The Rich Design Research Space

By Birger Sevaldson



A Rich Design Space (Photo Birger Sevaldson 2012)


The rich design research space is an inclusive methodological framework and scaffold for research by design. The rich design research space especially addresses the issue of richness in the design processes and in design-led research.

There is a general trend toward increased complexity in design processes, caused on the one hand by the increasing depth and width in the use of design media and methods and on the other hand by the increasing complexity and interdependency of society due to globalisation. These issues force the designer to confront new challenges. 

The rich research space concept takes into account the physical, social and cultural spaces, along with the virtual and visual media spaces, in which the research by design takes place. The concept takes the form of a specific integral approach to design , and it embraces many types of investigation, from analytical to intuitive. The rich research space provides a flexible framework within which the complexity of research by design can be interrelated, discussed and reflected on. Potentially, it can create a more involved role for the designer, one that allows for contributions toward the resolution of ever-pressing issues in society. This approach is currently one of a limited number of possible frameworks that the design professions can utilise to make a difference in a world of overwhelming complexity.

The following are two images that show how a particular rich design space was organised:



Henriette sagvolden marki rich design space 1 2014


Henriette sagvolden marki rich design space 2 2014

The pictures show the same space from two different angles. This was organised for group work that later was broke up into individual projects. The images show how the physical part of the rich design space was organised, but the rich design space also comprises of a social space, a digital media space and more abstract conceptions such as the cultural space and conceptual space of possible design solutions. (Photos: Henriette Sagvolden Marki 2014)


The rich design research space is based on multiple uses of media representations, and it includes the physical space, the social space and digital space in which the design process and its research component takes place. Strategies such as media switching are central. The concept is based on a media process that is interlinking different data represntaitons and where the switching between media changes and accelerates the design process.

The rich design research process is heavily based on design visualisation, both of design sketches and suggestions, but also of abstract and technical-sociological information. Therefore, the GIGA-map is a natural component of the rich design research space; it is displayed on the walls of the physical design space and is represented on the project’s blog.

First, the rich design research space  makes large amounts of information accessible, forms dynamic and changeable social configurations of project teams and encourages changes to the media, team and format throughout the design process to propel the project’s development.



Rich design spaces in the master studio at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design (Video: Birger Sevaldson 2014)



Below are some articles that discuss the issue.


Why should we and how can we make the design process more complex?A new look at the systems approach in design. Birger Sevaldson, In Shaping Futures, ed. Marianne Lie Berg, Oslo, Oslo School of Architecture and Design, 2009 Order a copy at the front desk of AHO: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This article discusses the importance of changing design educations so that they are more capable to deal with very complex real life issues.

A Systems Approach to Design Learning, Birger Sevaldson Systemisches Denken und integrales Entwerfen, ed. Achim Menges, Präsident der Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach am Main, Offenbah, Germany. 2008 Order a copy at the front desk of AHO:

Rich Research Space Birger Sevaldson in Form Akademisk:, 2008

In this article the importance of a complex and multi-medial design space for design in complex settings is introduced.