The principal theoretical position taken by the research consortium is the notion of design space exploration (Woodbury & Burrow 2006), and the benefits that designers, engineers and artists may gain from computational support for seeking out designs or creative objects within any problem space. A design space is a network that allows for stages of a design object to be tracked through nodes and paths that account for constraints, optimizations or creative decisions. With the advent of digital modeling and virtual environments, the design space has become a powerful and searchable domain that can be visualized and described mathematically. Furthermore, all stages of a design can now be stored as spatial information and thus analyzed, re-used, or optimized according to varying project needs. The theory of design space exploration thus accounts not only for new types of design action supported by digital tools and innovative interfaces, but also the creation of strategies for the amplification of designer action. These amplification measures may include the development of computational structures such as generative or genetic algorithms, or Bayesian networks for inference or techniques.
We will complement such basic research in design space exploration with a new critical reflective model of creative practice in art and design for German academia that is based on a synthesis of concepts from Frayling (1993), Findeli (2004) and Jonas (2006). Firstly, we define applied research through the framework of research through design (Frayling 1993). This framework places an emphasis on the peer-reviewed communication and dissemination of design research methods, the development of new technologies or techniques, or the analysis of the creative process. Secondly, we expect artistic practice to be scientifically rigorous, relevant to the current needs of contemporary society, an extension or improvement of current practice(s), and therefore of significance to design education and the end-user experience (Findeli 2004).
Thirdly, utilizing a model of design knowing (Jonas 2006), SHAPING SPACE will develop methodologies and modes of inquiry that are based on the concepts of analysis, projection and synthesis. The definition of analysis within our critical reflective model follows Jonas’s, as the identification of current practices, states or approaches, or “the truth.” The notion of projection is the formulation of “an ideal” through design reasoning, data analysis, deduction, implication, or spatial augmentation. Synthesis is the technical, technological and practical application of digital tools for creating “the real,” or the refined art or design object. The amalgamation of approaches and theoretical framing of design that represents our critical reflective model will advance the state of the art by challenging current practices within the German academic context. It will also enable a greater research impact and cultural relevance through flow-on effects that will be felt beyond the academy.
Findeli, A. “La recherche-projet: une méthode pour la recherche en design.” Paper presented at the Symposium de recherche sur le design. HGK de Bâle, Switzerland, 2004.
Frayling, C. “Research in art and design.” Royal College of Art Research Papers 1, no.1 (Winter, 1993): 1-5.
Jonas, W. “Research through DESIGN through research - a problem statement and a conceptual sketch.” Paper presented at the Design Research Society International Conference. Lisbon, Portugal, 2006.
Woodbury, R. F. and A. Burrow. “Whither Design Space?” Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design, Analysis and Manufacturing - Special Issue: Design Spaces: The Explicit Representation of Spaces of Alternatives 20, no. 2 (2006): 63-82.