The last 30 years have seen significant expansion of academic design research. This has been on a general level, such as ways in which designers think and the nature of design knowledge, but also in the practitioner disciplines, including industrial design. Having witnessed and been an active player in this evolution, it has become increasingly apparent that much of this research is for consumption and application within the academic research community, with little or no practical relevance to the activities of IDSA members – be they students, educators or practitioners. Using three case studies undertaken by the author, this paper explores approaches to academic research that can engage and benefit IDSA members at all levels; demonstrating that creative practice can contribute to a research methodology and that outputs can have significant impact beyond academic journal publication. Through the narrative of the paper and links to resources for the case studies, its aim is to provide information and inspiration for educators to adopt similar approaches. The case studies focus on research through and for industrial design, providing evidence of credible engagement with hands-on practice and impact that has been validated by key stakeholders. They demonstrate that, despite the lofty ambition of the quest for new knowledge, the methodologies of academic research can be relatively straightforward and can be of direct relevance to practice as understood by IDSA and its members.