The Future of Design Research – CHEAD Research Alliance Symposium

February 3, 2017

CHEAD research alliance

The second in CHEAD’s highly popular series of symposia aimed at strengthening art, design and creative media research in preparation for REF 2021 was hosted by Prof Paul Chamberlain at Sheffield Institute of Arts on 2 February. Chaired by CHEAD’s Research Alliance Chair, Karen Fleming, the session explored current and emerging issues in design research and was followed by the first in our three regional REF 2 consultation roundtables.

Prof Karen Fleming

Prof Karen Fleming, Chair | CHEAD Research Alliance

CHEAD thanks all of our speakers, each prominent in the design field, whose thought-provoking talks gave an invaluable overview and insights into the current state of design research ranging from sustainable design in engineering, manufacturing, product design, graphic design, and the crossovers with critical design and interdisciplinary work with social science.

After an introduction from CHEAD Research Alliance’s Chair, Prof Karen Fleming, and our host, Prof Paul Chamberlain, Prof Tracy Bhamra, of Loughborough University, led off with an overview of sustainable design and the impressive work of her Sustainable Design Research Group. Prof Bhamra suggested that designers, as innovators, should really push the frontiers of design not only in terms of the critical challenges but also in terms of the distinctiveness of design research and quality control frameworks.

Prof Paul Chamberlain, Lab4Living | Sheffield Hallam, gave an engaging overview of the development of conceptualisations and applications of making and design and argued that design should be as much about problem-setting as problem solving. James Corazzo gave an overview of research being led by Professor Ian Gwilt, Lab4Living at Sheffield Hallam, and part-funded by CHEAD, with a view to developing strategies to strengthen the theoretical underpinnings of graphic design research and better understand its role in wider society and culture. Prof Rachel Cooper, ImaginationLancaster, rounded off with a personal perspective on design research, the REF, and beyond leading into the afternoon’s REF 2 consultation roundtable.


 CHEAD REF 2 Consultation Roundtables

The design research symposium was followed in the first of CHEAD’s three regional consultation roundtables which will inform CHEAD’s response, on behalf of the art, design and creative media HE sector, to the HEFCE REF 2 Consultation to be submitted by 17 March. The roundtable was led by Prof Karen Fleming and garnered high-quality feedback on the key issues.

The second Roundtable will be on 21 February in Edinburgh, hosted by Prof Dean Hughes, and the third and final on 24 February at Westminster hosted by Prof Kerstin Mey.

As CHEAD’s roundtables develop our sector’s shared perspective, we will make available CHEAD’s draft submission to the HEFCE REF 2 Consultation which our members can contribute to directly in a collaborative document or email Paula Graham-Gazzard with any arguments you would like to add to our art, design and creative media sector-wide response.


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