Wednesday, August 27, 2008

MBA Design Leadership elective - session 2

What do designers do?

Having considered design as outcome, in this second class we looked at design as process. We looked at the situated practices of professional designers, what some people call "design thinking". Picking up some ideas that have become important in theories about design, we considered the idea of wicked problems (Rittel and Webber), which Buchanan has argued are the sorts of problems designers face. To explore this further, Nigel Cross's work on designerly ways of knowing helped show some of the ways that designers frame problems, develop strategies to get to solutions and generate solutions. This was followed by looking at Schon's ideas of reflection in practice and knowing in practice - ways that professionals other than designers go about problem framing and reframing.

Other helpful readings included Bill Buxton's Sketching User Experiences with its discussion on the differences between getting the design right and getting the right design. We looked at the idea of convergent and divergent thinking during design processes and the place of ambiguity and uncertainty along the way. The well-known IDEO shopping cart video made by ABC TV provided data for the class to analyse to see what happened in that design process.

The practical exercises involved taking some of the design problems at the school identified in the previous session, determining criteria for creating a better design outcome and then designing a process to redesign them. This provided useful data to compare and contrast the ways designers frame and solve problems and the ways others do so. One group tackled the sockets problem (see the previous post): they pretty quickly generated a prototype which - which it effectively visualized a solution - illustrated the attachment designers sometimes have to their own ideas, in ways which close down the problem space.

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