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DesignX is the research group of Professor Larry Leifer, PhD at the Center for Design Research at Stanford University.

For more information contact Professor Leifer via email or join in for weekly DesignX research group meetings during the school year Wednesday evenings from 6-7pm at the Center for Design Research at 424 Panama Mall, Building 560 on the Stanford campus.


The scope of the design research activity in the DesignX research group spans a broad range of topics related to design, including understanding existing practice, developing emerging technologies, and charting the course of design education.

Design as a Research Topic

One of our core goals of research is to find out what is it that designers do when designers do design. To
this end, DesignX researchers have studied how design teams use their workspaces [1], how designers access and
reference information in conceptual design [2], how social interaction affects design outcomes [3], how different learning styles of team members affect group design work [4], how geographical distribution affects design team
collaboration [5], how designers use question-asking in the conceptual design process [6], how expert assistance
influences design outcomes [7], how design entrepreneurs use informal networks to develop innovative ideas[8],
and how design affects the corporate bottom line [9]. This research has contributed to the larger understanding
of what design is, has explored how different factors affect the products of the design process, and has influenced how design curriculum should be structured.

Design as a Research Method

One distinguishing characteristic of DesignX research it is conducted by researchers with technical backgrounds in
design. This encourages empathy with the subjects of our research, but it also induces researchers to adopt design
as a research method. Design is applied to adapt traditional methods for research, providing new tools for data
collection and analysis[12]; research on design observatories[11], noun-phrase analysis[13], internet knowledge
repositories[14], instrumented workspaces[15] emerged as a natural byproduct of our efforts to understand
design. Design researchers are also able to build innovative designs, prototyping the design artifacts of the future
to gain insights on the issues, constraints and opportunities which designers will face in years to come. By employing design as a tool and method for conducting research, we are able to better understand how design occurs, and expand the realm of how design is applied.

Design as a Philosophical Approach

One of the most important aspects of DesignX is the emergence and adoption of design as an overall philosophy. This "design thinking" provides a frame from which design students, researchers and practitioners may observe and approach the world at large. Locally, we articulate the three key tenets of this framework as:

  1. All design is redesign.
  2. Design is a social process.
  3. Designers preserve ambiguity.

This framing and philosophy is evidenced in the major themes of DesignX research. The notion of "design as redesign," which incorporates our ideas about design being iterative, about design by analogy and situated design, has led DesignX researchers to look for external sources of design inspiration; researchers of implicit interactions provide detailed discussions of the human behaviors that interactive products emulate to communicate with users. The emphasis on collaboration, particularly in environments where people are geographically distributed and come from different disciplinary backgrounds, speaks to our belief that design is a social process. Our interest in informal and ad-hoc methods, as well as our history of research in sketching activity as part of the iterative design process, is clearly influenced by the importance of ambiguity as a critical design resource. Our researchers often exploit the ambiguity of what it means to do design research to pick and choose the research methodologies that will best suit the project or question at hand; after all, good designers use whatever tools are at their disposal, and even invent new ones if the situation demands.

This overview of DesignX is adapted from a position paper prepared by Wendy Ju, Lawrence Neeley and Larry Leifer for a workshop on exploring design as a research activity at CHI 2007:

<font=small>Ju, W., Neeley, L., & Leifer, L. "Design, Design & Design; An overview of Stanford's Center for Design Research," Position paper for Workshop on Exploring Design as a Research Activity, CHI 2007, San Jose, CA.


Works cited above:

1. Tang, J. C. and Leifer, L. J. (1988). A framework for understanding the workspace activity of design teams. In
Proceedings of the 1988 ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (Portland, Oregon,
United States, September 26 - 28, 1988). CSCW '88. ACM Press, New York, NY, 244-249
2. V Baya, LJ Leifer. (1994). Study of the information handling behavior of designers during conceptual design. In
Design Theory and Methodology, 68, 153-160.
3. Brereton, M. F. (1998) The Role of Hardware in Learning Engineering Fundamentals: An Empirical Study of
Engineering Design and Dissection Activity, PhD Dissertation, Stanford University.
4. Carrizosa, K., and Sheppard, S. (2000) The Importance of Learning Styles in Group Design Work. ASEE/IEEE
Frontiers in Education. T2B-12-17
5. Leifer, L., Culpepper, J., Ju, W., Canon, D., Eris, O., Liang, T., Bell, D., Bier, E., Pier, K., "Measuring the
Performance of Online Distributed Team Innovation (Learning) Services," proceedings of the ECI Conference
on e-Technologies in Engineering Education, Davos, Switzerland, 2002.
6. Eris, O., "Manifestation of Divergent-Convergent Thinking in Question Asking and Decision Making Processes
of Design Teams: A Performance Dimension," in Human Behavior in Design, Lindemann, U. (editor), p. 142-
153, Springer-Verlag, London, 2003.
7. Eris, O., Leifer, L., "Facilitating Product Development Knowledge Acquisition: Interaction between The Expert
and The Team," International Journal of Engineering Education, Vol. 19, No. 1, p. 142-152, 2003.
8. Cockayne, W.R.(2004): A Study of the Formation of Innovation Ideas in Informal Networks
9. Feland III, J.M.(2005): Product Capital Model: modeling the value of design to corporate performance
10. Donaldson, K. (2002) Recommendations for Improved Development by Design. Development by Design. 2nd
International Conference on Open Collaborative Design for Sustainable Innovation.
11. Carrizossa, K., Eris, O., Mabogunje, A., Milne, A., Leifer, L., "Building the Design Observatory: a core instrument
for design research." Proceedings of the Design 2002 Conference, Dubrovnik, Croatia, 2002.
12. Leifer, L., and Mabogunje, A., "A Framework for Instrumenting Design Teams," in Designers - The Key to
Successful Product Development, H. Birkhofer, P. Badke-Schaub, E. Frankenberger, (Editors), Springer-Verlag,
London, Spring 1998.
13. Mabogunje, A, Leifer, L.J., "Noun Phrases as Surrogates for Measuring Early Phases of the Mechanical Design
Process," proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology, ASME,
Sacramento, California, 1997.
14. Liang, T., Cannon, C., Feland, J., Mabogunje, A., Yen, S., Yang, M., and Leifer, L., "New Dimensions In
Internet-Based Design Capture and Reuse," proceedings of the International Conference on Engineering
Design, Munich, Germany, 1999.
15. Ju, W., Ionescu, A., Neeley, L., Winograd, T. "Where the Wild Things Work: Capturing Physical Design
Workspaces." In Proc. of Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work. November 2004. Chicago, IL,

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