Institute for Design Research and Appliance at the German Design Council

The Institute for Design Research and Appliance (IfDRA) at the German Design Council acts as an interface, intermediary and adviser for different exponents from theory (teaching and research) and application-oriented practice (users, designers, entrepreneurs). As a representative of design research, the institute sees one of its tasks as bolstering non-academic research through design, which still has little recognition in classic academia.

What is design research?

There is no single, perfect answer to the question of what design research is. Rather, this subject comprises multiple perspectives that have the effect of removing the strict separations between theory and practice as well as between research approaches from science and humanities. Firstly, there is the classic research in different academic domains that extensively studies a certain aspect of design (foundational academic research). On top of that, there is user-oriented, non-academic design research that seeks to improve a real or virtual product with regard to its functions, including technically, ergonomically and aesthetically. This research frequently faces the problem that it must balance numerous issues in a heterogeneous and occasionally paradoxical product (and potentially also production process).

Furthermore, common practice also includes a bidirectional transfer of academic and non-academic research approaches (e.g. if there are methods being applied that mediate between logical aspects and intuitive, creative ones).

Tasks of the IfDRA

The IfDRA sees itself in this spirit as an interface, intermediary and adviser for the different representatives of theory (academia, teaching) and commercial practice (users, designers, entrepreneurs).

A priority is to support practice-based, non-academic research through design, which still has little recognition in academia and science in particular. Simultaneously, the institute increases awareness that this design practice can also contribute to the theory. This happens, if perhaps in a different manner, based on the same justification as in academic research about design. Likewise, a priority is perceiving design through research, that is, research processes that are essentially (also) design processes.

Finally, the design of classic research is also part of the field of design research. This should be understood as including activities such as test set-ups, laboratory situations and the like in almost all disciplines.