Wisdom of a Design Research Ninja

Engin Kapkin, Sharon Joines
College of Design, North Carolina State University


Engin Kapkin, IDSA | Sharon Joines, Ph.D. IDSA
College of Design, North Carolina State University

Although the designers’ work can be driven by research, historically they have not lead research investigations.  The market, however, has begun to seek measurable outcomes from creative services. Companies and clients prefer designers, who can assure the success of their creative work (Laurel, 2003; Visocky O’Grady & Visocky O’Grady, 2006). The work and the role of a designer have shifted beyond the form builder of a product; therefore, the personal experiences of a designer are no longer enough to generate meaningful solutions. The problems that a designer addresses have become extremely complex, and solutions require a holistic approach and multi-disciplinary knowledge.  Designers have begun to combine their experience and knowledge with research abilities to increase the credibility of their work. Design research, which is often conducted in the field, now appears to be a necessary skill for industrial designers. 

Fieldwork studies have high ecological validity since they provide data, which has limited intervention by the researcher. Connections between strategic choices and the practical nuances of conducting an investigation are central to project success. Using a case study, Kapkin and Joines will introduce concealed challenges which naturally manifest during fieldwork studies and share their experiences as designer researchers. Practical recommendations will be shared as preparation for data collection (e.g. to put the participant at ease have a repository of ice breaking activities or conversion topics or offer a smile to make each participant feel assured, comfortable and safe) and for data analysis. Creativity, flexibility, and agility are vital components of the wisdom that a design researcher should be prepared to deploy in the field.