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Design researchers need equality and support, argues study

Research councils must ensure that design research is treated on a par with other disciplines, a study commissioned by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Design Council.

It says design researchers require support to answer funding calls and to work in multi-disciplinary teams.

The study is the first step in a collaboration between the research councils and the Design Council to analyse challenges and opportunities facing the design research community.

“What this collaboration can do is to help that community build the partnerships that will play a central role in our vital creative economy,” said Emma Wakelin, associate director at the AHRC.

Other conclusions include a halt to the funding of further research into measuring the value of design to the economy, participating instead in ongoing international initiatives; further research to demonstrate the impact on people of improved environmental/urban design; and a call for the AHRC and Design Council to seize the “opportunity to do something inspiring”.

The report also recommends studying service design, the area most cited by stakeholders as in need of review. In response, the AHRC and the Design Council have announced that the next stage in their project will be to focus on service design. This phase adds the ESRC as a third partner and will conclude in November, after which the project will hold a networking session for research academics to meet designers.

“We’re delighted to be teaming up with two of the UK’s Research Councils (AHRC and ESRC) to scope out an area, service design, where we believe research can make a real difference,” said Mat Hunter, chief design officer at the Design Council.

“We have long argued that design can really add value, and we’re confident that this research will highlight the benefits that engagement with design has for UK business and the resulting opportunities to thrive,” he added.