Dear students of the Swiss Master in Design Programmes,
Dear professors, lecturers and academic staff

 

To conduct research was one of the major issues at stake when the Universities of Applied Science were integrated in the network of institutes for higher education in Switzerland. The reform of the Swiss higher education system sparked critical debates due to the predominantly applied tradition of Swiss design education, considered closer to “best practice” than to science. The implementation of the programmes of Master of Arts in Design generated even more controversy. The programmes targeted a «research oriented design approach». This research approach raised questions on the ways of integrating research in a Master level in the context of Swiss design, and what kind of professional career model this would open up. 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 offered by 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 revealed how design produces new knowledge in its own right, by creating specific methods and processes. Be it «research through design», «research about design» or «research for design» – the design community as well as the academia now agree that design has fostered its own unique approach on how «research» can be defined and developed. It is founded not only on academic criteria, but more especially on practice-based processes and results, and a body of knowledge which incorporates design history. As a result, a broad range of design research activities have successfully emerged from our master programmes. Different design disciplines have developed their own approach to research and are recognised contributors to both culture and knowledge.

The Junior Research Conference (JRC) turned out to be a major player in the national dialogue on research in the design master programmes. The JRC acts today as a network — an annual performance indicator and a remarkable event that charts the steady progress of Master students in design research. Since the first JRC held in 2011, a panel of students have been presenting their master projects and carrying out workshops with their peers. One of the key principles governing the JRC is that the conference is organised by and for students, rather than being set up for institutional reasons. It provides an interesting insight into current projects and relevant topics, demonstrating processes and experiments, therefore raising novel questions showing the way forward in our educational institutions. Each year witnesses a rise in the quality of the projects which are shown to the audience. This presents a challenge to the lecturers, and testifies to the high educational standards that underscore the programmes. Ultimately, this drives design culture in Switzerland forward, ensuring the legitimacy of its contribution to the scientific community and of a successful practice-based profession.

Following the JRC events held in our fellow Universities of Applied Science in Design in Switzerland, it is our turn to have the pleasure of welcoming you at HEAD—Genève for the ninth Junior Research Conference. We are particularly pleased to welcome you to our new Campus, located in the Chatelaine district of Geneva. A large number of HEAD's study programmes will come together on this Campus, creating a centre of excellence in art and design and enabling the School to set up large-scale cultural events. The JRC will be hosted in Bâtiment H, a former factory which is now one of the three buildings of the Campus. On November 14th will take place a kick-off pre-conference focusing on potential career models and opportunities for our graduates in research. On November 15th, each University will present two masters projects from different design disciplines, and offer workshops led by the students. And at the end of the conference, we invite all participants to share a drink with us on our Campus.

We look forward to welcome you!

Anne-Catherine Sutermeister
Head of Research at HEAD—Genève