11 Authors, 11 Viewpoints: Why Research Matters

Around the world, art and design education is evolving like never before.  Many institutions, including our own Parsons The New School for Design, are questioning what it means to be a designer in the 21st century due to the shifts in professional practice and globalization.  New academic philosophies are replacing outdated ones, innovative curricula emphasizing “design thinking” are being adopted, and faculty’s research is increasingly encouraged and supported.  Through these collective activities, academic programs strive to produce graduates who will succeed in an ever-shifting and unpredictable professional landscape.

The following eleven authors describe how and why scholarly research plays a critical role in successfully evolving the future of art and design education and creative practices.


“If we understand how ‘design expertise’ is to be defined by the industry and/or education, we will be able to develop design education that much further.  It will allow us to better target the position and learning possibilities for every student, at every point in their studies.”

                                                                             Dorst, K. & Reymen, I.    Levels of Expertise in Design Education. International Engineering and Product Design Education ConferenceSeptember 2-3, 2004, Delft, The Netherlands

“Knowledge is expanding at a breathtaking pace.  In the 3 years from 1999 to 2002, the amount of new information produced nearly equaled the amount produced in the entire history of the world previously.  The amount of new technical information is doubling every 2 years, and it is predicted to double every 72 hours by 2010.”

“The nature of work will continue to change ever more rapidly.  During much of the 20th century, workers held 2 or 3 jobs during their lifetimes.  Today, the US Dept of Labor estimates that many of today’s workers will hold more than 10 jobs before they reach the age of 40.  The top 10 in-demand jobs projected for 2010 did not exist in 2004.  Thus, the new mission of schools is to prepare students to work at jobs that do not yet exist, creating ideas and solutions for  products and problems that have not yet be identified, using technologies that have not yet been invented. ” 

“The core problem is that our education and training systems were build for another era, an era in which most workers needed only rudimentary education.  It is not possible to get where we have to go by patching that system.  We can get where we must go only by changing the system itself. ”

“As manufacturing jobs have been moved overseas, the entire structure of the US economy has drastically changed.  Whereas in 1967 more than half (54%) of the country’ economic output was in the production of materials goods and delivery of material services (such as transportation, construction, and retailing), by 1997, nearly 2/3 (67%) was in the production of information products (e.g. computers, books, television, and software) and the provision of information services (e.g. telecommunications, financial services, and education).  Information services alone grew from about 1/3 to more than 1/2 the economy during that 30-year period.”

“…schools must teach disciplinary knowledge in ways that focus on central concepts and help students learn how to think critically an learn for themselves, so that they  can use knowledge in new situations and manage the demands of changing information, technologies, jobs, and social conditions. ”

 Darling-Hammond, L. (2010). The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future.

“Design is changing as a professional field and a discipline.  To understand the curriculum needs of university-level design education today and tomorrow, requires placing design in the context of the larger knowledge economy within which designers now work.”

Friedman, K. (2003). Design Education in the University:  A Philosophical & Socio-Economic Inquiry Design Philosophy Papers, vol. 1, no. 5.

“Abundance has satisfied, and even over-satisfied, the material needs of millions–boosting the significance of beauty and emotion and accelerating individuals’ search for meaning.  As more of our basic needs are met, we increasingly expect sophisticated experiences that are emotionally satisfying and meaningful.  These experiences will not be simple products.  They will be complex combinations of products, services, spaces, and information.  They will be the ways we get educated, the ways we are entertained, the ways we stay healthy, the ways we share and communicate.  Design thinking is a tool for imagining these experiences as well as giving them a desirable form.”

“We are moving from an economy and a society build on the logical, linear, computer-like capabilities of the Information Age to an economy and a society built on the inventive, empathic, big-picture capabilities of what’s rising in its place, the Conceptual Age.”

“Designer Clement Mok states ‘The next 10 years will require people to think and work across boundaries into new zones that are totally different from their areas of expertise.  They will not only have to cross those boundaries, but they will also have to identify opportunities and make connections between them.'”

Pink, D. (2005) A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the World

“The advantage today goes to those who are creative, innovative, and able to solve complex problems. Graduates today must also be adaptable in applying their talents in new and ever-changing situations:  The era of one job per career is fading.  Technical skills are no longer enough. Steve jobs said at the launch of the iPad:  ‘It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough.  It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that make our hearts sing’.”

“Education needs to change with the times, much as laws need to do the same.”

Van Zandt, D. (2011) The New School’s PresidentDavid Van Zandt’s Inaugural Address

“Globalization, for example, has created an unprecedented challenge for US design education.  In countries such as China, India, Singapore, and Korea, traditional core competencies (e.g. problem solving, form development, human factors, design for manufacturability, computer visualization, rapid prototyping) are being taught to ever-increasing numbers of highly competitive students–with excellent results.  Keen to capitalize on new design opportunities, these ambitious countries are forming strategic partnerships among design education, government and the private sector as a way to fuel economic development.  With such extraordinary support, the partnerships are creating undergraduate and graduate programs that could marginalize US programs in a matter of years.”

Rothstein, P. (2005, May). Rethinking Design Education in a Time of Change: Risks and Rewards. Innovation

“Design in the university  must, I would agree, contribute to the ‘new knowledge economy’ of the 21c described by Friedman.  By doing so design not only gains intellectual credibility and respect, but also can provide knowledge that contributes to a wider university community of students and peers.”

 Clark, H. 2003, ‘How, What and Who Should We Teach?’, Design Philosophy Papers, vol. 1, no. 5.

“…designing as a field has evolved, and the profession has moved away from ‘drafting’ and ‘styling’ to ‘problem solving.’ While the demand for ‘traditional’ designers is constant within the industry, the society today demands a new generation of professionals that can design not only products, but systems for living as well. ”

“Shifts in global, information-based economy (and society) is forcing changes in design as a profession.  Design is changing from a craft-oriented discipline whose emphasis is on individual creativity and commerce, into one that is more robust and multidisciplinary, committed to conceptualization, configuration, and implementation of meaningful social environments, products, services, systems, and brands.

“According to Susan Squires, the role of research in the creative process, outlined in the idea of design research, is to discover and draw out design implications from real cultural phenomena.  She believes that researchers need to have a sound working knowledge of the concepts and methods that make culturally driven design possible.  since socio-cultural concepts are not typically well understood by practicing designers, design researchers need to guide their colleagues through such working processes.”

Muratovski, M. (2010). Design and Design Research: The Conflict Between the Principles in Design Education and Practices in Industry. Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal.  Vol 4, No 2

“While design research comes in many forms, ranging from quantitative market research to personal interviews, experimental design analysis and qualitative research, it also represents a willingness to look beyond the immediate concern of crafting a project, as well as an openness to integrating new insights into the design process itself.” 

Zimmerman, E. Creating a Culture of Design Research: Methods and Perspective, edited by Brenda Laurel.

“….good research is itself pedagogical, often drawing on the explanation, clarification, and problem posing–of asking, So what?” and “Who cares?” that are central to good teaching. ”

“I believe American education can only benefit if undergraduate research turns out to be the future whose time has come […] Undergraduate research transforms the student-teacher relationship, turning students and teachers from strangers or adversaries into collaborators playing on the same team for common purpose.”

“This assumption, the myth of academia’s insuperable difficulty, keeps us needlessly pessimistic about the chances of bridging the gap between research and teaching, about the potential of academic institutions to reach a students, and about the academic potential of students themselves.  The myth also misleads those students into thinking that the forms of thought and expression they learned while growing up have to be abandoned if they hope to do well in school.”

Graff, G. (2003). Clueless in Academe

Now we want to hear from you.  What’s your opinion?  Why is research important for art and design education and practice?  Please share your thoughts below.