Research has been an integral part of design practice for long. The focus on research is increasing at PhD and master’s level. Praveen Nahar, senior faculty, Industrial Design, National Institute of Design (NID) stresses on syncing research with market demands. “At NID for instance, we do most of our graduation projects in collaboration with industry with many adapting new tools and design research methods,” says Nahar.
Be it primary research (where there is a need to validate the ideas with the end user), secondary research (using existing data like books, articles, or the internet to validate or support existing research), generative or exploratory research (that focuses on a deeper understanding of user needs) or evaluative research (that gives users the opportunity to evaluate the prototype), the methods, says Nahar are many, helping the researcher to understand the users’ behaviour and turn it into actionable insights to improve their design.
In case of product design — from finding need, understanding the user to investigating various manufacturing and materials — there is a lot of applied research being carried out. At NID, which works across 20 disciplines ranging from Industrial Design, Communication Design to IT Integrated Design, research is embedded in all these areas at various levels. “Most of our classroom and graduation projects have a strong design research component. Out of the students who evince an interest in research, many of them opt to work as freelance researchers and/or design researchers,” says Nahar, whose own research interests lie in the emerging field of system-oriented design projects.
NID has had many research chairs ranging from the field of education and new disciplines to industry-specific chairs in the area of colour, stainless steel etc. The Jamsetji Tata Research Chair, NID Asian Paints Colour Research Chair, Jindal Stainless Chair, and the Ravi J. Matthai Design Research Chair, are among the few emphasising on research and innovation in these fields. “We also work on short-term research and consulting assignments, which provide inputs to the industry,” says Nahar.
How does it work
Research findings are translated into ideas of products/service through design synthesis, which is a human-centred, collaborative process. This leads to creating a coherent summary of all the data gathered during the design research, explains Nahar.
In order to encourage research dissemination, it is important to focus on publications involving books, monographs, craft and course documentations. “The publications should capture the institute’s design philosophy and experiences gained through design education, research, consultancy, and outreach. The range of titles published so far at our institute aim to build connections to the past, present, and future of design education and practice as they focus upon contemporary issues, historical developments, global connections and extrapolate the philosophical developments in design,” says Nahar.
Currently, there are more than 95 international agreements that NID has. Out of these, the most recent agreement is an MoU with the University of Limerick – School of Design, Ireland, which is expected to stimulate design-led collaborative research in the fields of innovation, sustainable development and new product development.