Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Week 5 - Sept 24 - Design Philosophies

Recently, philosophies of design have entered into the conversation. These involve taking a philosophical approach to articulate the goals-aims-purpose of design. In the process they highlight design skills, knowledge, and values.

The readings for this week provide two views:

  • Nelson and Stolterman articulate “the design way” – where design involves intention and judgment and the outcome of design emerges from systems thinking. Nelson, H. & Stolterman, E. (2003). The Design Way: Intentional Change in an Unpredictable World. New Jersey: Educational Technology Publications. Chapters: Desiderata, Judgment (skim "The First Tradition" to get a sense of where they are coming from)
  • Krippendorf takes a semantics view to articulate a view of “human-centered design” – that designers design for “meaning”. Krippendorf, K. (2006). The Semantic Turn: A New Foundation for Design. Boca Raton: Taylor and Francis. Chapter Two: Basic Concepts of Human-Centered Design

Some of you will enjoy these readings, some of you will struggle with them – they are included because they are representative of current conversations about the nature of design (and to some extent they are seeking to “redraw the boundaries of design”). At the same time they provide interesting connections to design as process, designerly ways of thinking, and design as negotiation.

We will use a jigsaw technique this week – while I will assign groups don’t feel that you can’t argue for a different group!

George, James, Aidsa – try out Krippendorf: what does he argue about the goals, aims, or process of design, and what does “semantics” have to do with design?

Celia, CJ, Junqiu, and Roy – try out Nelson and Stolterman: what do they argue about the goals, aims, or process of design, and what is “the design way”?


§adieLovingtonNibblesworth said...

The questions posed this week are primarily located in the first half of the reading, although the second chapter, "Basic Concepts of Human Centered Design" is really expansive.

Krippendorff argues the same way that Aldous Huxley argues in "Brave New World Visited" concerning design in the 20th century. Essentially, the first half of the 20th century (roughly) was the era of the civil engineer, and the second half of the 20th century is the era of the social engineer.

Krippendorff, (hereafter referred to as "K,") focuses attention to the the meaning of objects to users and how this meaning affects product design. He begins by noting that in the early industrial revolution, the notion of user-guided design did not exist.

He contrasts the harsh origins of design with the second half of the 20th century, where the meanings of artifacts/object/interfaces are influenced by the user. Probably the most important argument he makes (and it is contained early on in the piece on page 8,) is that "the design of goods... can no longer rely on a universal aesthetic." He returns to this mantra throughout the piece, noting that human beings and their emotions determine to a large extent what they prefer to acquire, and a good designer should take this into account at all stages of the design process.

K recognizes that interfaces between "complex" systems" and humans cannot be expressed without direct references to both the system and the user of said system. Note how this is an expansion on the "outer" and "inner" design boundaries we read about last week, in the sense that these interfaces cannot exist without "knowing" both "inner" and "outer" workings of an artifact. HOW the inner is communicated to the outer is at the heart of K's semantics problem.

Although mostly mute about explicit nature of semantics in design until halfway through the first part of the reading, K eventually expands upon his beliefs in his treatment of projects. He notes that all projects require coordination of multiple persons, and that the evolution of any project in design "proceeds in language." Thus, he springboards into the concept of discourses and the discourses role in defining the community's desire as a practice in semantics.

Which brings me to K's "core" of the semantic "turn" as he describes it in modern design, whereby the turn to "human-centerdness" is what defines the modern design era (p 13).

Okay, I am going to stop for now. The reading IS dense, but beautiful. For all of you interested in semantics, may I suggest reading a book that started me on my journey into semantics research, "Math Semantics."

celia said...

Nelson and Stolterman argue that design is an intentional activity and this intentional design approach is based on a careful examination of desiderata guided by design judgment.
They spend the first half of Chapter 5 illustrating the significance of desiderata (desire), which motivate the intension. They indicate that desiderata have some kind of “mighty power.”
When I consider the word “desiderata”, I feel this word contains some “emotion”, compared with “need” or “demand”. Desiderata represent passion, aspiration and strength. It is the human emotion which is concealed behind desiderata that triggers the design and endows design with creativity and innovation.
Chapter 8 talks about judgments, which enable right action and appropriate change. N and S propose a plethora of judgment types and particularly explain the model of “relationships of judge”, (p203) in which both client and designer’s judgments are included. However, I would like this model to be two curves with some cross point… Because from previous reading (Mann), we know that there are times when designers and client will work together and make judgment.

CJ said...

I found the articles by Nelson and Stolterman to be interesting, but also quite abstract at times. (I had questions about the meaning and significance in some places.) The intent of the book (from my understanding) is to provide designers, clients, etc. a better idea/understanding of what design is so that they may reflect on those understandings and become better designers.

The authors define design as “the ability to imagine that-which-does-not-yet-exist, to make it appear in concrete form as a new, purposeful addition to the real world.” I like this definition because it is relatively broad, but still provides insight as to what the authors feel are the most important features of design. The ideas are expanded just in the introduction, but I think that is a good general statement about their notion of design.

As part of the authors’ argument for the aim of design, they describe “desiderata” or “that-which-is-desired.” This concept is used throughout chapter 5 to explain their idea of the design process, or at least to discuss several different aspects of the design process. They discuss the difference between assessing need and creating need as a part of design. This is an important distinction because, as they point out, a created need is not a true desire, and the desires (desiderata) are what drive action and change that lead to design. The authors also explain that “desiderata help to aim and form one’s intentions,” and intentions include not only goals (where to go), but also aims (how to get there).

The conclusion of chapter 8 states “This leads us to the conclusion that good design is possible to achieve. The process of achieving it can be improved by learning to treat design as an informed process of intention and not something gained simply by chance or necessity.” This conclusion somewhat supports several of our previous class discussions, but the part that is unclear to me is how to actually treat design as an informed process of intention. I understand that judgment and all the different types of judgment explained can play a role (along with the desiderata explanation), but I also think that often designers are not consciously considering which type of judgments they are using to make decisions. This is not to say, however, that they treat design as something gained simply by chance, which he states as the alternative. I think, though, that the point they are trying to make is that with a better understanding of design (and its goals, aims, processes, etc.) designers can create better designs.

Robin said...

Thanks to those who are posting - these are some well thought out reactions to the readings.

If I were to say what holds the two together -- "the human" in design. That people are pointing back to the Mann work illustrate how the phenomenographies we read put the "human experience" at the center of research lens.

FYI - for those who may wonder, Krippendorf actively cites Nelson and Stolterman, and N and S actively cite K. :)

Aidsa said...

Last week we analyzed design in social contexts and how each individual in a team pays special attention to what they believe is intended to design. We saw the importance of “soft skills” in the design process which consists of persuasion and negotiation.

On the other hand, Krippendorf chapter provides an individualistic point of view of design. It helps us understand how designers make sense the artifacts they are going to design, i.e. how to make sense and meaning and take action in the design process.

Figure 2.4 on pg. 58 summarizes the relationship between sense, meanings, and actions. Sense relates to what is perceived by the designer, meaning provides possibility to the design, and action is the results of the interactions between sense and meaning. These three components are in constant interaction with each other and are affected by external situations or activities that result from these interactions. Different people have different meanings to ideas in different situations.

little-T truth said...

The Krippendorf article was a well written article about how design has evolved since the indutral revolution from a concept about design creating an artifact that is tangble in representation as design towards today's postmodernist world where artifacts are no longer simply tangble produced items, but an entire social process whose understanding as an artifact lies within the semantics (i.e. language and vocabulary of designers) associated with the process of design, including the final tangible product.

Krippendorf basically rejects the constraint of "form has to follow function" as a design mantra for a trajectory of design that consist of many levels, each of which may add complexity,constraints, and understanding to the design process. Of real interest is the role of interfaces and discourse within the design process. Discourse, in particular, with its emergent language that designers engage one another as a community in regards to solving probems, as well as talking about the design process in general plays a seminal/germinal role in how design is recognized today by those who clearly identify themselves as designers.

Of interest to me is how discourse for design is defined within the article as (1) a body of textual matter, (2) being kept alive within a community of practioners, (3) institutes recurrent practices, (4) draws own boundaries, and (5) justifies its identitiy to outsiders. This definintion seems to proclude design to a relatively special group of individuals who have obtained a special understanding, appreciation, accomplishment, and language to practice. This can be cleary associated through the comon assertion of "You have to be a designer to appreciate design." I agree with this at the level that analyzing the design process may require insights gained from practice, training, and recognized experince, yet it seems to dismiss individuals who engage in design that do not clamor forthe recognition of their actions as design. Is design an activity only for those individuals willing to tout themselvers as designers OR is design a social process individuals engage without self-identification being required?