Essays & Articles


Talk: Research Practice Gap & 2 Kinds of innovation

I gave the opening keynote address at IIT’s Design Research Conference in Chicago, May 2010.  In it, I combined two of the major themes I have long been working on. The video of that talk is now available.

The research-product gap. The design research community — and all research communities, for that matter — have little understanding, knowledge of, or even interest in the product side of companies. Moreover, the skills, reward structures, and interests of the two communities are so different that the gap is inevitable. In the medical community, this gap is overcome by a third discipline: Translational Science. I recommend we follow suit with a new discipline, Translational Engineering, that translates the language of research into the language of products, and vice-versa.

Two kinds of innovation. A very closely related confusion exists about innovation. Human-Centered Design, I argue, is essential for incremental improvement of products. But radical innovation, which occurs much less frequently, comes either from new technologies or from a complete rethinking of how the product is to be placed. (Changing the meaning of a watch to that of fashion and emotion, which is what Swatch did.) Designers can produce radical innovation of the latter, meaning change type, but not through the conventional HCD process.