This Much I Know (About Design Research): Alpay Er
This Much I Know (About Design Research) is an interview series that profiles interesting DRS members – and, in this case, a DRS Fellow. In this edition, we spoke with Alpay Er about his research on industrial design in developing economies and his thoughts on design society memberships. Er works at Özyeğin University in İstanbul and is chair of the Department of Industrial Design.
How did you start out in industrial design?
I received my first degree from the Middle Eastern Technical University in Ankara, Turkey in ’88. I went on to work in a department of furniture manufacturing at another university in Ankara, and as a research and teaching assistant.
Then graduate school?
Yes, I studied at Manchester Polytechnic (now Manchester Metropolitan University) in the UK. My PhD research explored the development of industrial design industries in newly industrialised countries. My design experiences in Turkey really inspired me!
What was your experience during those early years in Turkey?
There was a mismatch between our industrial design education imported directly from industrialised market economies, and our own economic realities in Turkey. We were trained to work in a fully competitive market – that simply wasn’t the situation in Turkey.
Do you still explore these issues in your research?
Absolutely – I study development economics to understand relationships between design industries and regional/local contexts. Social and economic factors are so important in the formation of design industries!
You’ve held some impressive academic positions – can you tell me about them?
I’ve worked at several universities in Turkey: Hacettepe University, Istanbul Technical University (ITU) and now Özyeğin University, where I’m chair of the Department of Industrial Design. I’m also a longtime ICSID/World Design Organization (WDO) board member; I have served on the WDO board three times since 2011.
And, of course, you’re a DRS Fellow!
Yes! I got involved with the DRS back in the 1990s; my PhD supervisor John Langrish was a leading figure in the Society. The DRS invited me to become a fellow in 2006.
What do these society memberships mean to you?
The DRS network makes you feel that you are not alone as a design researcher. And, being a DRS Fellow is an honour. It shows recognition of my work and provides a sense of authority to my ideas. Memberships are also useful in Turkey. They provide a link to a broader community and build local awareness toward design research.
Looking to the future, what new researchers and research specialisations are you most excited by?
I’ve noticed some fabulous young researchers in the field of design history with an increasing interest in the role of design in social and economic development in emerging contexts. Some of these folks are studying and working at the University of Brighton. I’m inspired by their work on design/design for development, topics I’ve been passionate about for many years.
Any parting words to share with our members?
“Work for money, design for love” – I saw this quote at a carpet design storefront at the Grand Bazaar in İstanbul. That’s how I feel about design research, and it's served me well over the years.
Interested in getting involved in this interview series? Tell us about your work or nominate another researcher. Contact Isabel at email@example.com.