U Web site offers design students simplified access to research articles

Jerret Raffety

Sammie Palen didn’t have time to search through hundreds of research pages for her office design project.

Instead, the fifth-year interior design student turned to InformeDesign, a University Web site that provides summaries of design or human behavior research found in scholarly journals.

“Instead of having to read through 20 or 30 pages per article, I could get the important data from one or two pages,” Palen said. “A purpose, rationale, design criteria and key concepts of the research are all right there in the summary.”

Created by the department of design, housing and apparel, the Web site is the first of its kind to offer a free research database for design professionals and the public, said Emily Utoft Durand, InformeDesign program assistant director.

InformeDesign’s purpose is to collect data that will increase the health, safety and welfare of a designer’s project, according to the Web site.

Each summary also includes a link to the original publisher.

InformeDesign draws from research found in more than 120 electronic and print scholarly journals, with more being added each month, said Denise Guerin, the program coordinator.

The Web site is in its second year and continues to grow, Guerin said. Its database has more than 950 research summaries dating back to 1995, and approximately 400 summaries are added each year, she said.

The site has more than 6,000 registered users. More than 50,000 to 60,000 pages of summary are downloaded every month, Guerin said.

“Over 30 percent of our users are students from this and other universities,” she said.

Registered users have access to updates concerning research and the monthly newsletter. They can build a database of their own research on the site, Guerin said.

It also transforms academic research into “practitioner-friendly language,” terms even laymen can understand, she said.

“A problem with these journals is that researchers are often writing for other researchers,” Guerin said.

Palen, now an employee of InformeDesign, spends most of her working hours highlighting text and writing summaries of research, she said. She is one of the site’s eight student employees.

Her summaries are edited and then revised by the program director and assistant program director.

“We could revise it twice or seven times in order to make the summary as easily understood as possible,” Palen said.

The Web site also gathers research on design topics from numerous disciplines outside of, but still related to, design, Durand said.

“We know that designers need a wide variety of sources for any kind of project,” Durand said. “For example, an architect working on a hospital has numerous health concerns to be aware of in their design.”

The Web site features research tutorials and informational webcasts, she said.