In response to new challenges, both social and internal, the Unit has redefined itself in order to explore areas of interest at the intersection of the quadrants drawn by the Design-Technology-Art-Communication-Marketing vectors. Thus, and without prejudice to future updates, the research is now organised into seven clusters, instead of groups, corresponding to strategic areas of research, materialised in projects: Mapping Design; Design for social innovation and sustainability; Interaction Design and UX; Envision future; Communication, Culture and Consumption; Art and Visual Production and Design Principles and Practices.
Due to their very nature, clusters foster interaction and cooperation among interdisciplinary project teams, incorporating young researchers, as much as possible, from different programmes and study cycles, as well as external partners (e.g., companies, laboratories). In the portfolio there are about 30 projects, some already in execution, encompassing a great diversity of interests and methodological approaches.
MAPPING PORTUGUESE DESIGN
This research cluster focuses on design history and studies, and its main goals are to contrast different research experiences in order to think critically on the development of Portuguese design and understand how design practices and products contribute to our cultural values. We seek to map the circulation and valorisation of aesthetic forms, the paths of our national identity, including the contributions of ethnicity and gender, highlighting the cultural and economic relevance of Portuguese design products and their potential to be developed into new ones. Through this mapping, we can examine and confirm the relevance of ‘memory archives’ and also provide content for cultural products, as part of a creative economy strategy embraced by the research unit.
DESIGN FOR SOCIAL INNOVATION AND SUSTAINABILITY
The Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability cluster is concerned with the sustainability of economic, environmental and social systems, developing ideas and solutions that promote social value as well as the processes through which they are generated, perceived and maintained. Aiming to develop and deploy effective and meaningful solutions to promote a better use of assets and resources, social resilience and wellbeing in a challenging, complex and changing world, this research cuts across sectors and fields of action, engages a broad range of organisations and actors. It impacts on areas such as cities and population issues, economic empowerment and management, production and market dynamics, environmental sustainability, healthcare and tourism, cultural practices and education, ethics and governance, civil liberties and human rights.
INTERACTION DESIGN AND UX
The Interaction Design and UX cluster is concerned with digital transformation and is interested in understanding interactivity: what interaction means, its benefits and drawbacks, as well as the extent to which it affects us, at personal and social levels, to help designing digital artefacts offering a useful and meaningful UX. Interactivity seems to be everywhere and is increasing in applications, devices, wearables, services and systems, health and safety, education and entertainment, industrial production and transportation. Examples of related research include the design of social robots and drones, interactive infographics, virtual or augmented reality solutions, IoT and web-based solutions.
The Envision future research cluster, is focused on developing an experimental and experiential framework, demanding new design roles, contexts, and methods, enabling the establishment of possible future scenarios from the perspective of speculative design research. The future of society is envisioned as a space to imagine, test and shape new possibilities for design itself; new artistic possibilities for technology, education and cultural issues; and ethical implications for science and technological research; as well as large-scale social and political problems. Using the language of design to pose questions, provoke, inspire, and by developing an interdisciplinary and multicultural community that seeks permanent contact and cooperation to break boundaries, the research explores and speculates on new ways to answer challenges to humanity.
COMMUNICATION, CULTURE AND CONSUMPTION
This cluster focuses on cross-cultural research to grasp production, diffusion and consumption processes. Key areas are: brand identity & image; branding & advertising; planning & implementation; management, monitoring & evaluation; consumer behaviour. Issues of ethics and sustainability are to be transversely considered. The backdrop against which these processes occur is also of interest, particularly regarding the relations between the cultural, creative and media sectors and society. This cluster will also review the impact of better access to design, architecture, marketing and communication services on innovative practices, bearing in mind the growing significance of the use of new technologies.
ART AND VISUAL PRODUCTION
The Art and Visual Production Cluster is concerned with the growing de-humanisation of authorship in cultural products. Therefore, we promote studies rooted in drawing and photography, forefathers of illustration, comics, graphic arts, independent cinema, documentaries, animation and video game characters and settings. These studies aim to confirm the resistance of “visual arts” and “visual culture” against human and mechanical digital communication device hybridisation. We wish to study and actively promote practice-based research on crafted visual production that embodies pre-digitalisation processes in using and mastering digital technologies as part of re-humanising visual culture.
DESIGN PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES
The Design principles and practices cluster is concerned with the essence of “simplicity” and is interested in understanding what happens in Design’s different existences, particularly in its praxis. Design today is less an act of drawing or designing something than the act of designing a programme that in itself conceives a diversity of solutions pertaining to the service or function that we intend to draw or design. This drawing and designing activity may thus be defined by the creation of new materials and the new industry 4.0; genetic manipulation; software and interface conception; formulation of new forms of communication and languages, mostly those of a visualisation nature; conception (design) of social, political and cultural ideas; and the generation of new behaviour with growing complexity. In contrast, and as a consequence of complexity, as well as Design intervention, we all can access better life quality. We can access better technological artefacts and products, while enabling their simpler interaction.