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Design Studies Vol.78 Design Research Notes : An Interview with the Editors

Design Studies Vol.78 Design Research Notes : An Interview with the Editors

The latest volume of Design Studies contains a Special Section on Design Research Notes, ‘motivated by the growing need for design research to more actively reflect on, celebrate, and build research quality to mature as a field.’ We spoke with the editors, Philip Cash, Jaap Daalhuizen and Laura Hay, to get their insights about the issue, its contents and what they hope readers will take away. Their answers are edited here as a composite. 


What are your backgrounds and professional affiliations?

Philip Cash: In 2012 I received my PhD in engineering design from the University of Bath, UK, and am now an Associate Professor in Engineering Design at DTU Management, Technical University of Denmark. From my starting point in engineering design, I have developed a research focus on design activity and behavioural design, and – most relevant to the Research Notes – issues of research quality in design research. 

Jaap Daalhuizen: In 2014 I received my PhD in Industrial Design Engineering from the Delft University of Technology. I am now an associate professor in design methodology at DTU Management, Technical University of Denmark. My research focuses on design processes and methods – a rather unique and core area of research in design. With design methodology being the bridge between research and practice, I also focus on issues of research quality related to design methodology. 

Laura Hay: In 2015, I received my PhD in engineering systems design from the University of Strathclyde, UK, where I am now a Lecturer in Product Design in the Department of Design, Manufacturing and Engineering Management. My research focuses on cognition and neural activity in the product and engineering design process. From a research quality perspective, this includes how we can apply and adapt methods from psychology and neuroscience in a robust way to advance our understanding of design and designers.


Can you provide a short summary of the special section and its contents?

Design research is almost uniquely positioned to provide rich research insights from multiple perspectives, with the potential for wide-ranging scientific and societal impact. With this potential comes the responsibility to publish high quality research. In response, the Research Notes aim to enhance and celebrate design research quality. 

To do this we aim to provide a dedicated platform for research quality discussion, that is both accessible and reflexive; develop concrete, actionable guidance that can be used to improve design research practice; and help in accelerating and democratizing the evolution of design research practices across the community. In doing this, it is our intention to offer a transparent and inclusive platform for discussions around research quality, which promotes dialogue and diverse perspectives going forward. 

The Research Notes themselves take a starting point in nine major themes (see Fig.1 from the editorial): knowledge construction and asking the right questions; interdisciplinary interactions; research method selection, use, and development; standards, reporting and replicability; research impact on practice and education; design research identity and future agenda; research ethics; mapping and understanding development in design research; and studies of design methods. However, these are by no means exhaustive, and we encourage new themes and discussions. 


Figure 1: Overview and summary of the nine emerging design research quality themes (Cash, Daalhuizen, et al., 2022)


We also had some great contributions setting the tone and standard for the Research Notes going forward. Notably, not all themes attracted a publication so there is a huge call to action implicit in this initial collection!

Goldschmidt and Matthews (2022) highlight the importance of well framed research questions and propose the RIN.AFE framework for question formulation, providing a key foundation for evaluating research questions and their characteristics in design research. 

McComb and Jablokow (2022) discuss the challenges faced by the design research community in balancing a multidisciplinary tradition against consolidation around core disciplinary foundations and in response propose the Degrees of Disciplinarity Framework. 

Cash et al. (2022) highlight the challenges associated with sampling in design research, and bring together guidance from related fields to outline a sample development process and eight key sampling considerations. 

Hay et al. (2022) discuss functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as an emerging method for design neurocognition research, and propose a study development process that addresses specific issues associated with neuroimaging in a design context. 

Rangarajan et al. (2022) explore the challenges associated with design studies on the subjective, cultural, and contextual dimensions of affective quality, and propose descriptive phenomenology as a qualitative approach to this area. 

Surma-aho and Holtta-Otto (2022) examine the nature of empathy in design research, identifying core concepts and operationalizations that can drive future empathy research in design. 

Abraham (2022) discusses ideation in artistic creativity and identifies three core context factors that translate to the study of design creativity and thus provides guidance to improve design research quality in this area. This Research Note also exemplifies how scholars from adjacent fields can provide valuable insights from their own disciplinary perspective. 

Prochner and Godin (2022) examine possible standards for quality in Research Through Design (RtD) and provide guidance to improve planning, reporting, assessment, and discussions of quality. 

Zielhuis et al. (2022) explore perspectives on how design research impacts design practice, as well as different ways of achieving this. They point to key barriers that can stand in the way of realising impact and provide guidance for researchers and funding bodies. 

van Oorschot et al. (2022) describe seven key dimensions for classifying participation in design research, spanning researcher, project, knowledge construction, reporting, and methodology. 

Gray (2022) examines how we can formalise understanding of what methods are and how they function by describing method creation and the knowledge that informs this. He also identifies how elements of methods connect to their use and performance by designers. 

Together these form a really diverse set of papers, which also point to numerous areas of opportunity for future submissions. 


Are there any insights into design research that surprised you when you were editing the issue?

The thing that most surprised us was the overwhelming degree of interest and positive support for this project from across the community, including researchers from the Design Research Society and the Design Society; at different careers stages including PhD, mid-, and more senior; and reflecting almost every methodological and philosophical background in the field. The initial call for abstracts attracted more than 140 researchers!

It seems that the desire to mature the design research tradition is there, and hopefully the Research Notes will provide one stepping stone towards this.


What do you hope readers will learn from the special section?

In the longer-term we hope that the Research Notes will help design researchers:

  • To provide a common forum for research quality discussions, which enhances their perceived importance and accessibility to the field.
  • To develop an evolving reference source for best practices in research methodology, theory development, and scholarship, connecting quality insights and actionable guidance within the field of design.
  • To create a platform for reflecting on the quality of design research, in relation to research quality discussions within the field as well as in related fields.

The current set of papers provide a fantastic start to this endeavour and already include several useful guides, frameworks, and discussions that researchers can use to concretely improve their own work.

Find links to all of the above articles and read the issue in full here



Abraham, A. (2022). Creativity or Creativities? Why Context Matters. Design Studies78, 101060.

Cash, P., Daalhuizen, J., & Hay, L. (2022). Editorial: Design Research Notes. Design Studies78, 101079.

Cash, P., Isaksson, O., Maier, A., & Summers, J. D. (2022). Sampling in Design Research: Eight Key Considerations. Design Studies78, 101077.

Goldschmidt, G., & Matthews, B. (2022). Formulating design research questions: A framework. Design Studies78, 101062.

Gray, C. (2022). Languaging Design Methods. Design Studies78, 101076.

Hay, L., Duffy, A., Gilbert, S., & Grealy, M. (2022). Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in design studies: methodological considerations, challenges, and recommendations. Design Studies78, 101078.

McComb, C., & Jablokow, K. (2022). A Conceptual Framework for Multidisciplinary Design Research with Example Application to Agent-Based Modeling. Design Studies78, 101074.

Prochner, I., & Godin, D. (2022). Quality in Research Through Design Projects: Recommendations for Evaluation and Enhancement. Design Studies78, 101061.

Rangarajan, V., Onkar, P., De Kruiff, A., & Barron, D. (2022). A Descriptive Phenomenological Approach to Perception of Affective Quality in Design Inspiration. Design Studies78, 101072.

Surma-aho, A., & Holtta-Otto, K. (2022). Conceptualization and Operationalization of Empathy in Design Research. Design Studies78, 101075.

Van Oorschot, R., Snelders, D., Kleinsmann, M., & Buur, J. (2022). Participation in Design Research. Design Studies78, 101073.

Zielhuis, M., Sleeswijk Visser, F. S., Andriessen, D., & Stappers, P. J. (2022). Making design research relevant for design practice: what’s in the way? Design Studies78, 101063.

 January 21, 2022