How to kill a design fairy


(Image spotted on Twitter from Mitch Goldstein)

No matter how often I’ve insisted to students otherwise, it’s frightening how often “research” is thought to be “Googling” rather than understanding a problem by thinking about it, exploring the situation (e.g. by watching people or talking to them) and then prototyping.

It doesn’t matter what the brief is. The idea that “the answer” exists out there somewhere if only you use the right search terms, and that the job of the student is to gain inspiration from what others have done before them is probably the most dangerous in design education. It’s why I stopped teaching design history and replaced it with design research methods – with an immediate improvement both in students’ research skills and their knowledge of design history, as it happens.

This habit is old. Before the internet, before Google images, “research” meant going to the library and looking in all the coffee table-type books and old D&AD catalogues to seek inspiration. If I had my way I’d ban those publications from libraries altogether.

Somewhere a design fairy dies every time a student prints out a page from the internet, puts it in their sketchbook and calls it research.

Go outside. Make things. Talk to people. Think.

And if you’re going to read, the design section of the library is possibly the last bit you should be looking in if you want to understand the problem you’re trying to solve.

Here’s the original tweet from Mitch Goldstein…

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