Brief Encounters Network: Exploring New Forms of Online Collaborative Design

Lead Research Organisation: Northumbria University
Department Name: Fac of Arts, Design and Social Sciences

Abstract

Brief Encounters Network: Exploring New Forms of Online Collaborative Design

We are living in a global economy where international and inter disciplinary collaboration is increasingly important. This research network will explore the potential for new and emerging technologies to better support collaborative Design processes. The network will bring together participants from a range of different backgrounds including product design, interaction and service design, graphic design ethnography, marketing, engineering, psychology and computer science in two workshops with both physical and virtual participants. Prior to the workshops, participants will contribute to a mapping exercise highlighting their current use of communication tools and processes. This will be used to inform and compare their current and ideal/future use of tools identified in the workshop. The participants will be sorted into teams including at least one remote online participant and challenged to address a "brief" to develop a new tool for collaboration. The teams will engage in concept design, sketching and scenario development to outline what the tool might look like. The teams will then critique one another's ideas in order to refine and reiterate the designs. This process may well produce innovative ideas which could be pursued in future research, but perhaps more importantly it will generate insights into what current practices are and how they might be improved. The workshops will be recorded by a documentary film maker. The film will be a resource for understanding interdisciplinary and international remote collaboration. It will also be edited into a short film for dissemination on video sharing websites such as YouTube and Vimeo.

Planned Impact

The beneficiaries of this research network will be researchers, educators, practitioners and policy makers within the design community and other relevant communities such as engineering, business, marketing and social science. The Brief Encounters Network includes participants from the listed areas.

Inviting the intended end users, including designers from large transnational consumer companies and design service consultancies, to actively participate during the exploration activities of the network will enable the network to achieve impacts of the research beyond academia. In addition the network includes members from organisation that design digital tools, which are used by designers during the NPD. It also includes representatives from national government and professional bodies such as the Design Council and the Charted Institute of Designers.

The planned dissemination strategies for work in progress and the final network outputs have been planned to increase the likelihood of achieving the stated impacts by:
- Targeting professional design publications both circulated in print and online (see Case for Support document)
- Publicising the workshop activities using Web 2.0 communication channels such as LinkedIn, Vimeo and on a Blog (through WordPress)
- Disseminating via professional 'Engineering Designer' which is a bi-monthly journal produced by the Institution of Engineering Designers (IED, is the project support partner)
- Through the running of the second workshop as part of the international conference Design 2012 which is be also attended by delegates from beyond academia
- Network members disseminating the outputs within their own professional networks

The proposed research will be managed to engage users and beneficiaries that have been identified by implementing the following strategies:
- Two workshops that will generate a map of current practice and a number of exploratory and experimental multidisciplinary responses to the brief
- Visual documentation of the outcomes emerging from the workshops (e.g. documentary films which will be made available on Vimeo and YouTube.
- A dedicated website for the research network that will facilitate sharing of material.
- A rich network that spans disciplinary, conceptual, and methodological boundaries.
- A future, larger following programme of work aimed at fundamental research of the major themes identified throughout the course of this project.

In addition, a variety of channels will be used to publicise workshop activities to disseminate its outputs in order to increase the impact of the work beyond the network's participants. These will include:
- Journal articles featuring the proposed work, as well as outcomes from the Network will be targeted at professional magazines such as: newdesign, I.D., Icon, Curve, Blueprint, Engineering Designer and Design Week; online magazines such as Core77, Develp3D, David Report and design exchange Magazine; and blogs such as New Media Monthly
- A Network Report and Project booklet outlining the Network's activities will be disseminated through social publishing sites issuu and Scribd and social dissemination sites such as Academia and Research Gate
- Running the second network workshop at the 12th International Design 2012 international conference which will enable its activities to be disseminated during the network lifetime at international scientific forum
- Publicised and disseminated Network events, activities and the outputs through: online newsletters such as Design Research News which is circulated to close to 9,000 subscribers, Designophy and Dexigner with more than 300,000 impressions/month; and electronic discussion forums such as PhD-Design, IDForum, ADM-HEA and Linkedin groups such as Design Research which has more than 10,000 members.
- Journal and international conference articles based on the data and knowledge gained during the network's proposed activities

Publications

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Bohemia E (2014) Designing with and for others in Archives of Design Research

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Cruickshank L (2012) Designing creative frameworks: design thinking as an engine for new facilitation approaches in International Journal of Arts and Technology

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Mortati M (2012) NETS: a design tool for activating social networks in International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

 
Description The aim of the Brief Encounters Network was to identify key research themes in the area of digital transformations in Design and start discussion on possible joint research proposals among the participants. Digital technologies are transforming how and with whom designers are able to work. This in turn is stretching current methodologies while at the same time creating new possibilities for designers. Through the workshops the participants found that companies ranging from Philips Research to the small but excellent radarstation are looking for creative ways of practising design across different locations. AutoCAD a company which is developing digital tools is also exploring how to support designers in the early stages of the design process.

The five key questions developed by the participants are suggested as a guide to explore research areas in respected to digital transformations in Design:
• How can we use digital tools to support design creativity?
• How can digital technologies support Open and Agile design process?
• What digital tools can we create to transform initial creative process?
• How will design practice be transformed through digital technologies such as 3D printers?
• What new skills are needed to support distributed design collaborations?

In addition to the above five questions the workshops participants identified that designers will need to develop the capacity to work in cross-cultural virtual teams and abilities to deal with 'cross-distance' assumptions. Participants felt that designers will also need to develop an understanding of users' cultures. Another question that should be explored in more depth was how digital transformations are affecting design process and whether design processes can be made more agile. Co-development and co-production with developing countries was identified as another opportunity which should be explored. Development of physical 'apps' was suggested to help facilitate remote collaborations / communications and the question of how can designing at distance can be made 'better' than in a room was identified as another challenge.

The Brief Encounters Network project was disseminated through using diverse methods, including: a paper and workshop presented at a major International Conference, a news article featuring in professional design engineering magazine, project and university websites and via videos featured on YouTube and Vimeo online services.
Exploitation Route Both academics and non-academics would be able to use these five key questions developed by the Networks participants as a guide to explore research areas in respected to digital transformations in Design:
• How can we use digital tools to support design creativity?
• How can digital technologies support Open and Agile design process?
• What digital tools can we create to transform initial creative process?
• How will design practice be transformed through digital technologies such as 3D printers?
• What new skills are needed to support distributed design collaborations?

In addition to the above questions the network identified that designers will need to develop the capacity to work in cross-cultural teams and abilities to deal with challenges related to working at 'cross-distance'. Participants felt that designers will also need to develop an understanding of users' cultures.
Co-development and co-production with developing countries was identified as another opportunity which should be further explored. It was suggested that development of physical 'apps' can help to facilitate remote collaborations/communications. How can 'designing at distance' be made 'better' than 'design in a room' was identified as a further challenge.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education

URL http://briefencountersnetwork.com
 
Description The network outcomes informed further developments of two training initiatives which provide Engineering Designers and Industrial/Product Designers with an enhanced awareness of how to operate within a cross-cultural distributed design teams.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Creative Economy,Education
Impact Types Societal

 
Description AHRC Connected Communities
Amount £991,633 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2015 
End 01/2018
 
Description Erasmus+ KA2-HE-20/14
Amount € 2,637,215 (EUR)
Funding ID 14-203-000693 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 09/2014 
End 09/2017
 
Description HEFCI Catalyst Programme
Amount £5,123,000 (GBP)
Organisation Higher Education Funding Council for England 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2013 
End 11/2018
 
Description Power of Three 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Power of Three, an article featured in the Engineering Designer journal of the Institution of Engineering Designers (November/December issue 2012) http://www.institution-engineering-designers.org.uk/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Workshop at Lancaster 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The main objective of the workshop was to determine common research topics that the participants want to pursue within the field of (re)designing design practice through emerging technologies.
In the first part the participants from industry led the discussion on challenges identified in earlier workshops.
The second part of the workshop was structured into three sessions to foster creative discussions. The first session was structured group work where each work group was given a task to explore a specific question. The participants were allocated into 5 groups and each group included members participating from other geographic locations such as China, Denmark, Japan and Netherlands. Each team was asked to explore issues related to one of the 5 predetermined questions/challenges (identified in the first two workshops). The participants were asked to map out methods and techniques to manage and overcome these questions:
? How can we use digital tools to support design creativity?
? How can digital technologies support Open and Agile design process?
? What digital tools can we create to transform initial creative process?
? How will design practice be transformed through digital technologies such as 3D printers?
? What new skills are needed to support distributed design collaborations?
During the second session the participant were asked to outline their interest in regard to future research proposals. Each of the participants individually outlined their research interest, skills and competences and presented one of the challenges he/she was interested in pursuing in the future.
The last session was discussion between participants to outline possible research funding proposals. This led to the formation of small groups that individually discussed their research interests after the workshop closure.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://briefencountersnetwork.com/