Discussions & Movements in Design Research2010©FORM
10 Vol.3 Nr.1 2010, 8-35
we also reach a state were these relations can be redefined according to our own needs. Wethen reach a state of
designing design research
.When we have established a basic overview of the complex field of design researchseen from a systems perspective, we are able to distinguish between many possible modes of conducting such research. These modes are defined by their differing relations betweenpractice and reflection, as I will show in the last part of this paper.The main method used in this paper to draw a complex picture and to analyse therelations in the field of design research is to cut three cross-sections on different scalesthrough this diverse landscape. Cutting cross-sections implies leaving the larger volume of thesubject untouched. It is therefore important to keep in mind the incompleteness of theproposed concepts. Starting with a brief summary of existing and inherent definitions, we thencontinue by addressing some of the current discussions in design research where movementsand contradictions are uncovered with a special emphasis on the relation between research bydesign and what is frequently called ‘traditional sciences’. The last cross-section looks atworld views found in design research, going through some of the models found. Then Idiscuss how to analyse the relations between practice and reflection and suggest somevariables to use in this discussion. Lastly, I attempt to become specific in applying thesevariables to distinguish between a series of possible relations.
Cross-section 1: Definitions
In this section I intend to clarify some of the many terms and notions of practice research anddesign research we find. This might seem somewhat banal at first glance. However, manydifferent terms and labels are in use without being used consistently. For example, the termPractice-led Research is introduced by the AHRC Research Review,
Practice-Led Researchin Art, Design and Architecture
(Rust, Mottram, & Till, 2007). In this case, the term is usedexclusively for design and architecture related research, while the term itself indicates a muchwider possible application.In this list I start with the most globally applicable term, Practice Research, whichspans across many domains and perspectives. The term is applicable to all profession-basedresearch that looks at or involves in practice. We find many kinds of research approacheswithin practice research. Towards the end of the list I try to sort out the definitions that arespecific for the field of design.
General definitions for practice-related research
: A global definition that includes all different modes of researchinvolving all kinds of practices. The term is not well defined but from the denotationof the term I derive the definition as a global term embracing all practice relatedresearch.
: Used in clinical research (American Academy of FamilyPhysicians, 2009). Probably used as a quite wide definition where different relationsbetween research and practice are played out. Frequently used in design discourse.
: Used in the arts, mainly to define the generative and explorativeaspects of the art practice. Practice-as-research claims that certain practices areresearch by them selves, without the requirement of a verbally expressed reflection,while others claim that you need an additional externalised format (text, scientificpublication) to define these practices as research.