About

The Centre for Design Informatics provides a platform in which design and data science can mix. As a team, we are interested in the emerging field of human-data interactions and developing ways for design to engage with the complexity of digital economic systems.
We draw on Edinburgh’s unique combination of strengths in Informatics and Design, to inspire, equip and nurture a new generation of design-informatics researchers, practitioners and entrepreneurs. Informatics provides the theory for, and technologies of, information processing, while design provides the methods to adapt and create products and services.

Human data interaction (HDI) covers “the individual and collective decisions that we make and actions we take, as users of online systems, or as subjects of data collection practices” (Mortier et al. 2014). Design for HDI goes beyond the organisation and understanding of data, requiring the development of platforms that balance the values of all stakeholders within complex digital economic systems, and that offer ways of comparing those values.

We exploit a framework for HDI design which distinguishes design from, with, and by data:

Design from data: when systems are designed by people, where they are inspired by measurable features of humans, computers, things, and their contexts.

Design with data: when systems are designed by people, where they take into account the flows of data through systems, and the need to sustain and enhance human values.

Design by data: when systems are designed by other systems, largely autonomously, where new products and services can be synthesised via the data-intensive analysis of existing combinations of humans, computers, things, and contexts.

We pursue research, teaching, and entrepreneurship. Our projects typically aim to build and test working data-driven prototypes. These products and services help us ‘eff the ineffable’: they make real the ideas that underpin the emerging algorithmic society. We take ideas that can otherwise seem abstract and over-complicated, and build systems that give glimpses into near future social, technical and economic experiences. When people can see what might happen - and what might go wrong - they are better placed to shape what should happen.

The Centre delivers design-centred solutions for commercial, cultural and civic sectors. For instance: Security - applied ethics for secure domestic internet-of-things devices; Health - informatics to support conditions associated with ageing communities; Mobility - models of data driven transport across civic and private networks; and Finance - payment services within peer-to-peer lending frameworks.

Our community of interest spans both private and public sectors. On the one hand, we have established relationships with agencies and companies including Oxfam, Google, NCR, Microsoft, RBS, GCHQ, and the NHS. On the other hand, the Centre is valued by cultural and civic partners including: Scottish Government, National Museums Scotland, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh City Council, Lothian Buses and the City’s Museums and Galleries.

Entrepreneurs

The Centre has hosted Resident Entrepreneurs who we helped to take their own informatics products to market, designing with data, to build innovative prototypes and transform them into viable products. The Centre currently has half a dozen residencies, housed in Evolution House, with access to entrepreneurial education, and support for spinning out. The Centre’s community of interest is being developed to help forge the links between academics and local and global companies and organisations, both large and small. These links will underpin the placements being established for future students. Visit the Residencies page to find out more about the companies taking part. Unfortunately we are currently not recruiting new entrepreneurs but hope to in the future.

Teaching

Courses are being designed for students who want to build their skills in design informatics. There is a degree programme for informatics-based students, and another for design-based students. Both involve the deepening of technical skills, as well as broadening out to enable interactions across discipline boundaries. The courses have a focus on practicals and products, and work is in hand to scope out summer placements on challenging projects. See the Postgraduate page for more details.

Research

Students, staff and entrepreneurs are exploring the possibilities which are generated by crossing ideas from design and informatics. For instance, what can computer vision do for animation? Can synthetic biology and fashion find common ground? Every student or staff research project has to address a practical challenge. Can we improve the ways we work, especially creatively - or the ways we care, for vulnerable members of the community - or the ways we play, on the sports-field, or on holiday? See the Research pages for futher details on projects.

Outreach

The centre works in association with New Media Scotland on many projects from Late Labs as part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival, Expanded Cinema event and on the Alt-W programme.