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Research education is one of the most important ways in which academia prepare for the future of its disciplines. In design, however, research education serving this purpose is fairly new.
Traditionally, this function has been served by artistic development and through the continuous development of discipline and craft that profession and practice brings. While there are long traditions of research on design as a subject, such as the design history and criticism to be found at art history departments, art and design schools have more recently begun to educate researchers. In fact, Umeå Institute of Design's first PhD student to graduate defended his thesis in October 2012. During the past decades, however, there has been a significant build-up of research conducted at the art and design schools, both national and international.
Design is an artistic practice. Thus, to use research and research education to advance and deepen knowledge and understanding calls for both academic and artistic precision, rigour and relevance. Design research includes a range of activities from scholarly studies to artistic experimentation, often in innovative combinations driven by a heartfelt need to deepen our understanding of both what design is and what it could become in the future.
To illustrate: in our research programme 'prototyping practices' we look into emerging forms of design responding to radical changes in the foundations and conditions for design practice. Within this programme, we ask questions such as: what can the future of user-centred design be when design is not (only) a professional activity happening in studios, but an ongoing social activity at the centre of everyday life? What would a critical practice of design engaged in exposing controversial issues and concerns rather than creating efficient solutions be like? Or, what happens if design is no longer tied to the industrial forms of mass-production, but instead work with local, small-scale and individual production using 3D printing and similar emerging technologies?
Our research education is about understanding and extending the present and future foundations of design practice. Through the research education at Umeå Institute of Design, UID, designers build advanced skills in crafting practical, theoretical and methodological contributions to the field of design that will shape the discipline for decades to come.