Drexel's Design Research Symposium Explores Process

By Sharon Leshner on Oct 03, 2017

Drexel Design Research Symposium 2017: Intersections In Process
Friday, October 13, 2017 | 10:00am  7:00pm
Drexel Westphal College of Media Arts & Design: URBN Center
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Drexel’s Design Research Symposium is back again with renewed energy, a swell of student involvement, and a focus on the design process. The symposium, now in it’s second year, will take attendees through the design process, starting with exploration in the morning, and ending with reflection at the close of the day.

We talked with D.S Nicholas, Director of The MS Design Research Program and two design research students, Thanh My Nguyen and Nicole Feller-Johnson about how their design processes inspired this year’s symposium:

For design research students, the process often begins with talking to people. The Design Research program in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design teaches students that understanding the social and cultural context of users is central to problem solving in today’s complex environment. Thanh My Nguyen explains that “I find that when I'm interviewing someone, I have to be both focused in my questions but open to exploration. The point of an interview is to glean information that is not discernible in secondary research. A person's choice of words, stories, and attitude can be very telling and open doors to issues within my project. While I may ask some initial questions that are relevant to my project, an interview allows me to explore other facets and sympathize with everyone I talk to.”

Attendees can learn more from Thanh My, along with other thesis students as they dig deeper into their participatory processes at the start of the conference. Following student presentations, attendees will be treated to a presentation and lunch courtesy of Knoll—in which user needs and research relating to them will be presented and discussed. Next, everyone will get hands on with another part of the design research process “User-Centered Reflection,” the synthesis and consideration of user driven research. Industry professionals from OLIN LABS, Design Futures Lab, and MIOCulture will share tools for effectively synthesizing ideas and reflecting during the design process.

The afternoon continues with “ideation and iteration.” A panel of designers from all backgrounds and experience levels will speak to their experience prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining designs. We asked Nicole Feller Johnson, a design research student and panelist about what has been particularly challenging, but also rewarding about the ideation and iteration part of the design research process for her.

"The most challenging part is knowing when to edit and when to continue to expand ideas.  I always want more time, energy, and materials to explore. Ideation comes very naturally to me; clean-up is far less intuitive! As my design collaborators know, the last finishes on a project are always the most challenging for me. I strive to keep my work very disciplined when it comes to final decision making, with varying degrees of success.”

The day ends with a celebration of iterative design and exploration.  Everyone will join together for a look at the work of designers across research labs and practice. D.S Nicholas shares that “The closing exhibit captures the design research program – a totally interdisciplinary collection of work that takes a deep dive into the process of research driven design with empathy”

To sign up to attend all or any part of this day of events, please email Dee Nicholas at dsn35@drexel.edu