Wednesday, March 4, 2009


An interesting discussion and particularly on how ideas relate to 'art&design' design within research and its assessment.

The perspective below might contribute something to the discussion.

New principles of design are embodied in new Patents. Patent documents comprise a drawing showing the essential characteristics of 'newness' of knowledge and insight, supported by annotations and supplementary text. These characteristics are then embodied in the specification drawings of a particular product design. The reliability of the new principle is 'self-evident' when the product is used; it either works as intended or it does not.

When a new design principle is proposed within a Patent application, the process involves checks as to 'prior art' by trained Patent examiners. It is interesting to note that there is not a requirement for the researcher to incorporate in patent documentation a narrative of the research process to justify the reliability of process or outcomes, or even to use peers for assessing the nature of an enquiry prior to publication, as in the conventional research Journal. All methods of enquiry used by the researcher, other than the 'prior art' search are irrelevant to examination prior to publishing a Patent. When granted, the Patent, as a new design principle, may then be challenged after publication, with evidence presented to refute the Patent's assertion of originality and reliability of the 'claim' made.

It suggests international Patent systems might be more appropriate than using some often favoured validation practices of the 'scientific' or 'humanities' communities in certain contexts, as they seem to have more empathy with some kinds of enquiry involving art&design'.

The current paradigm to assess credibility of research that the more explicit systematic 'synthetic' methods of enquiry favoured by Scientific Journals of design research and conferences are essential characteristics of any research activity is limiting. It seems to favour uncreative researchers, where for example the word 'rigor' is often as a euphemism for uncreative activity.

This perspective on the 'Patent' might enable design research that makes more use of the natural 'creative' and artistic methods and modes of human enquiry, for example those involving imagination, intuition, insight and invention, to be awarded more credibility.

However this is perhaps more relevant to art&design 'design' disciplines as research assessment of Art seems to be treated somewhat differently than that for 'Science' and also most 'design research', much of which tends to fall between two paradigmatic stools of 'art' and 'science' as to what is considered to be 'research' .

Just a few thoughts on a sunny lunchtime in London.

Alec Robertson <>