The value of Danish design is recognized across the globe by consumers, tourists, design researchers, and design professionals alike, and Denmark has been a leading nation in the design field for decades. From furniture to fashion to architecture to toys, Denmark continues to produce world-renowned design classics.
In a business school setting, it is pertinent to study design, and how design creates value at all levels (consumer, firm, and nation) and applying design as a science (i.e., design science) by helping practitioners solve problems and find new opportunities. The Integrated Design Research Cluster (IDRC) takes a holistic view of design, and encompass a group of researchers focusing on design using a string of distinct theoretical and methodological perspectives on design and the value of design. This holistic view also entails an integrated coverage of (1) the cultural and aesthetic aspects, (2) the technical and functional aspects, with (3) the business and economic aspects of design viewed both as a process and a final designed object or service.
Two important design definitions outline our point of departure: Design as a cognitive process is perhaps most famously captured by Herbert Simon: ‘Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones’ (Simon, 1969). Further, Heskett (2005) captured the value-creating aspect of design ‘…as the human capacity to shape and make our environment in ways without precedent in nature, to serve our needs and give meaning to our lives’. Our research agenda further explores related research areas to design such as research on creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
A few examples may serve to illustrate the topics of our interests:
- Companies who try to utilize design strategically as an integrated part of their development process have been shown to be more innovative than other companies.
- Consumers tend to respond with a positive hedonic tone to designed objects that are perceptually ‘easy on the mind’.
- Research on design cognition has identified cognitive strategies that expert designers deploy in order to turn uncertain situations into ones with creative potential.
- Scholars now adopt design as a science by creating artefacts (e.g., design rules) that help practitioners solve problems.
In a marketing context, it is noteworthy that a significant proportion of the most recognized scholars in marketing research come from a design background, attesting to the potential in further developing theoretical links between these two research areas.
The IDRC is a long-running research group in the Department at Copenhagen Business School, originally initiated by Tore Kristensen more than 30 years ago. From 1989 to 2007, Tore Kristensen ran the cross-institution Integrated Design MSc program jointly with Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (KADK) and Technical University of Denmark (DTU). From 1996 to 2000, there was the Center for Design (CDV) and Virksomhedsudvikling located at the design school. Unfortunately the time was perhaps too early, and although several contributions were made, and many connections were made with business and international research. However, the design education and research did not adopt the ideas of business in their curriculum and research.
In 2009 and in 2013, Professor MSO Bo T. Christensen was awarded the Design Studies Award by the Design Research Society for best paper published in Design Studies, the top-ranked scientific journal focusing on design. It is the only time the Design Studies Award has been awarded twice to the same scholar.
Overall, the strategic aim of the IDRC is to further position itself in the research area coupling design with business internationally, nationally, and at Copenhagen Business School over the next five years. The cluster composition is in need of more junior level positions (assistant professors, post docs, and Ph.D. students) in order to scale up the activities, and we will work towards having positions allocated, or obtain funding for recruiting. To meet these aims, the cluster will engage in a range of activities (see later).
Fundamental business knowledge and research excellence
The cluster will engage in joint research projects enabling cross-disciplinary and multi-method perspectives on issues related to design, science, and business. A first project is trying to answer what makes a design classic. This project has the advantage that part of the answer may be extracted using a wide variety of methods (experiments on consumer choice can speak to consumer preference over time; historical accounts can speak to evolving understandings of design classics; interviews with domain experts and surveys can document distinct perspectives onto what constitutes a classic; etc.). Another project concerns what design means for understanding a real (fragmented) market and how aggregation from individual users to networks can be achieved. Finally, research projects are carried out to further develop design science, where scholars actively help practitioners to improve the status quo using a scientific approach. Besides such joint projects, the cluster will enable coordination and continual spread of information regarding the vast amount of activities carried out by individual members.
In terms of publication outlets, the AJG journal ranking list is the main list at use at the marketing department. While some forms of design research may be publishable following this list, the AJG list does not contain any specialized design journals given the fact that our research cluster is pioneering the study of design in a business school setting. Hence, no standardized design list has yet been created by the AJG since design is still a new line of inquiry at business schools. The publication outlets for our cluster therefore includes design-related journals not listed on the AJG to ensure appropriate high-quality outlets. The cluster maintains a list of prioritized journals: the list is based on extracting the relevant design journals from the BFI list, and then identifying from the BFI those design journals that corresponds to the academic quality sought at the AJG level 3 or 4/4*. Basically, AJG 3/4/4* corresponds roughly to BFI level II journals in Denmark. A subset (the most prestigious) of these journals are also at level 2 or 3 in BFI systems in Norway and Finland, roughly corresponding to AJG level 4/4*. The cluster will maintain and annually update the list of prioritized design journals of high quality outside the AJG that we encourage submitting to.
Engagement with the wider academic community
Editorial board membership in design related journals include Design Studies (Bo T. Christensen), Co-Design (Bo T. Christensen), She Ji: The journal of Design, Economic, and Innovation (Bo T. Christensen), and Journal of Cognitive Psychology (Bo T. Christensen). See also the section on collaboration.
Esprit de corps
The IDRC has a flat management structure where all members can contribute on equal terms. Historically, the cluster was initiated by Tore Kristensen. Bo T. Christensen organizes cluster activities (such as planning of meetings). Both chairs are first points-of-contact to the cluster for external parties. The cluster operates through bi-monthly meetings aimed at coordination and inspiration, with all sub-projects orchestrated bilaterally between the involved researchers on an ongoing basis.