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07 June 2016

Research areas in Design Journaling

Most graduating D&T students will be completing their prototypes in the workshop by June. 

The faster ones would have completed theirs before the June holidays. Are you one of them? Please do not wait till July and find yourself still working on your prototype. Once your prototype (or artefact) is completed, it is time to revisit your Design Journal and make sure whatever needed to be in are in. 

One area I always find myself emphasizing to my students during coursework consultations is the presence of Research components in their Design Journals. It is tough to spot where they are or which is missing because Research is all over the place. Because it is so tough and lengthy to always repeat - I've decided to put on record what I would look out for for easy reference - which in turn also allows me to clear my thoughts about this matter.

As mentioned in the disclaimer section, the information you read below '...are not meant to be prescriptive and used rigidly without forethought. Students are strongly encouraged to apply the principles in their design journey with discretion.' The points below are also non-exhaustive. You can think of more areas as you work your journal.

Let's begin...
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What exactly is 'Research'?

In the D&T design model 'Research' is linked to all four major design elements  - Identification of 'Design Needs', to 'Ideation and conceptualization', 'Refinement and Development' and finally 'Realisation/Prototyping'. 

'Research is everywhere'. I always tell my students. But what does that mean? What does that mean in terms of the extension of research work to be done in the journal? What are they?

Adding on to that, the marking component under Research is one score for the whole coursework. That means the final score you'll get for Research is a collective summary of all the researches and decisions you have made to discover, find out, investigate, clarify, gather evidence and data for the iterative design journey to take place meaningfully.

How do I make sure I did not miss anything out?

The Tricky Part

An authentic design journal has no specific page or place in the journal where you can point and a certain type of research can be identified there and then. It can be quite difficult to determine if the student did cover all or most researches comprehensively throughout the design journal. Only the immediate coursework facilitator (teacher) knows best and knows where to find them. 

If you know another teacher is going to mark your coursework make sure you indicate and highlight your research work done clearly at every design stage - especially those that you used to make important critical decisions to move on. Do not make the examiner find your work. You show them where they are. Do that as frequently as you can in your journal. 

Isn't it nice if you are able to justify your next move with researched information whenever someone asked you?

A quick example about the above point:

Say you have decided to choose Design Situation A over Design Situation B. You ought to be ready to present and record in your journal what justified that decision. Is it because Design Situation A is a more practical problem to solve compared with Design Situation B? Making it requires less time and is found to be more cost effective? More people will benefit from a solution from Design Situation A than B? Or Design Situation B is good but you do not have the knowledge / technological expertise or machinery support to realize the project, etc.

This example above makes up a part of research which will be considered in the end of your coursework as a whole. If this justification is missing, then there is no valid reasons for picking Design Situation A over Design Situation B. Your decision to go with Situation A is probably just random.

Do not make this mistake: Sometimes a student  might have done reasonably well in the initial stage of design. Say an excellent theme definition and exploration using a mindmap. It could be a Level 3 or 4 (pass score range) type of work at that stage. They get too delighted and immediately ignored the need to maintain that quality level of research work throughout the design journal. When the final research score turned out low they wondered why. 

You cannot just have an excellent start and think your research score is secured thereafter. It does not work that way for Research. You must have consistently good and meaningful research throughout. And then end well. Think in term of how Grade Point Average (GPA) works. You must Research and make Decisions well at the Situation stage, the Ideation stage, the Development stage as well as the Realization/Prototyping stage. You should maintain good quality research for all design stages to stay at average Level 3 score or better.

I need to clarify now that at no point throughout the coursework you teacher will ever give you a score as an indicator of how you fared. You might be told that it is either well done or more work need to be done. Maybe an indicator that you are a Level 1 & 2 or 3 & 4 range.

Let's break 'Research' down. What are they in the Design Journal?


Note: All researches done must have a decision made at the end. Researches with no conclusion are useless information because they do not help make a good decision. Types of Research required or expected in a Design Journal varies from one to the other. They can be a combination of a few or all of the following: 

(A) To arrive at Design Situation / Design Needs and Opportunities
  • When you define your theme.
  • When you explore your the theme via (for example) a Mindmap hoping to identify a good design opportunity.
  • When you study your Target User(s) to better understand where the problem lies.
  • When you study and learn from a certain process to identify what has gone wrong.
  • When you study and learn about a certain product that is involved in the problem to find out their limitations, etc.
  • When you assess the practicality of a potential design situation compared to the others.
  • When you obtain your critical dimensions and gather your anthropometric data to be considered in your Design Specifications.
  • When you justify quantitative values (e.g. exact number of pencils to store, maximum size of product, etc.) to be included in your Design Specifications
  • etc.
 (B) For Ideation
  • When you study and make decisions on functions, shapes and forms from existing products (natural and man-made) for inspiration to be incorporated in your ideas.
  • When you study and make decisions on why some products worked and why some failed. So you can make better decisions on the type of  functionality for your product.
  • When you include an image of an object from which you draw your inspiration from for your first sketch and the subsequent ones.
  • When you study and make decisions on colors, materials, texture, jointing methods to be incorporated in your ideas.
  • When you use of your image board for inspiration on how your product should look like or function in a certain manner, etc.
  • When you use of a theme board to determine color scheme for product.
  • etc.
(C) For Development
  • When you study and make decisions on alternative color schemes for refinement.
  • When you study and make decisions on alternative jointing methods for better quality joints or for quicker installation.
  • When you study and make decisions on alternative finishing methods or techniques that best suits your target user and the environment.
  • When you evaluate your refined solution with your Design Specifications.
  • etc,
 (D) For Realisation / Prototyping
  • When you research and find out the most appropriate tool and machines to use.
  • When you research and find out the best way / quickest way / most efficient way to finish your product.
  • When you research and find out the correct way to lacquer, spray lacquer or spray paint, etc.
  • When you research and find out special techniques to form or make your prototype.
  • When you test and evaluate your prototype with your Design Specifications.
  • etc.
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Here you go. Research components throughout your Design Journal. Always remember to justify any way forward any time. As long as you can justify why you do this or that, you have researched. For sure.

All the best. Drop me a note if you disagree or find a mistake or have any other inputs. I'll be happy credit your efforts.

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