I often complain in this blog about the lack of books in the field of design thinking and research. I know that many would not agree with me since they would argue that new books about design are published all the time. That might be true, but at the same time very few of these new books contribute to an overall understanding of design, even though they can be both interesting and useful on a more concrete and practical level.
Design Research Through Practice-from the lab, field and showroom" by Ilpo Koskinen, John Zimmerman, Thomas Binder, Johan Redström, and Stephan Wensveen. The authors have taken on the task of putting together knowledge that take "a bird's eye perspective" on the growing academic design research field, while at the same time being useful in the practical teaching of design at a more advanced level, and to add some understanding about the scientific method in relation to design. This is a very ambitious goal or goals.
With such ambitious goals it is difficult to fully succeed. To be both theoretically informed, rooted in practice, and relevant to both research and practice is challenging. I admire the project and find it highly inspirational. I find that overall the authors have been able to do what they set out to do, even though I find the book to also have some issues. The book answers to some extent to the purpose that the authors mention. It is highly practical and it does relate and ground the text, concepts, and suggestions in research. However, it is also the case that many things are very briefly introduced, defined and explained. Many sections are so short that when reading them it feels as if you only got the abstract. At the same time, the book covers many different aspects of design research.
The authors introduces many highly valuable ideas, concepts and techniques that are all clearly based on practical experience and they situate them in a larger context. They discuss the value of lab and field research and they introduce the notion of the showroom, all as valuable tools in constructive design research.
Overall, I find the book to be valuable, especially for MS and PhD students who are engaged in some kind of design research. The authors offer good arguments and support for using methods and techniques that are not necessarily common and accepted in more traditional research but are useful for design research.