This Much I Know (About Design Research): Søren Rosenbak
This is the first interview in a new series for the DRS online called This Much I Know (About Design Research). Every month or so, we’ll profile an interesting DRS member to highlight their work and reflections on design research. This month, we speak to PhD Researcher Søren Rosenbak about his Design Research Failures project and his vision for the future of design research.
Søren is a PhD candidate in design as critical practice at the Umeå Institute of Design in Sweden. His research revolves around the question of how pataphysics can infuse and advance a critical design practice. He has a background in visual communication, interaction design and filmmaking. Søren's academic and professional background helped inspire the Design Research Failures project, which he launched at DRS2016.
What is Design Research Failures?
It's a project that asks participants: in what way has design research failed in the last 50 years? I first introduced it at DRS2016, with support from a 50th Anniversary bursary. Since then, the project has expanded and taken place at several conferences and other events. It also lives online at https://designresearchfailures.com
How did you come up with the idea?
The project was a reaction to the 50th Anniversary of the DRS. Instead of being purely celebratory and focused on successes, this landmark seemed to me like an important moment to ask difficult questions and for the DRS to engage in self-critique. I thought this reflective process could then inform how design research moves forward into the next half-century.
How do pataphysics and critical practice fit it?
These ideas are a major influence for me, they help encourage critical thinking which help destabilize and move beyond notions of fixed ‘truth.’
Why is failing so important to you?
Failure is celebrated in design practice, but design researchers rarely honour or even articulate their failures. I think this is a missed opportunity that could help advance design research.
Why do you think the project worked?
Diversity is a major strength in the project. Different answers coming from different researchers make the results richer and encourage discussion. While the project is inherently open-ended, certain themes have started to emerge. I'm trying to pull these common threads together at the moment!
What do you think about the DRS?
The DRS is inspiring to me. While it’s a major design research organization with a long history, its encouraging to see the DRS actively embrace new ideas and engage in self-critique. Hopefully this will continue and, over time, help respond to some new design research failures.
How can others connect with your project?
I'd love to get others involved with the project. Design researchers can use the project for themselves and adapt it to their own needs. Local and situated discussions and workshops would offer a valuable contribution to the larger conversation.
What piece of advice would you give to design researchers?
Of course: fail fast, succeed sooner!
Søren would like to thank the many amazing people who have helped make Design Research Failures a reality. Project credits are available online at https://designresearchfailures.com/about/
Interested in getting involved in this interview series? Tell us about your exciting work or nominate another researcher. You can contact Isabel at email@example.com.