The AHRC Design Research for Change (DR4C) Showcase at the London Design Fair 2019 included 61 design-led research projects that spanned a range of design disciplines, ways of working, geographical spread across the UK, methodological and conceptual boundaries.
The 61 research projects, many of which were funded by UKRI through research grants, fellowships and the AHRC Design Centres for Doctoral Training, illustrate wide-ranging social, cultural, and economic impact. They highlight the key roles that UK-based design researchers and practitioners play in some of the most complex and challenging issues we face both in the UK and globally and the positive outcomes that are being designed and developed.
A feature of the contemporary design research landscape is that it is constantly evolving; design researchers, collaborators, and project partner organisations respond to address significant and complex social, environmental, cultural, economic, and other challenges. Similarly, the boundaries of conventional design disciplines are evolving from design subjects focused on various forms of the material world – such as products, interiors, fashion, and graphics – towards other less tangible domains, such as service, interaction, policy and transformation design. Alongside an increase of design’s depth in supporting innovation and industrial competitiveness, design research is also widening its breadth as it contributes new knowledge in a range of fields such as social innovation, policy design, and health and social care illustrating design’s important roles in shaping our thinking on cities and our future urban strategies and future health and healthcare provision.
We are also witnessing changes in the design research process, which used to be driven by individual designers or teams of designers and is now increasingly led by interdisciplinary teams that also includes end-users and other stakeholders involved in co-design processes and practices. The growth of design research globally is evidenced by the upsurge of international design conferences, organised by the likes of the International Association of Societies of Design Research (IASDR), the Design Research Society (DRS), and the European Design Academy (EAD). Design features in the funded portfolios of every member of UKRI, and AHRC is proud to have supported Design research as a Priority Area for the best part of a decade.