Towards the end of the Research & Enquiry module you will need to start thinking about your methodology – this is the way that you conduct research, find ideas, interpret sources and images, and respond to your research findings. Part of your practical methodology is usually ‘experimentation’, but this is a difficult word to define. Peter Bil’ak has written an essay on Typotheque which queries the use of the term ‘experiment’ and tries to decipher its meaning for design practice.
Bil’ak writes that the term ‘experiment’ is used ‘to signify anything new, unconventional, defying easy categorization, or confounding expectations’. Importantly, this definition covers not only things that are new for the design world as a whole, but also in your own practice. Experimentation is about giving yourself new experiences; trying something that you haven’t tried before.
He also notes that ‘as a verb, ‘to experiment’ is often synonymous with the design process itself’. Your experiment is not just your outcome, but also your method. It is the way in which you find new ideas, as well as the way that those ideas are expressed in your outcome.
Most importantly, an ‘experimental’ design is valuable for what it teaches you (or your audience). For many designers, this means that the outcome of an experiment doesn’t need to look perfect, so long as it has taught you something valuable. As an MA student, you should be able to articulate the value of your experiments; to identify what you have learnt, with the aim of informing your future projects.