How do arts-based writing endeavors catalyze generative thinking and support research development in design students’ thesis endeavors? This paper offers reflections from an industrial design masters student, a graphic design masters student, and their arts education professor in a School of Design at a Research I institution. Informed by theoretical and historical contexts of the design discipline and perspectives from composition studies and fine arts practice, we explore the potential of arts-based writing as an evocative, speculative tool and a distinctive form of reflective practice for the development of graduate design research. We suggest that arts-based writing’s iterative process, dialogic engagement, and speculative approach to knowledge-construction provide critical, reflective structures for working through uncertainties and thus are uniquely responsive to the evolving epistemologies of the transdisciplinary university. Three focal questions guide this reflection: What is arts-based writing? What role does arts-based writing play in students’ design research endeavors? How can arts-based writing practices support the growth of speculative and pragmatic design research?
Having observed that many industrial design projects are started with the wrong approach, producing loss of resources, time, and professional relationships, this article presents a set of three tools that enables a clearer view of the Fuzzy Front-end (Vogel, Cagan). The first tool helps to understand the design order (Buchanan) of the product to be developed, and to place it in the utilitarian product universe (practical and economically biased), the transitional-wholistic product universe (practical, economic, and emotionally balanced), or the emotional product universe (viscerally and symbolically biased). The second identifies a product’s global purpose composed by its practical, economic, and emotional purposes, as well as the value factors they include (practical and indicative function, usability, practical or emotional cost-benefit, visceral appeal, and symbolic meaning). The third tool involves the type of project to be undertaken (vision, new development, major enhancement, or minor enhancement). Applicable to all disciplines of design, the three tools comprise the product identity footprint, which helps inform the selection of appropriate strategies to start a project the right way. It can increase the efficiency of the product development process by providing an agreed view that can be shared with all the development team, from the project sponsor to the engineering, marketing, planning, and creative departments.