Using Interdisciplinary and Active Research to Encourage Higher Resolution Research and Prototyping in Design
Adream Blair-Early, Frankie Flood
University art and design programs are branching out and
creating interdisciplinary programs and research centers
that connect design students and faculty across various
disciplines such as business, engineering, architecture,
information studies, health sciences and education.
A human-centered, problem-based approach to design
research looks to position industry and academic leaders
to work alongside students, community leaders, artists
and non-profits to develop creative and innovative
solutions to the challenges facing contemporary society.
But product design benefits even more from practices
that engage users throughout the entire design process,
often called participatory design. Participatory design
process utilizes user feedback throughout the design
process to spur innovation and improve design quality.
It is possible in the classroom to engage in participatory
design and participatory prototyping through the use of
inexpensive 3D printers and laser cutters as well as
traditional hand tools, requiring only mastery of a few
simple techniques and technology readily available on
laptop computers. The class research being presented was
conceived as part of a new interdisciplinary classroom
research space call the Digital Craft Research Lab
(DCRL) housed within the department of Art and Design.
Courses taught within the DCRL offer students,
researchers and faculty continual access to both low
resolution and high-resolution prototyping machinery and
This paper looks at the role of action and participatory
research in a design course that created printed hand
innovations in collaboration with a nine-year-old female
user. Students were asked to work on modeling new
designs as well as capturing the progress in a final open
source book and models.
This paper asks the question can the use of classroom
collaboration, action research and work spaces encourage
creativity, innovation, and critical thinking in student
and professional designers?