During the first SDN Design Research Winter Summit  which has taken place from January 28th – 31st 2016, the Swiss Design Network brought the sleepy Grand Hotel to life. At the Grand Hotel Giessbach above Brienz, design researchers and practitioners met to present their projects and debate design and design research. In three formats (Keynote, Parallel and Fireside Talks) we met 70 design researchers from all over the world last Thursday.

Together with Daniela Peukert, co-founder of design:transfer, I presented an interim conclusion to our latest survey on competencies and roles of design researchers in a parallel talk. Particularly on their role in teams, we noted how rarely designers are seen in practice in an equal, albeit mediating role. Mostly they describe their current positions as head of a team, like a conductor, or as part of a team, without a specific mediating role. There were many interesting questions of Management and Design Education, which we will continue to pursue. Thank you for the constructive feedback.

12605544_10208520612278540_8472800077143506627_oLisa Mercer, a graduate researcher at the University of North Texas, presented her master’s thesis. She describes the growing problem of human trafficking, which benefits from the wide streets and secluded Truck Stops the USA. Many victims are transported from one truck stop to the next – with stays of two to three weeks. The project resulted in the development of the app “Operation Compass”, with which truck drivers can report sightings of trafficking anonymously. In Mercer’s presentation we saw how closely research may be linked to practice. Her question of whether some form of technologically-based communication can lead to a higher reporting rate of truck drivers corresponds to the initial question of a classic service design task.

A highlight of the conference was the Fireside Talk by Ruth Baumeister. She researches at the Aarhus School of Architecture in Denmark and spoke about Max Bill’s “The Good Form” versus Asger Jorn’s “Dynamic form”. The historical dispute between the two designers serves as a starting point for a discussion on fixed values and change as a condition of Design.


Shiro Inoue, PhD Candidate at Northumbria University, UK, reported in his Parallel Talk “Design Reductionism: how information reduction can prompt designers’ imaginations” on the different handling styles of artifacts of design and management students, and offered an exciting approach.