Dr Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer of the Design Innovation Research Centre at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) gave the spring LDoc Keynote Lecture to an audience of postgraduate design students, academics and practitioners. The lecture took place on 15 March 2016 at Kingston University’s Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture.
Dr. Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer is a researcher, designer and educator in the fields of human-centred design and social and public sector innovation. She is interested in the opportunities that design practices provide for innovating on today’s complex societal problems, and studies how we can use design successfully to develop such social innovation practices. As a Senior Lecturer at the Design Innovation Research Centre at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) she therefore studies these practices, and contributes to the development of methods and tools. Her work includes working with people in various public sector organisations across domains such as education, health, housing and community. Mieke is also a member of the key staff team of UTS’ trans disciplinary double Bachelor’s degree in Creative Intelligence and Innovation, contributing to the development of a new generation of innovators, entrepreneurs and change makers. Mieke holds a Master’s degree in Industrial Design Engineering from Delft University of Technology, and a PhD from the University of Twente in the Netherlands (both cum laude).
The design field is rapidly expanding from the traditional design field, to applications in the public, private and social sector to address any kind of problem that requires an innovative approach. This offers tremendous opportunity for designers and design researchers to impact the real world through their work. At the same time, it can be quite challenging and overwhelming to find your way within this complex system. As academic design researchers, we might need to redesign our roles and responsibilities.
In this talk I will share my personal experiences and challenges of moving from a PhD in the traditional design field, to an academic career in the non-traditional design field, namely the public sector. My PhD research considered human-centred design processes, working with professional designers and design teams. I was interested in what designers know and need to know about people to be able to design appropriate products for them. My current interests are very similar but applied in a very different – public sector innovation – context. My research is aimed at investigating what public sector organisations need to know about the people they design for – and with! – to be able to develop appropriate solutions to complex societal issues, so called human-centred innovation. This means my research has shifted from the ‘design world’ to the ‘real world’, contributing to the development of solutions for issues such as mental health, housing, community and education. I will share my main research insights so far and reflect on the impact this shift in focus has on research methods, impact measurement, language and collaborations.