Chapter Four: Design Research

Part Two – Methodology and Methods |  Chapter Four – Design Research…….

At its best, design is an integrative discipline, an applied trans-disciplinary field that bridges theory and action in pursuit of practical outcomes. Design is a problem-solving profession concerned with the ‘creation, realization and materialization’ of possible futures (Grand & Wiedmer 2010:3). Design is also a changing field of practice encompassing a wide spectrum of activity. A recent attempt to categorize design practice, where designers were asked to ‘identify their fields and disciplines’, elicited a list of over 500 fields of professional practice and scholarly research (Love 2009: unpaginated). Confusingly, the word ‘design’ is used in four ways: ‘as a field or a discipline; as a profession; as an activity; and as an artefact’ (Turnbull Hocking 2009:3). Pioneers have attempted to widen the scope of design problems over recent decades such that design processes and design thinking address social and environmental problems. These attempts often involve a shift from designing artefacts, graphics and buildings to designing processes, systems and future sustainable ways of living. This movement has become more pronounced as the understanding that the material expansion of the economic system is fundamentally unsustainable (Meadows 1972;Meadows and Randers 2004; IPPC 2007; Daly 2008; Simms et al. 2010,;Jackson 2009) and radically new models of development must be created for sustainable ways of living to become possible. Design is primed to function as a facilitator of social change once it transcends the systemic priorities of the market and current development frameworks, which remain structurally unsustainable.

Figures 4.3 – System diagram: Sustainability in Higher Education. Source: J.Boehnert

Chapter Four is now published here.


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