Why Google Will Never Beat Old-Fashioned Design Research

Steven Heller from the MFA School of Visual Arts’s “No Google!” design class explains the importance of digging up objects—and their stories—by hand.

From the article titled Why Google Will Never Beat Old-Fashioned Design Research:

Internet search engines cannot solve all research challenges. So the purpose of this class is to teach gumshoe rather than desktop research. My goal is to encourage research projects based on personal or scholarly interests, historical artifacts or found objects. Analysis rooted in first-hand interplay is essential.

For instance, one student found this saucy book from the 70s and was intrigued with the typography on the cover and followed the trail to find out more.  Once the students started on their journey of discovery, they delved into things they might never have found otherwise.  

Typography Book

Each of the objects—new or old—becomes the basis for a research narrative, a story of origins, applications, and consequences. Since design objects do not exist in a vacuum, in addition to exploring the context in which the objects reside, students must evaluate them in terms of effectiveness, consequence, and overall influence on the culture. The results are indeed “object lessons” that serve as building blocks of critical design writing.

Read the full article here.

How much do you rely on Google for your design research?  Maybe we should try going old-school every now and then and see what we can uncover to inform our design inspiration file.


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Jen Leheny

Hello! I'm the owner, blogger, designer, photographer, maker at Red Instead in Canberra, Australia. I also have a photo portfolio at Jen Leheny Photography and there's some work info at jenleheny.com. I like to design and make things in my spare time, which I sell at the Red Instead Shop and at Trove Canberra. And in my other spare time, I rollerskate!