Blog: Making Sense of DiA – my first few months as an AHRC PhD

13 March 2013

Sarah Morton PictureBio: Sarah Morton is a PhD on the Design in Action project, based at the University of Abertay. A Masters and undergrad in Fashion, Promotion and Journalism have created a, perhaps unhealthy, obsession with Design and Branding. Her research focus is establishing how brands in the rural community can promote themselves to encourage greater participation in outdoor sports. In her spare time, she is usually on a mountain or writing about being on a mountain.

I’m not sure if one makes a decision to become a designer, or evolves into one over time.  Perhaps this is what makes the role of a designer so blurred, and often misunderstood, across industry.  With a background in fashion, creative promotion, journalism and digital marketing, I never viewed myself as a designer, until I was actually called one.  Even then, I felt intimidated by such an overwhelming and undefined title.  Accepting myself as a designer has been a long, and still on-going, process – perhaps it will never reach a culminating point, and it is this personal experience that helps me understand the barriers faced by business when they are presented with the importance of design, bringing the designer into the boardroom, and ultimately the importance design plays in the innovation process.

From my perspective, Design in Action will play a major role in highlighting the benefits for business when they take the decision to implement design as a major element in the development process.  Often a fresh idea for a product or service is conceived, developed, and put through market research before being presented to the designer – at this point the designer can pick a million flaws from the brief, but can do nothing about it, except proceed, voiceless, with the realisation of impending failure.

The Design in Action Chiasma events will invite companies and individuals to bring business ideas to the table; providing them with the facilities, tools and space to utilise the skills and knowledge of experienced designers, right from the birth of the concept.  It is believed the outcome will not only have a positive impact on the Scottish economy, but also on the role of design, and the designer, within business innovation.

My part in the Design in Action project is as a PhD researcher, based at Abertay our business area of interest is the sports sector – a particularly interesting sector to introduce design thinking into, and one we believe will benefit hugely, since the innovation potential within sports appears almost endless at present, and indeed very exciting.  Although the finer details are yet to be defined, it is envisaged that the Abertay focus will be to encourage increased participation in sports, using innovation and design strategy to break down the barriers faced by those who currently do not participate in sporting activities.

Progress to date, has been fast-moving and encompassing a wide range of topical issues directly relating to sporting participation numbers in Scotland.  At present, we are in the most critical stage of honing the direction for our DiA Chiasma call, and are looking forward to hosting our first Sports Chiasma in September.