Research writers: think beyond the word processor

The editor’s Comment (DW 17 June) asking for more real world research in contrast to dust-gathering research begs a question: Why does so much good research material gather dust on shelves, which researchers complain about too?

The editor’s Comment (DW 17 June) asking for more real world research in contrast to dust-gathering research begs a question: Why does so much good research material gather dust on shelves, which researchers complain about too?

At a recent celebration of design research I organised with the Royal College of Art and the Design Research Society, this issue was addressed briefly. It is largely about research dissemination methods.

Professor Jeremy Myerson of the RCA’s Helen Hamlyn Research Centre said at a prior event, ‘It is no use complaining that practitioners don’t read research papers, they want information in the form they want it.’

Designers use exhibitions as trade shows, design educators use them as degree shows, so the exhibition form is the key to disseminating design research.

But the traditional, product-on-a-plinth show isn’t good enough for research. The research-exhibition I advocate is more comprehensive. It may not be popular with traditionalists (exhibitors and research paper-writers) as the traditional exhibitor has to be more thorough, and the paper-writer needs media skills beyond a word processor, especially for creating a multimedia virtual exhibition record of the research.

The research-exhibition could also draw the factions in art and design research more closely together, and, vitally, make good research work gathering dust on shelves useful to practicing designers (and artists).

Alec Robertson

Principal lecturer

Department of Imaging and Communication Design

De Montfort University

Leicester LE1 9BH

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