Design Research in Industry
Research in engineering design is rich and diverse . Design research produces models, methods, and tools that influence industry design practice. Conversely, industry design practice provides situations and contexts that researchers observe and analyze for better comprehension and improvement. In total, design research in the industry seeks to better understand how design is conducted and evolves, as well as to suggest new ways of conducting design.
Design research and industrial design practice are intertwined but, for a number of reasons, journal papers often do not address industrial problems in their detail and complexity, focusing more on theoretical processes and models. Reporting on complex “wicked” industry problems in a typical scholarly journal requires effort and knowledge not typically rewarded, for different reasons, to either academic or industry authors. Consequently, papers on design as practiced in the industry are rare.
In addition, the design research community has difficulty to assess its impact on industry practice. Academic paper claims on the superior performance of proposed design methods and tools are rarely validated in practice. This happens in part because the time to turn novel research results into design practice often takes many years, perhaps through third-party efforts such as software companies. Hence, comprehensive reports on the effects of design research would be very valuable: How have design theories, methods, models, and processes actually been adopted and implemented? Deeper understanding and insights would be gained from studying the way knowledge from design research has impacted design practice.
Past publications and books have succeeded to narrate the impact of design research on industrial practice  and the conditions for successful applicability. This Thematic Collection on “Design Research in Industry” provides an opportunity to publish contributions, such as:
- Validation of methods and processes in industry: Case studies and analyses reporting on the evidence of success or failure of design research approaches in the industry by solving real-world problems (e.g., exemplifying the value of design or the cost of design as a key support activity for company performance/KPIs).
- Comparative studies, e.g., interviewing experts of disciplines such as physics, biotechnology, or urban systems, about design practice in their discipline.
- Real-world challenges resulting in innovative products such as a new sensor for automated driving, a ceramic brake or dry-running plain bearings.
- Analyses of the consequences of emerging technologies (such as cyber-physical systems, information management, or connected systems) on design practice and on emerging competencies in industry, such as Industry 4.0.
- Evolving design practices: On executive and continuous education in companies on design, change management, design management skills, design knowledge, …
- Descriptive studies on how to cope with industrial complexity in capturing information, representing process models, describing/emulating these real contexts into courses in academia, …
- Methodological aspects: Fostering on difficult points for performing a research action and coming up with qualitative design outcomes in industrial contexts: definition of boundaries, application, involving people, validation, long term integration of a design tool/method/practice.
In summary, this Thematic Collection seeks to contain high quality and novel contributions reporting on how design research relates to design practice. Contributions reporting on how research findings have impacted design in practical situations and how design practice has motivated design research are particularly welcome.
Albert Albers, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
Ola Isaksson, Chalmers University of Technology
Bernard Yannou, Centrale Supelec