10 characteristics of good design research


  1. Disruptive: viewing the world in alternative futures/new perspectives
  2. Useful: it must serve a defined purpose
  3. Messy: good design makes you think and this is inherently messy/ it requires untangling using approaches that do not oversimplify
  4. Political: it must clarify its stance on the world’s significant challenges
  5. Impactful: it must create an affect on, a change or a benefit
  6. Critical: it must challenge perspectives
  7. Enduring: it should provide us with a profound revolution in viewing the world not just hot topics
  8. Does not need qualification: the importance of design research lies in its rigor, relevance, quality and impact not in its particular types of design
  9. Thoughtful: it should address difficult issues
  10. Clear: it must be self-explanatory



Paul Rodgers, Joyce S.R. Yee, 2016. Design Research is Alive and Kicking… In Proceedings of DRS 2016: Design + Research + Society Future–Focused Thinking, (eds Peter Lloyd and Erik Bohemia), Published by the Design Research Society, pp.

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About the image:

The design research map is defined and described by two intersecting dimensions. One is defined by approach and the other is defined by mind-set. Approaches to design research have come from a research-led perspective (shown at the bottom of the map) and from a design-led perspective (shown at the top of the map). The research-led perspective has the longest history and has been driven by applied psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists and engineers. The design-led perspective, on the other hand, has come into view more recently.

There are two opposing mindsets evident in the practice of design research today. The left side of the map describes a culture characterized by an expert mind-set. Design researchers here are involved with designing FOR people. These design researchers consider themselves to be the experts and they see and refer to people as “subjects”, users”, “consumers”, etc. The right side of the map describes a culture characterized by a participatory mind-set. Design researchers on this side design WITH people. They see the people as the true experts in domains of experience such as living, learning, working, etc. Design researchers who have a participatory mind-set value people as co-creators in the design process. It is difficult for many people to move from the left to the right side of the map (or vice versa) as this shift entails a significant cultural change. (Richard Anderson, 2011)

1962- Conference on Design Methods


The event determined the parameters of a collective agenda/ it enabled discussions that would catalyze future developments in design methods work. It launched design methodology as a filed of inquiry.

The origins of design research as a discrete area denoting a more systematic and rational
approach to design that emphasizes teamwork predates the DRS (design research society); its emergence in Britain and North America is closely related to the professionalization of design practice/ the Design Research community in Britain were:

  • Herbert Read: critic and design historian, need for research within the design process
  • Marcus Brumwell: advertising executive, Design Research Unit (DRU), emerged in 1943, bringing ‘design’ and ‘research’ into an enduring relationship
  • Milner Gray: The Design Profession 1946
  • John Gloag: director of an advertising agency, discussed the need for Design Research Committees to direct design teams
  • Misha Black: DRU’s Director seized the opportunity to disseminate design thinking to a new generation of designers becoming the RCA’s first Professor of Industrial Design Engineering in 1959
  • Dorothy Goslett: Professional Practice for Designers



Dr Harriet Atkinson, Dr Maya Rae Oppenheimer, 2016. Design Research-History, theory, practice: histories for future-focused thinking. In Proceedings of DRS 2016: Design + Research + Society Future–Focused Thinking, (eds Peter Lloyd and Erik Bohemia), Published by the Design Research Society, pp. 2585-2592

Nigel Cross, 1993. A history of Design Methodology. In Design Methodology and Relationships with Science, pp. 15-27, Kluwer Academic Publishers

Additional resources:

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Design studio education in the online paradigm


This is my paper from Athens EDUCON2017. It presents the reader with an understanding of the affinities between the traditional design studio education and connectivism. It also offers insight on the synergy of in-class and online sessions through the presentation of a hybrid urban design studio undergraduate course that ran in NTUA during 2016-2017 winter semester.

Full paper available here

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2017 EDUCON Conference, Athens


It was rather crowded in the Plato room where I was presenting today, yet only one more architect was present. This is indicative of how involved architectural schools are with online education. Nevertheless, the audience was great and I am glad I was there to share our work. (More on this paper will be published shortly).

Another interesting aspect for me was realizing that most people present were discussing centralized systems of content sharing, monitoring and control. Seems to me the condition of the current educational online practices in engineering education is much more influenced by the core principles of xMOOCs and the intensification of student performance rather than simply enjoying the benefits of having a much larger playground to experiment with in terms of teaching and learning.

I think what I mean is that people were too tight when discussing their projects. They were also very eager to prove that technology has helped them significantly in increasing student interest. Somewhere between colored charts and impressive diagrams I missed their stand and their passion. I don’t think this should be a competition of who does it better or more efficiently. I’d rather see people trying things out and struggling with new ideas -even failing at times- rather than finished products.

Overall, I am glad Athens has hosted such an event, I hope there will be more conferences like that to follow and with substantially more architects present!

*In the photo, Demetrios G. Sampson from Curtin University in Perth Australia, is showing how learning analytics can be retrieved through moodle plug ins. 

Eden 16, last day


Well, last day was full of surprises! A great speed dating session brought to our attention matters of creativity in regard to sustainability and economic efficiency while designing an online course (Keith Hampson) and the role of the educator in the formation of today’s society (Alan Bruce) as the refugee crisis reaches an unprecedented reality. Seamus O Tuama, head of adult learning at the University College Cork in Ireland (and a great companion throughout the Conference) spoke of Cork and how it has embraced the initiative to become a life long learning community. Events such as the life long learning Festival every March along with free access to University lectures and group sessions promote the idea of inter community practices that in turn promote collaboration and open up to great potential in terms of economic growth. Once again, it is not about setting the rules, what it is about is nurturing a milieu where good ideas can come into being.

Last and not least, I would like to thank the two ladies with whom I collaborated at the last workshop organized by OU and Tom Olney, Katherine (Canada) and Delphine (Belgium) on a quest to identify who the online learners really are. I am always impressed by the persistence of the English people to control the unexpected. I am however for personalized learning, meaning that whatever the analytics tell me, customizing a course deprives the students of their right to design it for themselves, so, even if I get to know who the learners are, I´d rather ignore it and let them be.

I have some time left to enjoy this city that has changed so much since my last visit in the late 80’s. I will return on issues raised by the discussions in the conference with more details in the future. #eden16

(Image is mine and is taken from the museum of applied arts)


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2016 Eden Conference, Day III


Third day of the conference and Yves Punie highlighted the need for a common understanding in regard to organizing MOOCs as the lack of transparency and common technology creates issues for participants. Melissa Highton described the University of Edinburgh mission to promote open licensing emphasizing the distinction of ‘free’ use and ‘free to do what we choose’ use. Danny Arati talked about the 9 instructional events by Gagne and his ‘Domains of Learning’ and how modern technology has revolutionized our transactions and learning. He also used Bate’s gardening metaphor in regard to how we should use this technology in education. Finally, Susan Aldridge from Drexel University described the dominant trends of her school as in the use of holograms and augmented reality to enhance learning. Special mention for the AURASMA application, free tool for augmented reality. #eden16

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2016 Eden Conference, Day II, part II


Summarizing second day at Eden16: Interesting workshop at session B4 with Francesc Santanach from UOC, Tom Coppeto of Boston College and Jeff Merriman of MIT discussing applications that integrate the architecture of e-learning as in countable units. API must remain stable in order for everything else to be able to change. Workshop was based on trying to figure out all possible processes needed for both students and teachers, in order to make the imprint of a possible app for a flipped classroom.
C2 Session (ours) was great too! Thank you all for being there and for your kind words! Thank you Mr Xanthopoulos for your support!


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2016 Eden Conference, Day II


Second day for the Eden Conference here in Budapest. Tony Bates was the first keynote speaker (you might have noticed that a lot of my recent posts come from his new book ‘Teaching in a Digital Age’). Bates argued on how important content, skills and culture are in learning and how teaching is about creating learning environments that favor students to be responsible learners (in his words: teaching as gardening, you pick the spot, you pour the water but the plant will grow alone) Point is, Bates argues, that teachers have to come up with their own set of principles and make their own analogies about how they view the process of teaching.
Back to the cloud: teachers as nodes to an ongoing flow of information between members of a learning community facilitating the making of thinking threads. #eden16

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Individual and Social Learning


Image: By Antonello da Messina – gallerix.ru, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=147583

In my 2014 paper for the DRHA 2014 Conference in Greenwich, I had argued on the importance of self directed learning and the personal responsibility of the individual toward his/her learning goals. I’ve always considered online learning as directly connected to a model of an emancipated learner in the likings of Joseph Jacoto’s students as presented in Jacques Ranciere’s “The Ignorant Schoolmaster”. Otherwise, how could someone get involved in a learning process unless he/she is determined to know more on a particular subject of interest?

On the other hand lays the social character of the educational milieu. In architecture schools group work is a prerequisite for most studios and students are required to work in groups of two or three in most design projects. This is a regular practice for arch students even for their final thesis projects. Working in groups and peer to peer exchange of views and insights is nowadays a constant prerequisite in online formats where participants are often encouraged to share their work with others but to also respond to user comments, critique the work of their peers and offer their advice. Sometimes, as in the Leuphana format, they are also requested to work in groups of fine or more even though miles apart.

In this context the learner assumes both the responsibility of his/her own progress but also an accountability for his/her overall social performance in this educational landscape -may that be in-class or online-. On one hand, the task is to search and discover -as a means of satisfying one’s own curiosity- and on the other, to share (and share respectfully) with others these individual threads of thought. Whatever the outcome of the process may be, course design needs to consider both of these aspects; treat the individual participator and also treat individuals as members of the learning society in which they claim their presence.

Read the full paper here


Rancière, J. (1991). The ignorant schoolmaster: Five lessons in intellectual emancipation. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press.

Leuphana’s Digital School official site:
https://negotiations.digital.leuphana.com/course/pages/info (last access: 03/07/2014)
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