Design as scientific method
Methodology rather than ‘cookbook’ type of method
What we intend to achieve is not a specific cookbook type of method, but rather a methodology, i.e. the science of all the specific methods and approaches falling within the framework of design as a scientific method. Such methodology will undoubtedly have some of the following meta-characteristics: Iteration, because you seldom or never (?) succeed in creating a design in the first attempt. Abstraction, because the specific design artefact seldom is of interest to others than those directly involved. Evaluation, because it is not until a design is evaluated that you note whether the solution of a problem or the fulfilment of a need is associated with it.
Studying “Design as a scientific method” can be approached in many ways. One of them is to study how design research is conducted – what methods or what specific techniques are applied? In this context, this issue/theme can easily be linked with the two other themes, for example, the method used in socio-technical design.
A different way of studying design research is by describing a method and then testing it and evaluating the result. Such evaluation could take place in the laboratory, for example by letting two groups solve the same problem, with only one group having access to the new method, or it could be done by taking a naturalistic approach involving the right users and the right problems in the right context.
Context, is, in other words, a key concept relating to design as a scientific method. Many have claimed that it is hardly possible to use the same method in all situations. There is a need for something situated, i.e. something that appropriately takes the situation into consideration either by rendering the method situation-specific or by allowing the user to stop during the process to consider the situation and set a “course” (application of the method) accordingly.
In addition, RUC researchers are capable of designing things in a scientific manner, such as a new “experience cylinder installation” for a museum. This is a third form of research in design as a scientific method.
Everybody is capable of making design, but how do we make design scientifically? Basically, design as a scientific method is about creating design for the purpose of learning and providing new knowledge. What guidelines, directions or examples are required for us to be able to consider design a scientific method in line with other scientific methods? Do the repeating, predicting, tracing and measuring of elements carry the same weight and meaning when we are designing for the future than if we were studying the present? This research initiative will study and develop design as a scientific method:
- Exploratively – by providing a description of and by comparing a number of different scientific methods within the area. In this context, the book project Situated Design Methods plays a key role (see below).
- Analytically – through studies of how designers (and professionals, i.e. professional designers, artists/artist craftsmen, performers of experimental methods such as historians/archaeologists working “to create design”) may provide knowledge on systematics in relation to the design process and its central moments of iteration, abstraction and evaluation.
- Proactively – where projects within the research initiative through action research develop and test methodical approaches, thus focusing on “research-through-design” within different domains. Projects stated under issue/theme 1 will typically help to contribute in this context.