Design research occupies a special position within artistic research. Design research and artistic research reflect many similarities ultimately subsumed under the title “research in the creative disciplines”. However, historically, design research has been categorized among the arts but in more modern times it is postulated as a separate form of knowledge distinct from the knowledge of the arts and the sciences.
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Not until the design research movement that started in 1960 and particularly beginning from 1980 did design research come to be understood as an independent “knowledge culture”, an issue contented with others who coined terms such as “design knowledge” and “design thinking”. However, beginning from the design movement of 1960, several aspects of design research will be discussed to distinguish between analytical differentiation and essential reductionism within which design research is currently situated.
In 1962 a conference on design methodology took place in London purposely to formulate methods to allow the systematic control and analytical understanding of processes in design that had previously been approached more or less intuitively. The movement was sustained by people from technical and scientific disciplines but received little attention from practicing designers.
Ulm, a practicing theoretician held that design research was an “artistic creative vision of the pure designer” while the rest held to the opinion that design research was “a planning activity” that should strive for “the control of its consequences”.
The approach of the movement was best summarized by the historian Nigan Bayazit as follows: “Design methods people were looking at rational methods of incorporating scientific techniques and knowledge into the design process to make rational decisions to adapt to the prevailing values, something that was not always easy to achieve”.
However, on the emergence of new kinds of technologies, complex problems were diagnosed in the planning of cities and traffic systems, in questions of environmental protection and space exploration. The quest for design methods had had its genesis on the successes of the US military developments.
Issue of contention and varied definitions such as the rigid fixing of aims of design methods brought about another definition of design research. Known as tacit knowledge, it could not be adequately articulated. However, current knowledge of tacit knowledge has weaknesses.
Tacit knowledge integrates the critical results from the sociology of knowledge, in which our knowledge and actions cannot be understood exclusively through the models of explicit knowledge and conceptions of rationality, while on the other hand, the unquestionable assumption of tacit knowledge propels the idea that designers are receptive and intuitive to original ideas.
Another approach postulated design as an independent form of knowledge categorically distinct from other forms of knowledge such as science or art which integrates the idealistic approach of categorizing design research.
Such idealistic view that design research is a forward-looking, methodical sphere of action developing between science and art has great visionary potential. However, many perspectives on design research abound today. There is cooperation between science and art in contributing to our knowledge of the culture.
Today design research is seen as an independent discipline which has received little attention from academia. To clearly define design research, reductionism and historical theories must be called to mind to afford the connection between art and science where the discipline may assertively be defined as categorical knowledge and a third culture knowledge which affords the vision of a new culture.