I am currently working on defining three seminars that lay out a foundation for design education. These courses are not oriented towards the formal and technological aspects of media, but rather focus on the psychological and cognitive questions involved with almost any design work. This is what I came up with:
- Density: Designing for effectiveness (mostly looking at Information Design)
Questions involved: How dense can display of information get? How much information can be groked in short time? How can designers organize the attention of recipients/viewers? What do we need to know about cognitive psychology and perception research, to find the best way of communicating visually? How can we identify and build upon archetypes that are available to most humans? etc.
- Simplicity: Designing for efficiency (mostly looking at Interface Design)
Questions involved: How can we avoid things getting too complex? Is there an absolute measure to complexity in contrast to an obvious relative measure? Why do we instantly feel products beeing »easy to use«? How can we improve our understanding of the »usage context« when designing things? When do things become too simple and thus do harm instead of help? When does »making things simple« become an end it itself? etc.
- Continuity: Designing for adequacy (mostly looking at Interaction Design)
Questions involved: Is there a »psychology of interaction«? Can we learn from the concept of »flow« introduced in psychology for designing interactive systems and services? Can we identify an area inbetween intuition and concious decision making? Do we have the right epistemocogical tools at hand to identify problems in design work in regard to »fluent interaction«? etc.
I plan to sketch out these three topics as being foundation courses – not as a research agenda. You might start from there into any direction within the design profession. One might work on this theoretically, but one might also use any kind of pracitcal design problem or test case to explore the questions raised.