Recap DESMA Meet-up London 2016

Since the DESMA Network was formed in 2012, we have sought to build a diverse community of researchers and practitioners to engage in relevant conversations about the future of design management. On Friday 16th of September we held our DESMA Meet-Up in London, hosted by the Institute of Design Innovation at Loughborough University London, a campus located on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, home of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012. This time we gathered a diverse group of people for a lively discussion on how to explore new formats for doing and communicating research at the intersections of design + management, academia + practice.


In order to get the conversation going, Christian Bason from the Danish Design Center (DDC) framed the discussion and presented some examples of how research is applied in their mission to advance the future of design in business and society. The DDC uses research in two fundamental ways: (1) to gather insights and generate hypotheses in the context of co-design of potential interventions, and (2) to come up with and conduct experiments, extracting learnings in each iteration. In this manner, the DDC advocates for the systematic use of design approaches in Danish businesses to generate innovation, growth, and new job creation.


Then, Jonathan Norman, from Taylor & Francis Group, the academic publishing division of Informa Group, presented the concept of communities of research practice and provided two examples of initiatives aimed at fostering participation and exchange of research resources, namely GPM First and The Routledge Performance Archive. These platforms combine formal and informal content and enable not just academic or practitioner to publisher interaction but also peer-to-peer interaction.


Next, Anneli Westerberg, from Fjord London, talked about Fjord’s approach to research. For them, research is a creative undertaking aimed at provoking questions and casting alternative visions, as opposed to traditional approaches aimed at validation of right and wrong answers. In her practice, Anneli approaches research as a form of making, and making as a form of research.


Kate Zechner, project manager for Design for Europe at the UK Design Council, presented her perspectives on research around this European initiative to support design-driven innovation across the continent. Design for Europe aims at sharing knowledge, experience and skills for businesses and the public sector to embrace design as an economic driver. In this context, research plays an important role in order to justify investment and policy-making efforts in this direction.


Jan Leyssens, a designer and entrepreneur, shared some of his insights as the producer of 21st Century Design, a research podcast in which they ask designers, tech-experts, writers, theorists, academics, and activists 5 questions on the future of design. Podcasting has been a useful medium to engage audiences interested in the impact of design in business and society.


After the presentations, and a well-deserved coffee break, we split into different groups to discuss and brainstorm around the different topics introduced earlier by our presenters. We had one DESMA researcher in each group facilitating the discussion. Interesting insights emerged from the different conversations. Early on, it emerged that design management research has had a rough time establishing itself. Pioneers in the field have championed the idea of design in the worlds of business and the public sector, but somehow it doesn’t “stick”. Although great improvements have been made in this direction, it would seem like the potential contribution of design is not properly recognized. Clearly, there was a shared sense that research should be more open and impact more people and organizations. Also, the use of different media plays an important role in reaching audiences and shaping messages. In this sense, there is clearly space for exploring research communication and engagement through alternative media like podcasting, which is still largely overlooked in academic settings, for instance. Ultimately, it comes down to community building.


After lunch, Kathryn Best, author and design management expert, moderated a two-part panel discussion where DESMA researchers shared more about their current roles in academia and industry. Overall, the event showed that an informal discussion about the ways of doing and communicating research at the intersection of design + management, academia + practice results in valuable insights. A group of researchers and practitioners from diverse backgrounds creates the perfect platform for reflection and knowledge sharing.


Stay tuned for future events!


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