Design Research Lab

The DRLab at the Berlin University of The Arts works on interdisciplinary design research projects that mediate the gap between technological innovations and people's real needs. With more than twenty researchers, we are exploring smart textiles, human computer interaction as well as communities in our digital society. The approach is organized within four different research clusters:

  • Civic
  • Social
  • Embodied
  • Connected
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Civic Infrastructures focuses on questions regarding communities and social practices, participation & engagement as well as sustainability. The practice-led, interdisciplinary research approach is grounded in a meaningful understanding of social contexts and the design of artifacts.

Social Innovation discovers the social and political dimensions of design. Following an inclusive and diversity-based approach for transformational change and activism in underrepresented and disadvantaged communities, this research cluster addresses issues such as dis/ability, poverty, aging, health, gender, protest or intercultural dialog.

Embodied Interaction is investigating new forms of interactions between humans and the digital world. It emphasizes the interconnectedness of body and mind, exploring ways of making digital content tangible.

Connected Textiles at Design Research Lab develops and analyses novel interactive interfaces based on electronic textiles and textile production techniques. Applying practice-led research approaches, principles and knowledge from fashion and textile design are utilised to develop a textile-specific vocabulary for interaction modes. The aim is to create soft Wearable Technology that promotes autonomy, inclusion and diversity in application areas such as Creative Industries, Health and Wellbeing, Industry 4.0, and Smart Home.

News & Events regarding all of our projects and announcements – ranging across the clusters.


In 2010, the chair "Design Research" at the Berlin University of the Arts was endowed by Telekom Innovation Laboratories. Since then, several cooperative research projects with Deutsche Telekom, BMBF and many other public and private partners, were pursued.

Main questions are:

  • How would we like to communicate and interact in the future?
  • What kind of design methods serve us in research and development?
  • How can people be integrated into research and development as experts of their everyday life?
  • Which forms of technological development and innovations can be utilized to improve social, environmental and economic sustainability?

  • UdK_Logo

    Website: Universität der Künste / Berlin University of Arts

    The University of the Arts Berlin is becoming part of an international development, in which design is positioned as a major research field.

    Within the framework of PhD-projects and interdisciplinary research approaches, several different contributions to the international scientific and design discourse are in development. The question of how design research with its specific methods and ways of exploring through design practice is addressed within the projects. We are focusing on new ways of researching in "mode 2", where interdisciplinary competences come together to solve the wicked problems of everyday life.


    Design Research

    "Design Research is a systematic search for and acquisition of knowledge related to general human ecology, considered from a ‘designerly way of thinking (i.e., project-oriented) perspective."

    (Findeli, A. (2010). Searching for Design Research Questions: Some Conceptual Clarifications, (pp. 278-292). iUniverse.)

    The content of Design Research is concerned with general human ecology. The paradigm of Design Research that we follow is research-through-design. The method of Design Research is a deliberate search for and acquisition of knowledge. The goal of Design Research is the acquisition of theoretical and practical knowledge, as to inform practice and guide further research. The knowledge acquired in Design Research is compatible to knowledge generated in other disciplines. As Nigel Cross states, research is

  • Purposive – based on identification of an issue or problem worthy and capable of investigation;
  • Inquisitive – seeking to acquire new knowledge;
  • Informed – conducted from an awareness of previous, related research;
  • Methodical – planned and carried out in a disciplined manner;
  • Communicable – generating and reporting results that are testable and accessible by others.

  • Being concerned with general human ecology, Design Research is often confronted with the so-called wicked problems [5]. These are characterized by a high level of complexity, combined with a high degree of uncertainty and often involve stakeholders with radically different world views [6]. Furthermore, wicked problems can have numerous possible intervention points, consequences that are difficult to imagine and finally also no “stopping rule” in the form of a single solution.

    Figure: Findeli
    Figure: Fällman

    This implies certain requirements to the discipline of Design Research:

  • A methodology that allows dealing with uncertainty, ambiguity and complexity in real-life situations; Impact of Design Research activity on daily life. Hence, it is concerned with not only what is real or what is true, but also what is possible; Awareness of ethical aspects in all activities that touch daily life.
  • A design practice project is a central part of research-through-design. An initial design question can be reframed into a broader research question. It is also true that a broad research question can be framed into one or more specific design questions. For one of the latter, a possible design answer can be found, which may take one of many forms (i.e., verbal, artifactic, visual, narrative). These possible design answers may, in turn, be helpful in answering the research questions posed in the beginning.

    Communicable results play a vital role in this process; they are required to fulfill the definition of Design Research. Furthermore, as such they are important as for their contribution to further research. Peer reviews are vital to ensure the value of the research results to the Design Research community. Communicable results are also necessary to be transferred into other contexts, such as education and industry. The former is important to transfer the gained knowledge to scholars of Design Research, while the latter ensures its practical impact.

    According to Fällman the process of a design research project can be seen as a triangular model defined by the activity areas of "design practice", "design studies" and "design exploration", aiming at what is "real", "true" and "possible" respectively. The corners of this model lead to the three external interfaces: industry, academia and society at large.

    During an ongoing design research project, the researcher can move and drift through the different areas of activity in loops and trajectories – thereby changing the point of view on the researched matter – that differ in terms of perspective of research outcome and its tradition of research motivation and methods.