Design research topography

The first issue of Design Research Quarterly features the above map that represents the "topography of design research" (made by Liz Sanders).

She basically mapped the different approaches to design research based on two dimensions:

  • Their impetus: tools and methods coming from design practice versus those coming from the research perspective. To date, as she points out, most of the methods seem to be coming from the research field.
  • The mindset of those who practice and teach design research: the expert versus the participatory mindset. Which actually corresponds to the level of engagement designers have with people (informants, users, etc.)

The visualization of the different methods and approaches allows to represent different clusters of activity (human factors/ergonomics, applied ethnography, usability testing). You can also read an update of this article in the last issue of ACM interactions.

Why do I blog this? an interesting mapping to be used in my course about UX research. Coming from the user-centered design cluster (ergonomics mostly but now doing applied ethnography), it took me a lot of time to get the global picture represented on this representation. It also took me some time to understand the underlying issues and struggles between the different perspectives as most of them are grounded in different vision of what humans beings are and why they do what they do.