Skip to Main Content


  • Isabel Prochner posted an article
    Event explored the term 'design literacy' in relation to the built environment see more

    Event Report: Urban Perspectives on Design Literacy Summer School 

    The question 'what is design literacy?’ attracted attention at a DRS-endorsed summer school at Loughborough University and the City of Leicester. The event took place over two days in June 2019. The Urbanism strand of the Built Environment Research Beacon at Loughborough University hosted day one. The second day was at ​​​​​Maber Architects and Leicester City Hall.

    Design literacy was referenced in The Farrell Review, a UK-based exploration of design/architecture education, knowledge, policy and impacts. The review encouraged industry and government to "[improve] the quality of local decision-making and design literacy" (The Farrell Review, 2015).  However, it's apparent that design literacy is not understood by those at the heart of city governance—and nobody knows what it stands for! That's where we hoped the summer school would contribute. 

    Above: Delegates pondering the architect's design literacy challenges as set out by Maber Architects' Tim Boxford

    DRS President Rachel Cooper started the event by exploring the sensory aesthetics of a city. She discussed the need for design in city decision making and policy decisions about places, services and experiences. There were other great talks by practicing designers, design researchers and representatives of Leicester City Council. The schedule and list of speakers is available here

    Above: Robert Harland introducing day two at Maber Architects' Leicester office

    Summer school participants were practitioners and academics from a range of fields including architecture, landscape architecture, planning, urban design, urban studies, human geography, engineering, graphic design, arts practice, art/design management, conservation and curation. While these diverse backgrounds provided a wealth of perspectives, the range of participants also indicated that a discipline-specific understanding of design literacy is yet to emerge. All agreed that good design is essential for city building, but this may/may not be associated with design literacy. How will places be improved if planners, designers and engineers are more fluent in design literacy? The summer school did not provide quick answers; it’s clearly something that needs grappling with.

    full review of the Urban Perspectives on Design Literacy Summer School is available here and a complete information pack is available here.

    Acknowledgements: the Summer School was co-organised by Loughborough University and Leicester City Council, in conjunction with Leicester Urban Observatory and with the endorsement of the Design Research Society. 



    Robert Harland, Summer School convenor and presenter

     November 29, 2019
  • Isabel Prochner posted an article
    Activities, resources and sites celebrating local design and design research see more

    Celebrating Irish Design at DRS2018

    Taking place in Limerick, Ireland, DRS2018 will celebrate local design and design research. It was the Irish Year of Design in 2015 and DRS2018 builds on this momentum. On Tuesday, June 26th, the conference is hosting a Bread & Butter Session in conjunction with the Institute of Designers in Ireland (IDI). Bread & Butter is an IDI presentation series where delegates can learn about Irish design practice.

    Beyond formal activities, conference goers can also explore Irish art and design in Limerick at the Hunt Museum, Limerick City Gallery of Art, Fab Lab Limerick and the EVA International festival, taking place at the same time as DRS2018. Conference organisers also encourage delegates to check out the Iterations journal, a local design research publication.

  • Isabel Prochner posted an article
    The Impact of Design Research on Organizational Culture Change in Industry: Lessons from DRS2018 see more

    Reflection on Keynote Debate 1: Design Research and Industry Impacts

    As a follow-up to DRS2018, we invited conference participants to reflect on the keynote debates and related conversations that took place during the conference. The article that follows responds to debate 1 - "Design Research and Industry Impacts:  Exploring the changing nature of design research and practice within academia and industry." It was prepared by Chris Hammond (IBM Design) & Joyce Yee (Northumbria University), track chairs of "How Organisations Employ Design as a Vehicle for Change" at DRS2018. 



    The Impact of Design Research on Organizational Culture Change in Industry: Lessons from DRS2018

    On opening day of DRS2018, we heard that design is a key component of Ireland’s innovation agenda and that 20% of Ireland’s exports are design-driven. In the opening keynote debate exploring the changing nature of design research and its practice within academia and industry, Professor Paul Rodgers stated that designers are "facilitators of change." Lorna Ross added, "design is like science, it is a tool for understanding as well as for acting." In the two sessions of our curated track "How organisations employ design for change," we heard no shortage of case studies documenting the adoption of design to create increased value and differentiation. These studies featured a range of organisations: from large, multi-national companies to small businesses.

    It is evident that design brings value to organizations. The notion of changing culture through design is widespread but not well understood. Research typically focuses on methods to create better goods and services, but little exists on how organizational culture has evolved and what tactics were used to create new realities for employees. We observed this gap in our own track; few papers directly presented concrete evidence to the theme of long-term sustainable organisational change. Additionally, the majority of papers were overwhelmingly from academic researchers, not practitioners in the field. There seems to be significant interest on this topic, but the lack of practitioner papers and attendees suggest limited design research impact on industry.     

    The lack of academic research impact on industry practice isn’t a new problem and is not limited to design research. This gap reflects the realities of the different practices and cultures - not a lack of trying. Many academic papers are made inaccessible through a pay wall subscription format. But, impact on practice is an increasingly important issue. We need critical and long-term study in this field of growing importance for design. It would also help inform the research impact agenda in the UK and elsewhere. So, how do we encourage more interactions and engagement between design researchers and practitioners? How do we ensure we focus on evidencing long-term sustainable change while also responding to the changing needs of industry?

    In industry, design research involves making as a key research approach. We advance our understanding by not only tracking and understanding an ongoing phenomenon, but in participating in it - by prototyping and creating new future experiences and evaluating their impact. Investigation, understanding and framing are all important moments in design, but it is not until we make new experiences that we can begin to measure and assess the improved future state. This focus on action can create more meaningful interactions between academic researchers and practitioners.

    How might we plan experiments to inform knowledge on the topic? Where can we study long-term change over time? What other formats might bring about more meaningful interactions? Would organisations host a ‘researcher-in-residence’? Could the DRS as a traditionally academic-focused society be opened up to design researchers practising in industry or act as the bridge? Do we need intermediary organisations like think tanks to ‘translate’ research with industry, similar to the policy sector?

    Current forms of research dissemination don't have the desired impact on industry. What can we as a community do? With the current discourse on decolonising design and the re-evaluation of our existing frames of reference relating to design knowledge, it seems an opportune time to ask how we are using this knowledge to better inform practice. Effective organizational change requires a diversity of experiences and skills. As a community, what experiences need to be shared and how do we advance the research and the practical application? We’re ready to start. Help us to build a community of organisational change for academics and industry! 



    Chris Hammond, IBM Design

    Joyce Yee, Northumbria University

     November 15, 2018
  • Derek Jones posted an article
    Jony Ive appointed RCA Chancellor see more

    Jony Ive, Chief Design Officer at Apple, has been appointed Chancellor of the Royal College of Art. Ive joins the RCA at a critical point in its evolution, expanding its research and knowledge exchange centres into the domains of computer and materials science, the impact of the digital economy, advanced manufacturing and intelligent mobility. As Chancellor for a five-year term, Ive will advise the College during a period of expansion.

    Announcement on RCA Website