A history of doctoral studies in Scandinavia


until the 1970’s: research education revolved around phd projects in which students derived their subject of research from their professional or pedagogical practice. the motivation was to conclude a professional career by reflecting one’s own interests. supervisors were most often non scholars, but highly esteemed practitioners with very little experience of research. the format was master-apprentice/ research was a marginal phenomenon while practice was dominant. 

beginning of the 1970’s: pressure was put for the development of a more academic profile in educational programs. sciences with more theoretically developed foundations, offered models that could influence arch programs. “normal research” was imitated. arch and urban design studies were considered as applied science and phd students of that time were asked to renounce their prof backgrounds as designers.arch research lacked awareness of its own intellectual identity in the dialogue between arch and various other disciplines. academics discussed the idea of developing a field-specific academic identity and epistemological basis more founded on the specific knowledge modes of arch. up until the 90’s the formats were two: the apprentice-master relationship and those who tried to extend curricula with new ambitions of introducing knowledge based on research

early 1990’s: the challenge was to legitimize the phd as ‘academic enough’, attempts were made to formulate frameworks for what practice-embedded issues were legitimate topics for research. critique on modernism brought influences from other fields outside arch

late 1990’s: the ‘from outside’ tendency was criticized. in 1992 a Nordic network of collaboration was established to determine national contexts, possible contents and methods of research in the fields of making knowledge. since then research education at several Scandinavian schools of architecture has been focusing on developing field-specific design scholarship

1996: TU Delft organized the conference entitled ‘Doctorates in Design and Architecture’. it was noted that both the academic and professional worlds were too conventional in their view of design and too limited by traditional preconceptions of the divisions between science and art

1997: Christopher Frayling led a group and issued a report entitled ‘Practice-Based Doctorates in the Creative and Performing Arts and Design‘. They concluded that “there is already a continuum from scientific research to creative practice”

2000: TU Delft organized the second international conference entitled ‘Research by Design’. it was a milestone as it elucidated the issues of scientific research, design and research by design. the profiles of architecture and design faculties began to be more nuanced than the traditional division between practitioners and theoreticians. The format still relied on the master-apprentice relation between teacher-practitioners and students, but those educators who were interested in research no longer appeared to represent an opposite pole in education, as their understanding of research came ever closer to practice amidst increasing attempts to develop field-specific scholarship

after 2000’s: research was directed to fields of research that were either SUPRA-DISCIPLINARY or SUB-DISCIPLINARY. It was through the now-canonical work “The New Production of Knowledge” by Michael Gibbons et al. that the notion of transdisciplinarity became widely spread. This transdisciplinary knowledge production also used methods and tools from practice, not least including design thinking and tools, and the authors called this mode of knowledge production Mode 2 in relation to the traditional, academic Mode 1. The founders of the Mode 1 / Mode 2 movement emphasize that in order to master the tasks of Mode 2, one has to get through an apprenticeship in Mode 1. the concept of transdisciplinarity also began to be discussed in the international field of architectural theory.

2003: Bologna-Berlin policies recognized doctoral studies as the third cycle in European higher education

2013: three conferences were held at Sint-Lucas School of Architecture. the latest in 2013 was entitled ‘Knowing (by) Designing‘. The proceedings of this series of conferences from 1996 to 2013 can be regarded as documenting the growing awareness among practitioners, teachers, and researchers that field-specific design scholarship should more self-consciously and more courageously seek its own, more field-specific mode.

2010’s: From dyadic to triadic identities and exchanges between education, practice, and research. research program under the name of Architecture in the Making aims to develop theories and methods from the perspective of, and in collaboration with, arch practice to strengthen arch research. Research within this environment includes doctoral projects, post-doc projects, and projects for senior researchers.



Halina Dunin-Woyseth, Fredrik Nilsson, 2014.  Design Education, Practice, and Research: On Building a Field of Inquiry. In STUDIES IN MATERIAL THINKING, Vol 11, Paper 01, ISSN: 1177-6234

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Frayling’s stereotypes

The popular images/stereotypes of:

  • the fine artist as an expressive lunatic when artists have worked as often in the cognitive idiom as the expressive, also some art counts as research while some art doesn’t
  • the designer as style warrior, superficial, trendy, obsessed with surfaces and signs
  • the scientist as a critical rationalist, engaged in fundamental research. in popular culture they are saints or sinners. Feyerabend and Collins have stressed that in science there may be conjectures but many of them are unconscious, they involve a significant measure of subjectivity
  • the practitioner as if action that follows reflection or reflection that follows action can be put in a box named practice

when doing science is much more like doing design. David Gooding stressed the links between experimental scientists and creative artists.



Christofer Frayling, 1993. Research in Art and Design. In Royal College of Art Research Papers, Vol 1, No 1, 1993/4


research & Research definitions [OED]


research: the act of searching, closely or carefully, for or after a specified thing or person (in detective stories in 1577, in 1794, and in Bronte’s 1847-search for an overnight accommodation) also means investigation, inquiry into things, art practice, personal quests and clues of evidence which a detective must decode. [OED]

Research: in partnership with the word development, work directed towards innovation, introduction and improvement or products and processes. all listed usages are from chemistry, architecture, physics, heavy industry and the social sciences. It is professional practice.

design as research as in applied research where the resulting knowledge is used for a particular application/ action research where the action is calculated to generate and validate new knowledge and understanding/ fundamental research



Christofer Frayling, 1993. Research in Art and Design. In Royal College of Art Research Papers, Vol 1, No 1, 1993/4

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Research by Design by R. Roggema


(Herbert Read)

  • Research into or about design: it is the most straightforward research practice in art, design and architecture. This is historical, social, technical, material research, with countless models from which it derives its rules and procedures, similar to science of design/ HOW CAN I TELL THAT I THINK TILL I SEE WHAT I SAY? 
  • Research through or by design: material-based research, development work and action research: practical experiments, step-by-step diaries describing a resulting report that aims to contextualize it, report and diary communicate the result which is what separates research from gathering the referenced materials.. similar to design science. materials research-development work-action research (Frayling)/ HOW CAN I TELL WHAT I THINK TILL I SEE WHAT I MAKE AND DO?
  • Research for design: development work whose end product is an artifact, the thinking is embodied in the artifact, the goal is not primarily communicable knowledge, the gathering of reference materials rather than research proper, similar to scientific design/ HOW CAN I TELL WHAT I AM TILL I SEE WHAT I MAKE AND DO? 

Research by Design is a type of academic investigation through which design is explored as a method of inquiry, by the development of a project and also exploring the different materials by which a design is carried out-sketches, mapping, among others(…) it is a strategy used to describe the various ways in which design and research are interconnected when new knowledge is produced about the world through the act of designing (Barbosa et al., 2014)

Research by Design five models: artistic/intuitive/ adaptive/ analytical and systematic.

  • Pre-design research phase: characterized by understanding, prior to design, aims to bring a basic perception, connecting starts with end-users, stakeholders and experts, potential answers and future design directions, verification of whether the problematic situation is indeed a wicked problem that requires a design inquiry approach
  • Design Phase: interactive exchange with agents, the designer integrates implementation into the nature of inquiry, future potentials are projected, based on programmatic demands a suite of proposals are developed and rationalized (…) in the Design Studio students and tutors may engage in a research partnership of mutual problem investigation (…) Design is both method and outcome
  • Post-Design Phase: final synthesis of the work, coherently presented, new knowledge becomes available for a wider audience through a strategic and conscious communication, interactive process ends here, research and design are decoupled.

New definition:

Research by design is a method, which uses design to research spatial solutions for a certain area, accommodating a design process, consisting of a pre-design phase, a design phase and a post-design phase, herewith providing a philosophical and normative basis for the design process, allowing to investigate the qualities and problems of a location and test its (spatial) potentials, meanwhile creating the freedom to move with the proposals in uncharted territory, and producing new insights and knowledge interesting and useful for a wide audience.



  • Rob Roggema, 2016. Research by Design: Proposition for a Methodological Approach. In Urban Sci. 2017, 1, 2; doi:10.3390/urbansci1010002
  • Christofer Frayling, 1993. Research in Art and Design. In Royal College of Art Research Papers, Vol 1, No 1, 1993/4
  • DeQueiroz Barbosa E.R., DeMeulder, B., Gerrits, Y., 2014. Design Studio as a Process of Inquiry: The case of Studio Sao Paulo. In AE… Revista Lusófona de Arquitectura e Educação Architecture & Education Journal 241, Theme I, No. 11, pp. 241-254

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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 and Science_Cross


  • 1920’s search for scientific design products: Van Doesburg attested that modernity was hostile to subjective speculation
  • 1960’s concern for a scientific design process: the 1962 conference on design methods in London marked the launch of design methodology as a field of inquiry (…) the movement sought to base the design process on objectivity and rationality (…) Fuller called for a design science revolution, Simon plead for a science of design
  • The new ‘Design Methods Movement’ developed through a series of conferences in the 1960s and 70s. The first design methods or methodology books also appeared in this period – Hall (1962), Asimow (1962), Alexander (1964), Archer (1965), Jones (1970), Broadbent (1973) – and the first creativity books – Gordon (1961), Osborn (1963).
  • 1970’s marked a backlash against design methodology (…) Alexander and Jones renounced the machine language, the attempt to ‘fix’ the world in a logical framework (…) there had also been a lack of success in the application of design methods to everyday design practice (…) design and planning problems were characterized as ‘wicked’ instead of ‘tame’.
  • 1973, Rittel saved Design Methodology by his proposal of Generations of Methods. He suggested that what had been developed in the 60’s was only the first generation of methods (systematic, rational) and that a second one was beginning to emerge (recognition of appropriate solution types and an argumentative participatory process in which designers are partners with the problem-owners -clients-).
  • 1980’s-1990’s emergence of new journals and books of design research, theory and methodology [Hubka (1982), Pahl and Beitz (1984), French (1985), Cross
    (1989), Pugh (1991)] (…) and through a series of international conferences- aka ICED, ASME and VDI (…) 1980’s Design:Science: Method Conference signaled the time to move beyond the simplistic comparisons and distinctions between design and science (…) the epistemology of design had little to gain for the disarray of the epistemology of science (…) AI developments
  • 2000’s signals perhaps the reemergence of design science concerns

  • Scientific Design: it refers to modern industrialized design (…) it was based on the assumption that that modern industrial design had become too complex for intuitive methods (…) through the reliance of modern design upon scientific knowledge, design made science visible utilizing a mix of bioth intuitive andnon-intuitive design methods
  • Design Science: term coined by B. Fuller or Gregory in 1965 (…) recognize laws of design, develop rules (…) logically connected knowledge in the area of design (…) DS to address the problem of determining and categorizing all regular phenomena (…) DS derives from the applied knowledge of the natural sciences appropriate information (…) an explicitly organized, rational and wholly systematic approach to design
  • Science of Design: study of designing may be a scientific activity (Grant) (…) a federation of subdisciplines having design as the subject of their cognitive interests (Gasparski and Strzalecki) (…) it is the study of design; its principles, practices and procedures (…) it is the body of work that attempts to improve our understanding of design through scientific methods of interpretation.
  • Design as a Discipline: an epistemology of practice implicit in the artistic, intuitive processes which some practitioners bring to situations of uncertainty, instability and value conflict (Schon) (…) study of design as an interdisciplinary study accessible to all those involved in the creative activity of making the artificial world (simon) (…) design studied on its own terms, within its own rigorous culture



Nigel Cross, 2001. Designerly ways of knowing: design discipline versus design science. In Design Issues 17(3), pp.49-55

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

Image available here



Competence in design praxis appears not to be measured by the quantity of knowledge gained, but by knowing where to find it, which specific kind of knowledge to apply in a particular situation, and how to use it when needed. It is the development of thinking skills that is critical in design education (…) there is more in knowing how to design than just knowing about designs. Meta-knowledge is the knowledge of how to organize what one knows (…) knowledge acquisition is based upon the organization and development of conceptual structures (…) in order to model design thinking processes, the conceptual mapping of design ideas can be constructed into larger structures, the think-maps.


Think maps

  • they are founded on constructivism (active learner/learning by doing) and mapping (organizing and representing knowledge)
  • they propose that by constructing a map that reflects one’s thinking in a domain, we make knowledge learned explicit. they attempt to convey knowledge directly.
  • they are a cognitive teaching framework based upon the student’s ability to organize and formulate knowledge structures in design thinking.

A concept map is a representation of knowledge structures through a graphlike
structure of nodes and links (…) a map is achieved when a meaningful structure has been created (…) an important distinction is frequently made between in-domain linkages in the map and cross-domain linkages (…) Think-Maps is a form of conceptual mapping for design


Rivka Oxman, 2004. Think-maps: teaching design thinking in design education. In Design Studies 25, pp. 63–91, doi:10.1016/S0142-694X(03)00033-4

Images available here

Knowledge claims


  • Claims of fact: those that can be verified or falsified, proven true or false
  • Claims of value: value judgments
  • Claims of policy: what should be done instead of what is being done
  • Claims of concept: those that are about the meaning of things
  • Claims of interpretation: how are some data understood

The authors claim that natural and social science publications tend to make singular knowledge claims of similar kinds whereas design publications often contain multiple knowledge claims of different kinds.

Multiple knowledge claims of different kinds within individual journal publications might be the consequence of a young, multidisciplinary field. Another explanation might be that scholars publishing in Design Studies tend to embrace the values of design and science, which may account for those publications making claims of fact and claims of policy. Finally, a third explanation might be that scholars publishing in Design Studies are writing for multiple audiences with diverse needs. (bold is mine)



Jordan Beck, Erik Stolterman, 2016. Examining the Types of Knowledge Claims Made in Design Research. In she ji, Tongji University and Tongji University Press.

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Kester Rattenbury on the RMIT model


Leon van Schaik became head of Architecture of RMIT in 1986 (…) he found a city with a group of excellent architects, well-respected by their peers, with a strong body of work but little sense as to how to articulate what was particular about it – and with almost no international recognition (…) Van Schaik invited them to ‘surface the evidence about their already established mastery’: to find, articulate, test and improve the design propositions they were making by actually designing. The remarkable local architectural scene, in which van Schaik became active on many fronts, is thus partly an academic outcome of a brilliant ongoing academic design research endeavor(…) The RMIT model is an astonishing success. Around 15 years ago, van Schaik developed the Masters course into a PhD by Practice: a program which now has 150 students enrolled between academic hubs in Australia, South-East Asia and Europe – one of the biggest architecture PhD programs anywhere (…) Students on this program have to be established designers, with a proven track record and a body of recognized work within which they uncover and develop a doctoral thesis. They must articulate their particular way of working and identify their referents – the people, buildings and environmental experiences they are drawing on – to establish their equivalent of a methodology and literature search. They have to extract and analyse their own tactics – the way they draw things, work with clients, interact, whatever they do to generate a design: to identify the working thesis, if you like, in their work. (bold-italics are mine)



Kester Rattenbury, 2015. Revealing Secrets. In the Architectural Review ‘The education Issue’. Full article available here

More on RMIT’s program in Europe here

From design to cybernetics


Scientific Research is a restricted form of design. Design is thus not necessarily scientific.

Design: is central to the act of design is circularity (…) it is a conversation often involving a paper and a pencil with an other; ourselves or someone else (…) a distinguished element of design is novelty (…) scientific research is a design activity (..) we design our experiences and objects by finding commonalities (simplification) we design how we assemble them into patterns (…) looking at these patterns we make further patterns, thus in doing science, we learn (…) design is the object of study and as a means we carry out this study (…) scientific  research should be judged by design criteria, not the other way around (…) rigorous, honesty, clarification, testing and the relative strength of argument over assertion are essential qualities of design

The role of the observer as participant: making knowledge, abstracting it to theory, theorising about theory, constructing the way we obtain this knowledge, all is done by the actor (…) at every step it is the actor designing (…) the designer is central to science

The nature of these circular systems are examined in cybernetics. According to Norbert Wiener,  cybernetics is the scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine, whereas currently it is used as in ‘control of any system using technology’. In Glanville’s terms:

cybernetics has elucidated conversation, creativity and the invention of the new; multiple points and their implications for their objects of attention; self-generation and ‘the emergence’ of stability; post-rationalization; representation and experience; constructivism; and distinction drawing and the theory of boundaries



Ranulph Glanville, Researching Design and Designing Research. In Design Issues Vol. 15, No. 2, Design Research (Summer, 1999), pp. 80-91, available here

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