There are several papers discussing the distinctions between ‘research for design’, ‘research into design’, and ‘research through design’. People have different definitions of these three terms. After reading the articles from Chris Frayling, Danny Godin, and Mithra Zahedi, I redefined the three terms based on my understanding.
Firstly, ‘research for design’ aims at creating a method, framework, or tool to help designers to do research in art and design field. In other words, it could improve the process of design or research. The process of this kind of research would be more documentary and analytical, concluding the results into frameworks or tools. Examples of this could be the development of the double diamond method, or the framework of the design thinking process.
Secondly, ‘research into design’ focuses on the research of the history, phenomenon, objects, and studies in art and design. The typical methodology of ‘research into design’ is pieces of literature review and other secondary research. For instance, the research of the Gothic style architecture would probably focus on the history and the details of Gothic. Another example could be the study of Van Gogh and his paintings. The researcher could gain the information from articles or museums and then analyse the collected secondary data.
Finally, ‘research through design’ is more practical and experimental, testing new products, solutions, and materials through design. The methodology of research through design would possibly be like brainstorming and prototyping. Research through design is more likely to appear in the service design field, which could be used for improving the products or services. The research of future materials of fashion and the sustainable fashion are the examples of research through design. Both of them aim to solve a problem with the design.
In conclusion, while ‘research for design’ being frameworks or tools for other researchers and designers, ‘research into design’ is the documentary and analytical research into the history or phenomenon of a study in design. ‘Research through design’, aiming at the improvement part, is to test new products, solutions, or materials and solve the problems.