by my participation as a Steering Committee Member for the newly formed North American Design Research Organization (NADRO). NADRO was introduced in the inaugural issue of Dialectic: A Scholarly Journal of Thought Leadership, Education and Practice in the Discipline of Visual Communication Design by John Zimmerman, Carlos Teixeira, Erik Stolterman, and Jodi Forlizzi, who describe NADRO's aims as

• "Creating a viable, resilient community for design researchers and educators...

• Mentoring universities to create PhD programs.

• Facilitating research opportunities.

• Bridging design research, education, and practice."1

"Bridging design research, education, and practice" is something that I know a lot about. I have been working as a design researcher in both worlds-education and practice-simultaneously for 35 years. I was educated to be an academic researcher, with a PhD in Experimental and Quantitative Psychology. But instead of working in an academic environment I took the challenge to become an "experiment" at a design firm. The aim of this experiment was to explore what would happen when a social scientist collaborated with practicing designers. While working in industry, I also taught design research to design students at a large university. The experiment has been going on for a long time. My experiences at the intersection of education and practice-rather than the academic literature-inform the thoughts contained in this article.

I will start by describing what I see as the current context of design research in education and practice. After that, I will share some memories from working in these two worlds at the same time. Finally, I will suggest that design researchers should explore how to cultivate the new space for design research that is emerging at the crossroads between education and practice.

The Current Context

Today, there is growing interest in the intersection between design education and design practice. As the challenges we face as a society become larger and more complex, we can see the benefits of integrating research with design and connecting education with practice. However, achieving the intersections between education and practice is not easy. There are vast cultural differences between these worlds, and these differences impede progress. Though research and design are now becoming integrated at the front end of the design process, such integration is more evident in practice than it is in education.

Some people talk about the lack of integration in terms of gaps. For example, a gap appears when discoveries by researchers at universities fail to be utilized by designers. And a gap also appears when the unmet needs of designers fail to be investigated by the researchers. Such gaps prevent the discovery of research results that can be used to improve the human condition.

There is also a gap between the education designers receive and the roles designers play in practice. Practitioners complain that designers are not trained to be immediately useful in the real world. Educators may not be aware of the changes going on in the real world of practice or they may not feel it is important to address the ever-changing needs of practice. In fact, practice is leading the changes that are taking place, and design graduates are now working in fields for which they are not adequately prepared. The consequence of this lack of integration between education and practice in design is that designers and design researchers do not always

have a seat at the table when the complex challenges that we face as a society are being discussed and explored.

While there is agreement on the existence of gaps, proposals for how best to address the gaps are less common. At least two approaches exist. The first is the retrofit approach whereby the gaps would be "fixed" by building bridges between the two cultures that currently exist. But this is more of a compromise than a solution. The second approach is to build an entirely new space with its own purpose, landscape and culture. I will argue for the second approach, and hope to inspire the reader to imagine it as the new space for design research that is emerging at the crossroads between education and practice.

2 Liz Sanders and Pieter J. Stappers, "From Designing to Co-designing to Collective Dreaming: Three Slices in Time," interactions 21, no. 6 (2014): 24-33, DOI: https://doi. org/10.1145/2670616.

Changes in Design Practice

The changes in design practice over the last 35 years have been dramatic. I will focus here only on changes that have occurred over the last ten years. The interested reader can refer to Sanders and Stappers for longer-range views of the past and the future.2

Figure 1 shows a simple model of the design process today, with the squiggly black line representing the path that design takes over time. The red dot in the middle shows the point at which the designer knows what he or she will design. The line that starts from the red dot and extends through the gray oval represents the traditional design process, where the focus is directed toward giving shape to the future. In this part of the process, the designer starts with the idea and explores it through an iterative process of sketching and prototyping, eventually arriving at the final form.

The newer front end of the design process is shown in the blue circle to the left of the red dot. It is this area of the blue circle-also called the fuzzy front end-that has been growing rapidly over the last ten years. Here, designers and other stakeholders collaboratively explore the current situation and future opportunities. The goal of the co-designing team is to make sense of the future so that the decision about what should be designed-the red dot-makes sense for the environment as well as for future generations of people.

Figure 1 reveals that there is another gap-the one between sense making and form giving. The area of overlap between the fuzzy front end of design and the traditional design process is where we decide what to design-but it is also a place where good ideas can be lost as we shift from making sense to giving shape.

There will always be a need for designers who know how to give shape to the future, as well as those who can collaborate with others to make sense of the future. The next step is to merge those two abilities. Today we are exploring new design domains and tools that afford us the ability to make sense of the future by giving shape to it. New forms and means of visualization and virtualization are enabling this exploration. For example, participatory prototyping is being used to

Figure 1 The design process making sense of the future today. Copyright © 2016 by

Elizabeth B.-N. Sanders.

visualize and externalize the design process so that all kinds of people can take part in it, particularly at the front end.

In the new design domains, participatory prototypes are not just representations of future objects-they are tools for exploring, expressing and testing hypotheses about future ways of living in the world. These new design domains create a place for everyone to be involved and offer exciting new prospects for designers. But these changes mean that designers will need to learn to play new roles. They will need to learn how to facilitate the creativity of every stakeholder on their collaborative team. They will need to learn how to become process guides, provocateurs and activists who enable others to explore, express and test hypotheses about future ways of living in the world.

Changes in Design Education

Designers have traditionally been called upon to give shape to the future. Nowadays, most design schools are still organized along the traditional design domains of architecture, interior space design, industrial design, graphic design, and fashion design. This is particularly true at the undergraduate level. However, this education model no longer reflects the needs of industry. Students of design are no longer being hired only for the design domains in which they were trained. Instead, they are joining interdisciplinary teams tasked with larger, more complex and wicked design challenges than what we saw in the past. Students are not always being trained for the new roles that they are encountering in practice. Graduate design programs, on the other hand, are beginning to step up to the challenge of bridging the gap between sense making and form giving.

Design education today is undergoing another change that has been largely influenced by the sudden interest in design thinking and innovation from the business world. For example, some large corporations-big banks and IT firms in particular-are snapping up design firms to quickly bring experienced designers into their organizations. The impact of the increased interest in design can be felt in schools at all levels, from elementary education up to the graduate level at the university. Other domains' interest in design is now so high that educators are struggling to keep up with the demand. Design studies are no longer only for future designers — everyone wants to learn about design. Consequently, other university departments such as Engineering and Business are now providing courses in design thinking. Design departments at universities are not always able to meet this demand and/or choose not to.

So what will be the role of those trained as designers when everybody is a design thinker? We can look to what is going on in practice for an answer. Designers will be facilitating the creativity of others, and provoking them to think critically and creatively about the future. Designers in industry are taking on the roles of activists and entrepreneurs. Alongside their collaborators, they are collabo-ratively making sense of the future, and giving shape to it as well.

Preliminary Conclusions

So what are the main activities going on today at the crossroads of education and practice in design and design research, and what are some implications for the future?

• Practice is leading change. I am aware that this is not a conclusion that academics want to hear, but my opinion is based on thirty-five years experience on the ground in both worlds at the same time.

• There is growth occurring at the front end of design, where the challenges

are complex and compelling. This is the optimal time for the academic and the practical worlds to intersect and explore how to benefit one another. With everyone now learning to be a design thinker, designers need to reconsider what their role(s) should be in the future. Design educators must be prepared to facilitate this shift.

Focusing on the gap between education and practice may be counterproductive. It is time to explore what emerges when we look at the space between education and practice as a landscape for innovation and growth.

3 Elizabeth B.-N. Sanders, "Information, Inspiration and Co-creation," in Proceedings of the 6th International Conference of the European Academy of Design (Bremen: University of the Arts, 2005).

The First Thirty Years: From 80/20 to 50/50

For the first 30 years of my career-from 1981 until 2011-I worked full time as a design research practitioner and consultant. In addition, I taught design research in the Design Department at The Ohio State University (OSU) on the side. My time was split into 80% practice and 20% education. My work in practice was spent collaborating with designers and others on commercial projects funded by external clients. I was also responsible for writing proposals and making sales presentations to potential clients to procure new work. The projects covered many different industries and ranged from the design of educational toys for preschoolers to product systems for chronically-ill patients and their caregivers, and later to the architectural design of new healthcare facilities and campuses.

I served as the project lead when the focus of the project was on design research, and mentored junior members of the design research team. At other times, I served as a team member within the design process. In my role, I was able to experiment with creating and developing new methods and tools for design research while ensuring that the needs of the clients were being met. In addition, I spoke at conferences where practitioners gathered, presenting the new approaches, methods, and tools of design research.

Having been trained in psychology and anthropology, the initial few years of the experiment were confusing, but exciting. Figure 2 shows the landscapes that I explored.3

Figure 2 Two approaches to research in the design process originally published in "Information, Inspiration and Co-creation." Copyright © 2005 by Elizabeth B.-N. Sanders.

The research approach that I was trained in as a psychologist is based on the scientific method, which seeks to understand the world as it is today. I understood that the results of this type of research could be used to inform the design process. In school, I had learned that good research

• tends to be conducted by people who are trained in research;

• has borrowed heavily from the scientific model of research with its adherence to the tenets of good research-reliability, validity, and rigor;

• is built upon the results of investigation, analysis, and planning; and

4 Elizabeth B.-N. Sanders and Pieter Jan Stappers, Convivial Toolbox: Generative Research for the Front End of Design (Amsterdam: BIS, 2012).

• relies primarily on extrapolation from past events as a way to move into the future.

In fact, the practice of using a scientifically based research process as an addition to design practice has been growing since the 1960s. Proponents tend to come from the social sciences. They use research methods and tools to understand the current design context. Their findings inform the design process. Designers have had mixed reactions to this approach, as they are often more interested in what will inspire their creative process rather than what will inform the design process.

Therefore, I explored alternative ways of conducting research whose findings could inspire the design process. My training in qualitative practices from anthropology proved to be particularly useful. In the world of design practice, I learned that good design research

• tends to be explored and applied by designers;

• is discovering its own tenets of good research, such as relevance, genera-tivity, and evocativeness;

• is built through experimentation, ambiguity, and surprise; and

• draws primarily from the future and the unknown, using imagination as the basis for expression.

The framework in Figure 2 was published in 2005, at a time when the front end of design was starting to grow and people from disciplines other than design were beginning to work with designers. The framework shows that there was a gap between the two approaches to research in design. In 2005, design researchers generally came from one side or the other-inform or inspire-and argued about which side was most appropriate and relevant. I learned to straddle the line between the two, since it was clear to me that both approaches could make important contributions to the design and development process.

Working in practice and academia at the same time has been an interesting experiment. I directly experienced the lack of respect that people from each world can have for the other. Those looking at things from a practical standpoint think academics are pursuing research questions that are not at all relevant to the task at hand. Those looking from the academic worldview would like to see far more interaction between experienced practitioners and students. In addition, those in practice are not satisfied with the skills of new design graduates who are not ready to actively contribute to commercial work from day one.

I experienced issues while splitting my time between practice and education. For example, those leading the design firm where I worked reprimanded me for presenting at conferences and writing papers about the new methods and tools that I was exploring. The leaders did not approve of my openly sharing what they considered to be a unique selling point for the firm. But I continued to do so, making sure to use my own time for these activities. I eventually left the design firm and formed my own company in order to give myself more flexibility.

My work at the university during those first thirty years consisted of teaching design research to undergraduate and graduate students in the Design department at OSU. I wrote papers for academic and practical publications, and served as an advisor or committee member for MFA, MA, and PhD students in Design and Engineering at many different schools. At academic conferences, I presented new approaches, methods, and tools of design research, since presenting client case studies was usually not permitted. In addition, I co-authored a textbook on a front-end design research approach.4 Over the years, the academic side became more interesting because the research questions were larger and more challenging, and I found that my time split was reaching 50/50.

The Past Five Years: From 50/50 to 20/80

About five years ago, I switched from an even 50/50 split between academia and practice to 20% practice and 80% academia. Today I work as a full time faculty member in the Design Department at The Ohio State University, while working in practice during the breaks from school. I also serve as an advisor to a local design research firm as either a mentor or a colleague, as needed. Additionally, some of my time in practice is spent planning and conducting workshops, where I create environments where teams can learn about participatory design research and explore collective visions for the future.

My preliminary understanding for how things work in academia and practice extends beyond the US to other parts of the world, especially Europe, where I have working relationships with professors and practitioners. Through those relationships I have had the opportunity to participate as a team member on several EU-funded projects, and have been involved as a committee member for Design PhD students from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Scotland, the Netherlands, and Italy.

I spend my time at OSU teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels, researching, advising graduate students, writing papers, and speaking at conferences and other venues. I am also involved in writing proposals for research grants and sponsored projects. I have been fortunate to work on a wide variety of academic research projects. I will briefly describe two that had very different outcomes, and another recent project from practice. All three are noteworthy since together they reveal the differences between what is important to academics and academia, and what is important in practice and for practice.

The first project that I will briefly describe is ongoing research sponsored by a large external grant. The project, entitled A Participatory Design Process Addressing the Ergonomics of Hospital Patient Rooms, is funded by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). It is a five-year effort that looks at the needs of all the stakeholders who use the hospital room including twenty-three types of staff, patients, and family members and visitors.

The conceptual framework shown in Figure 3 summarizes the conclusions we came to regarding one group of stakeholders. It describes the needs of patients who stay in medical-surgical hospital rooms. Their healing process is focused at first on the need for comfort, and then expands to include the needs for control,

Figure 3 This conceptual framework, describing the

needs of patients who stay in medical-surgical rooms, served as the summary statement in a publication by Patterson et al., 2017. Copyright © 2016 by Elizabeth B.-N. Sanders.

Figure 4 This book was one of the deliverables for a sponsored design research project. The book is accessible only to the sponsoring organization. Copyright © 2015 by Elizabeth B.-N. Sanders and Barret Hoster.

5 Steve A. Lavender et al., "Hospital Patient Room Design: Understanding the Issues Facing 23 Occupational Groups Who Work in Medical/ Surgical Patient Rooms," HERD: Health Environments Research & Design Journal 8, no.

4 (2015): 98-114, DOI: https://doi. org/10.1177/1937586715586391; Emily S. Patterson et al., "Meeting Patient Expectations during Hospitalization^ Grounded Theoretical Analysis of Patient-Centered Room Elements," HERD: Health Environments Research & Design Journal, March 15, 2017, DOI: https://doi. org/10.1177/1937586717696700.

6 Homepage of Making Sense, accessed August 7, 2017, http://

connection, and access as the healing process progresses. We are only now beginning to publish the results of the completed research project in peer-reviewed journals5 and presenting them at conferences.

There has been ongoing conflict regarding our dissemination of the findings. Academic expectations as well as those of our sponsor NIOSH favor publication in peer-reviewed journals with high impact factors. On the other hand, practical inclinations suggest alternative forms of dissemination that can reach those who will put the information to use, such as architects, healthcare planners, and interior space designers. The project team is addressing both avenues of dissemination.

The second project was a yearlong sponsored research project for a large international corporation that culminated in a book (Figure 4)-a book in which the client cannot be named, and whose contents are confidential. The aim of the project was to explore innovative and bespoke methods and tools for front-end generative design research. Issues of confidentiality, ownership, and publication rights for the research results were not negotiated in detail up front. Consequently, none of the OSU research team members who worked on the project were able to publish or present any of the work, even though IRB approval was part of the process. This is a demonstration of what can go wrong in the "murky middle ground" (more on that later) of sponsored projects.

The third project is one that I worked on as a consultant during the 2016 summer break and not through the university. Coincidentally, the name of the project is Making Sense. It is the best example that I have of a positive experience that integrates academia and practice. Making Sense is a citizen science project co-funded for two years by the European Commission's largest research and innovation program, Horizon 2020. The aims of Making Sense are "to explore how open source software, open source hardware, digital maker practices, and open design can be effectively used by local communities to fabricate their own sensing tools, make sense of their environments and address pressing environmental problems in air, water, soil, and sound pollution."6

Five partner organizations participated in Making Sense. These were

• the Waag Society (WAAG), from the Netherlands;

• the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC), from Spain;

• the Peer Educators Network (PEN) and Science for Change, from Kosovo;

• Dundee University (DUNDEE), from the United Kingdom; and

• Joint Research Center (JRC), from Belgium.

Between one and three people from each partner organization acted as representatives. Some of the partner organizations brought members of related projects to the workshop, including

• hackAIR | Collective Awareness for Air Quality;

• the Laboratory of Geo-Information Science and Remote Sensing, Wageningen University, the Netherlands (collaborating with WAAG); and

• citizens/participants in the first pilot in Amsterdam, Urban AirQ including the leader of the TreeWifi project (collaborating with WAAG).

I collaborated with a colleague to lead the development and facilitation of an intensive, hands-on, two-day workshop for the Making Sense partner organizations (Figure 5-7). The goals of the workshop were for the participants to gain hands-on experience with co-designing and generative design research tools in order to be able to apply what they learned to collectively visualize and establish an actionable framework for participation and citizen engagement.

The workshop took place a few months into the two-year project plan. In the morning of the first day, representatives from each of the pilot cities-Amsterdam,

Figure 5 (Top) Team members from Kosovo and Belgium used a wide range of both 2D and 3D generative design research tools and materials to visualize the experience timeline for Pristina from the beginning of the project (the right side of the photo) to the anticipated future two years down the line (the left side of the photo). Copyright © 2016 by Making Sense EU.

Figure 6 (Middle) These photos show slices from the experience timelines for each of the pilot cities. On the left is the opening segment from the Pristina Timeline, showing how they were facilitating community building and beginning to make people aware of the need for environmental sensing. The center slice shows an anticipated evaluation/ feedback loop in the middle of the Barcelona Timeline, about mid-way through the project. The slice on the right is from the tail end of the Amsterdam Timeline, showing the potential results and consequences of the Making Sense project. Copyright © 2016 by Making Sense EU.

Figure 7 (Bottom) After the pilot city timelines were presented and discussed, all the workshop participants contributed to the collective creation of an actionable framework for participation and citizen engagement.The canvas—four tables long—for the collective timeline was large enough for twenty-five people to work on at the same time. The photo on the left shows the beginning of the framework, and the photo on the right shows the ending of the framework. The final version of this framework can be seen in Figure 8. Copyright © 2016 by Making Sense EU.

Figure 8 This framework represents the collective efforts of the Making Sense team. It describes their plan to build and sustain a community of engaged and empowered citizens from Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Pristina who are willing and able to take charge of their own environmental sensing. Copyright © 2016 by Elizabeth B.N. Sanders and Merce Graell for Making Sense EU.

7 Alexandre Polvora, Susana Nascimento, Elizabeth B.-N. Sanders, and Merce Graell, Making Sense:Advances and Experiments in Participatory Sensing, EU D4.2: Co-designing Participatory Approaches for Communities, v6.0, 2016, accessed June 20, 2017,

Barcelona and Pristina-gave presentations about their progress to date and their future plans. The differences in approach being taken by each of the pilot cities were quite apparent. In the afternoon, everyone took part in a hands-on learning experience about conducting co-design sessions with generative tools. The second day began with each of the pilot city teams using generative tools to visualize their current and future experience timelines for the two-year project. A discussion about the similarities and differences between the plans and dreams for each of the pilot cities followed. After this, all the workshop participants were asked to identify the most promising ideas across all three timelines. The afternoon of the second day we devoted to the collective creation of an actionable framework for participation and citizen engagement that incorporated the most promising ideas.

The workshop is described in detail in a document that has been made available on the Making Sense website.7 In fact, every component of the Making Sense project has been documented extensively, and these materials (for example, Figure 8) are freely available online at The Making Sense team is also quite active on Twitter (#MakingSenseEU) and Facebook (Making Sense EU page), which is helping to build and strengthen the community of participants.

My participation in Making Sense has been a rewarding learning experience that has given me the opportunity to reflect on how design research at the crossroads of education and practice can work. I have been able to see the value and impact of using generative design research tools-2D and 3D-that were specifically designed for the hands-on collective visioning experience with a widely divergent group of about 25 people. I saw transdisciplinarity at work-and at play, when they collectively created and visualized a framework for future action in an intense, albeit short period of time.

I have been tracking the progress of Making Sense over time, and can see the important part that open forms of communication play in building communities. The project clearly demonstrates the value of having a wide range of dissemination modes-from scholarly to Twitter-to reach all kinds of people. Twitter is particularly exciting to watch-the project is now coming to a conclusion, and the environmental sensors are in the hands of the citizens in Amsterdam, Pristina, and Barcelona.

A Comparison of University Research and Research in Design Practice

These three project examples represent only a few of the hundreds of projects that I have been involved with across the academic and practical landscapes. It is impossible to ignore the many differences between working on research projects at the university and doing design research in practice. Table 1 contains a summary of these differences. The column on the right describes research in design practice. The column on the left describes the way research usually takes place at the university. University research that is "sponsored" by outside clients is still in a state of flux. Thus, the column in the middle represents the murky middle ground of sponsored projects. Sponsored projects have been handled much like grant-funded research in the past, but it is clear that this approach is not working. There are many obstacles to be removed and issues to be resolved in setting up sponsored research relationships that both sides can agree upon. The university where I work has recently hired people with expertise from industry to guide faculty members who are exploring these new types of relationships. Sponsored research projects are growing at a faster rate than are grant-funded research projects, so the need to address these obstacles is important.

Table 1. A comparison of university research and research in design practice.

University Research Research in Design Practice

Publication in peer-reviewed journals (with high impact factors) and dissemination of research results is necessary for advancement in one's career. Documentation is usually for the benefit of the client. Publication is rare—there is no reward for doing so and it may even be discouraged.

The university usually owns the IP that is generated on the project. The client pays for and subsequently owns any IP that is generated on the project. They may choose to keep it private.

The research agenda is primarily aimed at building and applying knowledge within academic disciplines. The research agenda is commercially driven and serves the needs of the client.

Contracts have less well-defined deliverables. Contracts (proposals) have quite precise deliverables.

Project timeframes are less aggressive due to constraints of the university calendar. Reflection on the process is a necessary part of the process. Project timeframes are very aggressive and, therefore, leave little time for reflection.

Billing rates are lower, and there is a 54% overhead cost for grants. Billing rates for project leaders are very high, and for research team members are high.

Grants increasingly require multidisciplinary teams. Interdisciplinarity is not well supported at universities because disciplinary silos still exist. Expertise in interdisciplinary teamwork is assumed and expected.

Not common for team members to have to sign non-disclosure agreements or non-compete clauses in the contract. All team members may have to sign nondisclosure agreements and non-compete clauses in the contract.

Need IRB (Institutional Review Board) approval for research that includes human subjects. This can add from 6 to 10 weeks to the project timeline. No IRB approval is needed. Practitioners pay others to recruit the participants and incentivize them with money.

Research ethics regarding the treatment of "human subjects" are strictly enforced by the IRB. There is no board of research ethics.

As the table reveals, there are many differences in how university research and research in design practice are conducted, and the values held to be important to each. Sponsored projects at universities are particularly challenging because they may include a paying client who wants to own the IP and keep the work confidential, whereas the members of the research team need to publish and share the work for the sake of their careers. In fact, in my recent experience, disagreements about IP and confidentiality have repeatedly been deal breakers, preventing several sponsored research projects from taking place.

Now What?

What does this mean for design research that sits at the crossroads of education and practice? Should we try to deal with the murky middle ground of sponsored projects by building bridges across the murk? Or should we explore and develop the middle ground as a new research and design space that merges university and industry concerns? I believe that a new space is in order, and that it is there that we will learn how best to use inspiration and imagination to make sense of the future.

Dreams: A New Space for Design Research at the Crossroads

Figure 9 shows a framework that describes a new space for design research at the crossroads of education and practice. The new space is in the middle. The left side shows the academic approach to design research, where we start with a theory that informs a research plan. We collect data about the phenomenon we are exploring according to the plan. We then organize and make sense of the data by working our way up the levels from information, to knowledge, to insight.

The right side of the framework shows the generative/creative side of design practice. For example, it is here that designers explore the future. For years, designers worked primarily in this space-ideating, sketching and iterating on concepts. The goal of working in this space is to imagine the world as it could be and give shape to the future.

As the challenges facing society have become more complex and urgent, designers understand the need to be informed by the left side while exploring and developing ideas on the right side. When working with wicked problems and/ or large systems that are dynamically changing, we need both sides. How do we play on both sides? Should we start on the more analytical, academic side and use the knowledge gained there to inform the generation of ideas on the creative side, in practice? That is the approach design research has been using to date. But there are other ways to play that include both sides of the framework. We could,

Figure 9 A new space for design research emerges in between academia and practice. Copyright © 2017 by Elizabeth B.-N. Sanders.

Academia New Space Practice




for example, start with generating ideas on the practical, design side and then use the ideas as input toward a more analytical exploration. This is what is happening today in design-led approaches such as design fiction. Here, designers make things-objects, prototypes, events-to gently provoke people, and make them think.

A third approach is to work both sides simultaneously. Think of the space in the middle as a kind of fabric that weaves together the results of analytical and generative activities taken on at the same time.8 If we explore both sides simultaneously, the new fabric emerges before our eyes. The practical, generative side-that weaves doodles, sketches, probes, provocations, and prototypes into the fabric-stirs and provokes the body of knowledge that grows on the left side. The analytical, academic side-that weaves patterns, principles, themes, and insights into the fabric-raises questions and challenges that perturb the generative activities taking place on the right. The fabric in the middle will emerge over time with its own landscape, language, and culture.

There will be a lot to explore in the new space in the middle, where inspiration and imagination meet information and insight in order to make sense of the future. Some questions come to mind, although these are likely not the only ones we could ask ourselves.

• Who will work and play there? There will be academics whose research inspires future ways of living. There will be practitioners who facilitate the participation of others, act as provocateurs, as activists, and as makers. There will be sponsors and partners who will hold new types of relationships with each other, and with those who work and play there. Transdisci-plinarity will be the glue.

• What does the new space look like? Will it look like a fabric or a landscape? What will be the first landmark to appear? Will the new space be physical? virtual? hybrid?

• How will we engage with each other? We will need to explore alternative forms of exchange such as cultivating, harvesting, bartering, sharing, and exchanging goods, services, and experiences.

• What is the culture of the new space? We will see practitioners as equal to but different from academics. Mutual respect will be essential. Both perspectives will be needed in order to cultivate the new space between academics and practice. The new space must have an open culture of sharing because who is not a stakeholder in the future?

8 Elizabeth B.-N. Sanders, "The Fabric of Design Wisdom," Current: Design Research Journal, no. 6 (2015): 9-12, accessed June 20, 2017, https://issuu. com/designdegreeecuad/docs/ current06 issuu final.

Closing Thoughts

I came into design from outside of design. Initially, I played on the line between information-driven and inspiration-driven approaches where I began to explore potential connections. Throughout my career, I have heard people complain about the gaps between education and practice, between research and design, and so on. Lately, I have been stuck in the murky middle ground between research at the university and research in design practice.

I propose that we stop spending time and energy trying to straddle the line, or bridge the gaps, or fix the murky middle ground. Let's explore what it takes for a new space between education and practice to grow. NADRO can be a first step toward this aim-as long as both educators and practitioners are invited to take part.