The Design Research Center (DRC) is an organized research unit that operates as an extension of the University of North Texas (UNT) College of Visual Arts and Design (CVAD). Located in the heart of the downtown Dallas, Texas business district, it functions as a laboratory space that supports the endeavors of UNT faculty, staff and students engaged in design research, and as a classroom space that supports the core credit courses that comprise the curriculums of UNT CVAD’s MA and MFA programs in Design with Concentrations in Innovation Studies.
While the kinds of thinking that inform how design research is understood, contextualized, practiced, documented and reported do share some fundamental similarities with the kinds of thinking that inform these aspects of research in other disciplines, design research is also unique in several ways. The research endeavors undertaken by the DRC and its contingent of faculty, staff and students are guided by the same rigorous criticality of processes and methods, the same focus on the analysis of intentionality and the same diligent attention to clarity that are hallmarks of research endeavors undertaken in the sciences.
As practiced at the DRC, design research involves collaborations and partnerships between people who occupy and traverse many different worlds. The problems we confront tend to require the expertise of individuals and groups who possess knowledge derived from their experiences in:
- small, mid-sized and large businesses
- community groups
- non-governmental organizations
- governmental organizations
- schools and education centers
- healthcare associations
- not-for-profit entities
- university-based researchers/scholars from a wide variety of disciplines
What makes design research unique is that it allows for outcomes that have NOT been pre-conceived before a given research plan has been initiated. Satisfying a very finitely specified, pre-ordained research objective does NOT tend to allow for results that are truly inventive, creative or innovative, nor does it tend to yield results that have the potential to positively transform human activity. The diverse array of approaches to research that are practiced, formulated and taught in the DRC are underpinned by the idea that research can catalyze situations, instigate and manage the creation of new, better things and environments and deliver new knowledge (or increase our ability to understand and utilize extant knowledge).
Design research is often informed by iteratively guided, heuristically informed approaches; it utilizes inductive and abductive reasoning to generate and test its hypotheses; its intentionality is often driven by improving how humans work and live and interact in given scenarios and situations.
The DRC also exists to facilitate basic, elemental discussions about what design research IS, as well as how it can be better practiced and more effectively understood. It is a place that welcomes the application and testing of a plurality of approaches and conceptions of research from a variety of viewpoints, guided by a diverse amalgam of philosophies. It is a place where disciplinary boundaries rub together, overlap and revamp each other.