Dear students of the Swiss Master in Design Programmes,
Dear professors, lecturers and academic staff
Developing 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 when the Master of Arts in Design programmes were implemented. They were intended to establish a «research oriented design approach». This requirement raised the question, how research on a Master level could be integrated in the context of Swiss Design, and what kind of professional career models this would address? It was a major challenge to develop these master programmes and successfully lead them through the international accreditation procedures.
Almost 10 years later, most of the basic questions are solved! Today, looking at all the Master in Design programmes from the Swiss Universities of Applied Science, we see both: an unique education for design skills as well as a distinctive way on how design practice is being questioned, discussed and put in to new knowledge. This approach opened up perspectives for the design discipline: it showed the exceptional way that design produces valuable knowledge, defines specific methods and processes and, nevertheless, beautiful results. May it be «research through design», «research about design» or «research for design» – the practicing design community as well as the academia agreed that design came up with an own approach to how «research» can be defined, developed and distributed. This not only based on academic definitions, rather especially on practice-based results, and a body of knowledge where design history is only a part of it. Today we see a broad range of design research activities in all our master programmes. The 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 design research. 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 in Design students are researching. 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 education forward. Each year, we recognise an increasing quality of the presented projects. A major challenge for the lecturers, and at the same times 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 welcoming you!
Professor Michael Krohn
Head Master of Arts in Design at Zurich University of the Arts