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DRSelects: Exploring the History of Design Research through the DRS Digital Library

DRSelects: Exploring the History of Design Research through the DRS Digital Library

1. Please introduce yourself, your role in the DRS and your research. 

My name is Paulina Contreras Correa. Since 2016, I have been serving as Director of Research at the Design School at Universidad del Desarrollo, Chile. And in 2022, I joined as a member of the International Advisory Council of the DRS.

My primary research interest lies in positioning the design discipline and design research as an articulator between institutions, academia, and businesses to enhance competitiveness and sustainable development of territories. This focus is evident in the projects found at and Together with my research teams, we have been honored with recognitions for our applied research efforts, including the UDD Innovative Researcher Award in2018 and 2022, as well as the Chile Design Award in2022. The latter was awared for our contributions to a policy proposal to incorporate Design for innovation in the Regional Development Strategy ERD 2030. I invite you to review our work further in this publication

2. Could you talk about the initiatives you’re involved with in the DRS and any upcoming events you’d like to share?

My initial interest as a member of the IAC, with the support of UDD and the institutions I collaborate with, is to strengthen design research and DRS in the region and promote design research among undergraduate students in Latin America.


3. What do you see as the benefits of being involved with the DRS and how can those interested become more involved in the Society?

Participation in DRS provides an open platform for dialogue and international collaboration. I value its mission greatly, particularly its commitment to connecting multicultural and interdisciplinary design research groups dedicated to the discipline of Design and its essential role in addressing global challenges.

The networking opportunities provided by DRS through their Special Interest Groups (SIGs) are noteworthy. They enable to actively partake in building interdisciplinary global communities, thereby expanding the horizons of design research. Additionally, access to resources like the Design Library platform, along with consistent updates on design research activities and events from around the world, are immensely valuable.

But the primary revenue lies in the opportunity to collaborate for the advancement of design research.


DRSelects: Exploring the History of Design Research through the DRS Design Library 

Diving into the digital library of the Design Research Society has been a captivating journey to the core of design research. On this platform, documents and publications dating back to the first DRS conference in 1971 coexist alongside current research primarily sourced from the biennial DRS conferences. 

Beyond being a mere repository, this platform is a constantly evolving space that mirrors the growth of the field of design research. While navigating this user-friendly interface, one can observe the dedication and collective effort of numerous professionals, designers, and researchers who have contributed to building and strengthening the field of design research. 

This platform inspired me to delve into the valuable historical record of design research. Article by article, this digital library enables us to stand on the shoulders of giants and engage in conversations with pioneering researchers as well as our contemporaries. In my exploration, I selected five articles that capture the evolution of the design research field. 

In the article "Mapping Design Knowledge: 36 Years of Design Studies" (Burns et al., 2016), we are led into a profound reflection on the relationship between research, knowledge, theory, and the practice of design. This exploration of 36 years of writings in Design Studies (from 1979 onward) traces the evolution of central themes and analyzes the essence of design research, knowledge, and theory. From this analysis, future challenges also emerge, such as the need to develop a unique epistemology for the discipline. 

The article "Design Research: Towards a History" (Margolin, 2010) offers us a glimpse into the development of design research, highlighting the formation of the Design Research Society and the global expansion of this research. Similar to Burns et al. (2016), it also underscores the challenge of unifying discourse in a rapidly evolving field. 

A similar challenge is highlighted by Atkinson and Oppenheimer (2016) in "Design Research – History, Theory, Practice: Histories for Future - Focused Thinking." The article emphasizes the need for collaboration between design historians and researchers to enhance the quality of design work and promote ethical and sustainable design practices. 

When exploring the current landscape of design research, Rodgers and Yee (2016) emphasize the values of plurality and interdisciplinarity present in the field. This diversity gives rise to a wide range of theoretical approaches, methods, applications, and academic collaborations in design research. The authors also propose a thought-provoking list in which "good" design research should be disruptive, useful, messy, political, impactful, critical, enduring, not necessarily quantifiable, reflective, and clear. 

In "Communicating the Value of Design Research" (Lindley et al., 2022), the intrinsic ambiguity of design research is addressed, stemming from a complex and interdisciplinary space inhabited by diverse individuals. While there is a shared tacit understanding of the value of Design Research, a significant lack of consensus persists regarding where this value originates and how it manifests. 

In a world where other disciplines do not require justifying their research, pioneers in design research have forged and defended spaces for discussion and collaboration. These successive studies address the tension between the dynamic, diffuse, complex, and interdisciplinary nature of design research and its constant challenge of consensus-building and the consolidation of its own epistemology. Nevertheless, it's evident that throughout its history, the academic design community has grown both in size and cohesion. 

Navigating the diverse references that address this topic offers a profound, diverse, engaging, and captivating understanding that invites further study.

DRS Digital Library - DRS Biennial Conference Series: Mapping design knowledge: 36 years of Design Studies (

DRS Digital Library - DRS Biennial Conference Series: Design Research: Towards a History (

DRS Digital Library - DRS Biennial Conference Series: Introduction: Design Research – History, Theory, Practice: Histories for Future - Focused Thinking (

DRS Digital Library - DRS Biennial Conference Series: Design Research is Alive and Kicking... (

DRS Digital Library - DRS Biennial Conference Series: Communicating the value of design research (

 August 30, 2023