In Europe, Design Centers and Associations are considered as key infrastructures to efficiently promote and represent the discipline. However, in some countries with a lower maturation of Design culture – such as the case of Portugal - there are no official actors fully dedicated to these activities. Previous research indicated Design schools as a potential alternative infrastructure to promote and represent Design, but further research is needed to understand what they can learn/adapt from the activities currently undertaken by Centers and Associations. This paper maps the European landscape looking in particular at BEDA (Bureaux of European Design Association) members. Based on these insights and recent infrastructuring literature, it develops adapted strategies for observation activities to test with Design schools in the Portuguese territory. The results obtained are a first step to bring countries with lower maturation of design culture under the EU Design Ecosystem radar.
The present study undertaken within the DesignOBS project, is based on 172 PhD theses in Design submitted to the Portuguese National Design Schools between 2005 and 2019. It focuses in particular on the extraction and analysis of 522 PhD citations appended to design doctoral work. The analysis is used to observe school impact, explore the weight of previous design-focused and non-design doctoral work to develop PhD research in Design in the country. The results reveal few connections between doctorates and few overlaps in- between as well as outside design schools thus indicating poor continuity and reproducibility of domestic doctoral work, little tradition of PhD citation, and an important weight of non-design schools. A network-based visualisation of the connections between PhDs in Design within PhD thesis, by use of a citation analysis method, enabled to draw reflections on the status of domestic doctoral research in Portugal and provides an empirical approach to explore the reproducibility of this type of research which may be used in other countries.
As Design is gaining traction globally different observation models were developed to map the Design landscape. However, the application of these models in contexts with a slower maturation of Design culture and no institutional Design infrastructure can be difficult. With this challenge in mind, this paper presents a new distributed approach to support Design observation. It applies it to a case within the DesignOBS project - a project aiming to identify, map and interpret the Portuguese design landscape - and develops an online platform with the aim to create more efficient and engaging representations of Design practices and realities/contexts to multiple publics, including policymakers. The approach can benefit countries in a similar situation as Portugal, leveraging the participation of design actor- networks, encourage local initiatives, map the evolving Design landscape in collective manner, and hopefully constitute the supporting, resilient backbone to develop national Design policy.
The DesignOBS project aims to collect, map and interpret data about the Portuguese Design Ecosystem, providing more robust and reliable information that may support the creation of strategies and policies for its promotion and evolution. To operationalize the project, a three-step Design research iterative process was put in place: (1) Development of a preliminary observation process based in particular on the analysis and comparison of Design ecosystem models in use at the European level; interviews and in-loco visits with leaders of key international Design centers and the application of the reflection-action process proposed by Schön to refine the observation approach; (2) test the observation approach through its application on a preliminary and manageable case about design doctorates to create a “first portray” of the status quo of national scholarly Design research. Results showed important disparities in the number of Design theses concluded (variations of about 25% registered in different databases), and dubious quality of information. The lack of curation of the information presented in institutional databases makes it difficult to create a reliable map about Design. These results led to the development of guidelines and calls for action which were presented and discussed within the REDE community (national Design schools meeting) in late October 2019. These results and methodology, already published in an international outlet, were evolved to understand some foundational aspects of doctoral research in Design and also the reproducibility of Portuguese research in this field of knowledge. (3) Refinement of the iterative reflexive and distributed observation approach based on the results obtained in stage 1 and 2. This process is now being used to approach other research topics such as the characterization of Design companies in Portugal using databases such as SABI that can provide some information to facilitate the creation of preliminary representations.
National project that looks at design as a factor of innovation as well as cultural and socioeconomic development. The project collects and interprets data from the Portuguese Design ecosystem to promote its knowledge and to influence public policies.
2021 Observatório de Design. Towards a Design Observatory: models, instruments, representations and strategies. Supported by Lisbon Regional Operational Programme (Lisboa 2020) and the Competitiveness and Internationalisation Operational Programme (POCI-01-0145-FEDER-032445), under the PORTUGAL 2020 Partnership Agreement, through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology.
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