Design research “against needs”

What we need from research is more than description, and especially, more than a list of “needs,” explicit or implicit, met or unmet.

This is from Rick Robinson‘s talk at IIT Design Research Conference 2010, very recently made available online as a video on Vimeo. I listened to it one first time while writing but I will strive to go for it a second time with more attention.

Among other things, Robinson argues against the point made by Donald Norman in a much debated post and following article on Interactions, in which he said that ethnography-inspired design research quest for “unmet needs” can not provide a basis for breakthrough innovations, which are rather a result of technology invention (Norman added also that still design research has a key role in improving innovative products, making them usable and enjoyable).

One of the key points of Robinson is that actually “needs”, and hence uncovering “unmet needs” is not or it shouldn’t be the main business of design researchers; instead, they should focus on the values that inform design decisions.

Now, it is interesting to note that at the end of the talk Norman himself stood up and expressed his praise for Robinson, saying that he was not in agreement 🙂 about their disagreement (and asking for one of the t-shirts exhibited by Robinson, namely the one with the “against needs” slogan).

IIT Design Research Conference 2010 on Vimeo via Putting People First.

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