DRS 2018 Track Themes reveal design community research patterns

The track themes have been announced for the DRS international Conference 2018 and the response was overwhelming from the design research community - 89 proposals submitted, a significant increase compared to the previous conference.

The incredible energy of the design research community evident in DRS 2016 is still very much there.

24 themes were selected and organised by the academic committee and these show some interesting developments in topic since the 2016 conference.

As Nigel Cross (1999) pointed out, as academics we tend to focus on the theory and thinking around design at the expense of the objects and tangible processes. This was reiterated in Alexandra’s student bursary project keynote at DRS 2016. Several of the themes this time round focus on the materiality of design and the physical process of designing - definitely an interesting move and one to look forward to in these themes:

\ Tools of Design
\ Physical and Digital Materials in Creative Design Practice
\ The (Act of) Drawing in Design (Research)

Having noted the point about the materiality of design, let’s not forget that the community of design theorists is most definitely still very active. Back on the list again are ethics and philosophy of design - these are topics that are often assumed within other themes so it will be particularly interesting to see what emerges by bringing these back into focus in DRS 2018. Look out for:

\ Ethics, Values and Designer Responsibility
\ Philosophical tools in Design Research: From empirical turn to practical

Information design not only remains for 2018 but has been expanded to two sub-themes, perhaps reflecting current trends in Big Data, analysis, design and use of information. Interestingly, the design research community's reaction to the human (social, tangible, emotional, political, speculative) seems to continue to emerge - both in response to this specific topic as well as ongoing contexts of challenge. Again, another very interesting set of topics responding to wider themes:

\ Designing with Data, Democratisation through Data
\ Design, Technology and Society
\ Designing for Transitions
\ Deepening Systemics and Complexity in Design Research

Another welcome inclusion is that of alternative perspectives in both the objects and subjects of design. At DRS 2016, centrisms in research practice as well as the subjects of research were questioned, leading to continuing debate and adaption of ideas in the design research community. So it's great to see this represented in several themes in 2018 - look out for the following tracks:

\ Design, Research and Feminism(s)
\ Not just from the centre - multiple voices in design
\ Designing social innovation in cultural diversity and sensitivity

Interestingly, 3 of the DRS Special Interest Groups (SIGs) have sub-topics, perhaps highlighting recent trends in research topics:

Design Research for Wellbeing, Health and Happiness (SIGWELL)

\ Design for Subjective Wellbeing
\ Health and Wellbeing by Design

Design Pedagogy (PedSIG)

\ Design Education for the General Public
\ Design Education: Catalysing Design Capability

Design Innovation Management (DIMSIG)

\ How Organisations Employ Design as Vehicle for Change
\ The Role of Design in Open Innovation

Finally, as already mentioned, the DRS Special Interest Groups (SIGs) have their own themes:

\ Experiential Knowledge (EKSig)
\ Objects, Practices, Experiences and Networks (OPEN Sig): Material-Enabled Changes in Design Research and Practice​
\ Inclusive Design (Inclusive Sig)
\ Sustainable Design (Sustainability Sig)
\ Design for Behaviour Change (Behaviour Change Sig)
\ Design for Tangible, Embedded and Networked Technologies (TENTSig)

Remember, the call for (full) papers in now open with a deadline of 6 November 2017. Papers can be submitted through the DRS 2016 conftool system here: https://www.conftool.pro/drs2018/

And you can find the template, full instructions and details of all the DRS 2018 tracks on the conference website here: http://www.drs2016.org/track-themes/