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A Stitch in Time Saves Nine: The impact of academic research on professional design practice

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Alec Robertson


UK Universities are undertaking their periodic research assessment exercise in 2014. There is a requirement this time around for academic researchers to show evidence that they have at least a Strategic Plan for assisting the “impact’ of their work outside academia. This is to help demonstrate value for public money spent.

There is a need to help ensure that there is a substantial amount of research being undertaken using public funds within the Universities concerning “design’ and that this is of interest and useful for professional designers; that it is in a palatable form for them, and easy to access for their professional design practice.

The short story below illustrates a concern of some. We hope you find it amusing.

A fashion designer and a research scientist go on a camping trip. After a good dinner, they retire for the night, and go to sleep. Sometime later the fashion designer wakes up and nudges her faithful scientist friend, Scientist, look up and tell me what you see? I see millions and millions of stars, fashion designer exclaims the scientist. And what do you deduce from that?

The scientist ponders for a minute. Well, astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are a small and insignificant part of the universe. What does it tell you, fashion designer? The fashion designer answered: “Scientist friend, it means that someone has stolen our tent!!”

This ‘tongue in cheek’ story indicates a perception of the relationships between “science’ and “design’; researchers and professional design practitioners.

Within other disciplines there is a perception of a closer relationship between the work of practitioners and those engaged with research. In ‘Medicine’ for example, University teaching hospitals integrate teaching, research and practice. Although ‘Art & Design’ design focuses upon useful, culturally rich and aesthetic designs, where ‘creativity’ is of premium value unlike in ‘Medicine’ there is an issue to be addressed.

The proposal will discuss the issues involved and encourage debate. The author is part of TeamCSD, advising the Chartered Society of Designers (CSD) - an international professional body for designers.


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This Work, A Stitch in Time Saves Nine: The impact of academic research on professional design practice, by zbeck is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported license.