“Design is the process by which we devise courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones.” This definition by Herbert Simon has embraced the goal of most designer, that design is to solve problems, to create new and useful things or to improve existing situations. To achieve desired result, research and theory are definitely taking an important role in the design process.
As a designer, we often design for clients or other companies. In this case, the designer can no longer design according to his/her own likes, but to design from the client's perspective. Designing from a third-person perspective is not an easy task, and design failures are nevertheless common. Many designers fail due to the lack of method or a failure to understand the design process or the client's needs. This is the importance of research and theory. They provides the designer a broad understanding of the general principles and gives them background knowledge that can be useful during design process.
The relationship between theory and research are closely connected to one another. Theory development relies on research and research relies on theory. Stated explicitly, the purpose for research is the search for theory. While researching on a design problem, we are constantly asking questions, and our design knowledge grows through the search for design solutions. Then, theory allows us to frame and organize our observations and helps us to develop generalizable answers that can be put to use to create better design solutions. As such, research and theory can contributes to the design process at different stages. At the early stage, research is a way of surfacing opportunities and generating ideas. At later stages, theory helps us to refine and validates these ideas as they become concepts and prototypes.
Research and research findings can also be integrated into the design process in ways that enhance creativity. No design project begins with creativity. Instead, it begins with client and context-specific discovery, and lots of research to help you understand the fundamental nature of the challenges at hand. While research has provided the designer a good knowledge and understanding about the design situations and needs, designers can solve problems for clients using appropriate design solutions. Only then, designers that are confident enough for the task will look for alternative solutions to create creative intervention that can make a difference.
Creativity often requires designers to think and see things differently than most in order to explores the possibilities that can make a difference. However, it is not just being different. A triangular sauce pan nor a crocked pen is not a creative intervention. They are just merely different in the outlook, and even worse, these different outlooks have interrupted the fundamental functions of the products, which made them a bad design. Creative design aimed to make things easier and more comfortable for users, and very often the value of simplicity is good to a greater extend than complexity. Besides having an aesthetic outlook, it should also creates an aesthetic experience to the user when interacting with it. A designer that can solve a design problem thoroughly is a good designer, but a designer that solve the problem with creative solutions is a great designer.
As a designer's job is to move from thought to action, solving design problems of all kind in order to improve existing situations, having clear goals and constraints ultimately can make a design problem more interesting and leads to better, more elegant solutions. To achieve this, research, theory and creativity is fairly important to the world of design.
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