Dear students of the Swiss Master in Design Programmes,
Dear professors, lecturers and academic staff
To do research was one of the major issues when the Universities of Applied Science were introduced as institutes for higher education in Switzerland. Undoubtedly, the reform of the Swiss higher education system was critically discussed, the tradition of the Swiss design education was predominately applied, close to best practice rather than to science. The situation got even more controversial after the Master of Arts in Design programmes were implemented. They aimed for a «research oriented design approach». This affordance raised the question, how research in a Master level could be integrated in the context of Swiss design, and what kind of professional career model this would address? It was a major challenge to develop master programmes and successfully lead them through the international accreditation procedures.
Almost 10 years later, most of the basic questions were solved! Today, looking at all the Master in Design programmes from the Swiss Universities of Applied Science, we can see a high level of both: a unique education in design skills and innovation as well as a distinctive way on how design practice is being questioned and discussed. This approach opened up new perspectives for the design discipline: it showed the exceptional way how design produces new knowledge, creates particular methods and processes. May it be «research through design», «research about design» or «research for design» – the design community as well as the academia agree that design came up with an own approach to how «research» can be defined and developed. This not only based on academic definitions, but especially on practice based results, and a body of knowledge where design history is part of it. As a successful result, we see a broad range of design research activities in our master programmes. Different design disciplines developed their own approach to research and are acknowledged contributors to both: culture and knowledge.
The Junior Design Research Conference (JRC) turned out to be a major factor in the national exchange of research in the design master programmes. Starting in 2011, the JRC acts today as a network — an annual performance indicator and a remarkable event that shows the steady progress on how Master students are researching in design. Since the first JRC in 2011, selected students have been presenting their master projects and carrying out workshops to their peers. One of the most important key principle: the JRC was not organised for institutional reasons, the conference is by students for students. It provides an interesting insight into actual projects and relevant topics, showing processes, experiments and therefore raising novel questions to drive our educational institutions forward. Each year, we recognise that the quality of the presented projects increase; which is a major challenge for the lecturers, and is at the same time a sign for the high educational standards. As a consequence, this pushes the design culture in Switzerland forward and secures an effective participation in the scientific community and a successful practice based profession.
After all of our fellows from the other University of Applied Science in Design have hosted the JRC, we now have the pleasure to welcome you again at the Zurich University of the Arts for the eighth Junior Research Conference. On November 9th, we will start with a pre-conference focusing on potential career models and opportunities for our graduates. On November 10th, each University will present two masters projects from different design disciplines, and offer workshops held by the students. And at the end of the conference, we invite all participants to have a drink with us at our Music Club “Mehrspur”.
We look forward to welcome you!
Professor Michael Krohn
Head Master of Arts in Design at Zurich University of the Arts