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Do We Need an AIGA Design Research Journal? : Discussions from the Pivot Conference

November 14, 2011 / By AIGA EDUCATOR

The AIGA Design Research Journal Roundtable session at the recent Pivot conference, led by Ruki Ravikuman and Holly Willis, included six participants from diverse institutions, all of whom offered terrific feedback on the main questions posed in the discussion. The lunch started with an overview of the work completed so far, highlighting the genesis of the set of questions as they emerged from the New Contexts/New Practices conference in 2010. The participants then offered the following points:

Is a Journal Needed?
• One participant noted that she is “under fire because I’m not out there,” by which she means that she is not publishing her work in prominent publications. She said that having a journal that was well-known in the field would be extremely helpful for her, and others, in situations related to tenure and promotion.

• Another participant said that, as a graduate student, she had a very hard time “wrapping my head around design research, and what it means.” She said a journal would be very useful in defining design research in clear, shared terms.

• Yet another participant noted that design can sometimes seem quite siloed, and recommended taking seriously the charge for greater interdisciplinary work and connectivity through a journal.

• Participants noted that the U.S. is well behind European and Asian counterparts in having venues for new kinds of research, including design research and design as it connects with other fields, such as science and the humanities.

With regard to form, nearly everyone agreed that the journal would need to be visually engaging and interesting.

• “Design challenges the idea that an argument has to be text; it can be visual,” commented one person. “This is an opportunity to develop this idea.” That said, all agreed that there should be a more conventional section that honors the traditional paradigms of academia.

• One participant recommended having guest editors and curators, but a consistent designer and production team to ensure stability.

• Perhaps one section of the journal could be funded by paying sponsors to help support the journal, or perhaps that sponsor could support a research-related course, with the outcomes being published in the journal.

• Possible to use the research grant to recruit submissions to the journal.

The discussion also included comments related to influential journals. Design Inquiry was celebrated for the ways in which it encourages design writing, and Émigré was fondly recalled as a hallmark of the design community during its heyday.

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