When Design is Research: A proposition realised as artefact constitutes design’s knowledge contribution

Austrailan modes of Practice based PhDs have gained currency the world over within the creative disciplines. However with time and translation into other contexts the operating models often lose the core spirit that the focus on ‘practice’ as both a method and topic was intended to privilege the useful knowledge domain of creative practitioners. Written theoretical takes on the Practice based PhDs describe, Practice-based and Practice-led, as the two ways in which scholarship can be undertaken. This has direct parallels with the way design research focussed upon discovery of new knowledge itself is categorised as Research through Design or Research about Design. The first is not about design knowledge at all and the later is what non-design scholars have tended to do. The often justificatory tone of these texts are attempts at the validation of PhDs in creative practice within the paradigm of the traditional notion of doctoral study as an advancement in knowledge, where the implicit assumption is that this knowledge is required to be textual. Such a justificatory stance was to be expected in the hotly contested nature of the territory of the PhD in design which struggled to gain acceptance with the discipline and then had to gain acceptability with suspicious external institutions. In the contemporary context however such hybridizations can be set aside and the gauntlet of ‘design is research’ can be thrown down to prompt a purer construction of scholarship in design. When design itself is accepted as research, it throws up two questions, how is the PhD to be constructed and how is the work of scholar to be validated? This paper describes a mode of PhD that answers these questions by describing a research paradigm that privileges the practitioner and uses a particular institutional practice for the validation of the scholarship.