We’ve just completed our Design, Society and the Public Sector course at the Austin Center for Design. This course exposed us to a range of broad topics including the importance of design, the role of designers, information and technology, and creative problem solving. In parallel to reading and discussing all of the ideas in this class we have been synthesizing our own ideas along the way by creating diagrams that force us to push the author’s viewpoints through specific frames. In the previous three assignments (here, here, and here) I have gotten a ton out of this process and come away with very clear viewpoints about the readings.
In my final assignment I wanted to explore this process in a more open ended format and push myself forward as a presenter. Instead of simply plotting my viewpoints on a diagram, I wanted to take advantage of the fact that all my classmates were immersed in these readings just as much as I was. So I designed a presentation that would allow everyone’s interpretation of the readings to be represented on my position diagram. Each of my classmates got their own position diagram with color coded sticky notes with their initials on them.
The topic I wanted everyone to consider was creative problem solving and ill-structured problems. With this topic in mind, each member of the class was asked to place the final four theory readings on their 2×2 diagrams based on two factors 1) whether creative problem solving of ill-structured problems is necessarily specific or if it may be generalized as well as 2) whether human bias enhances problem solving or bias limits it.
The authors were color coded like this:
After each member of the class placed the authors on their own 2×2, they came up to the front and all placed their stickies on the whiteboard creating a conglomeration of all of the ideas. This allowed us to see trends as well as anomalies. This spurned discussion in the class about the readings and different interpretations of the axises as well as the author’s intents.
Each person in the class served as a frame to push ideas through in this process and this point was driven home when I asked everyone to think about where they would place themselves on this 2×2 and asked them to do so with their orange sticky note.
After going through this whole thought process, some students felt compelled to articulate their reasoning about why they placed themselves on the diagram. In conjunction with the visual representation of differing viewpoints, I was struck by how differently we all view complex problem solving and ill-structured problems. Written slightly differently, the topic may have well have been restated as Interaction Design and Wicked Problems so it’s fascinating that we all arrived at much different views of the topic after going through an entire class of theory that built up to this.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that at least part of my intent was to expose this diversity of opinions through the exercise. Jon Kolko is a skilled educator and his method in class is to guide discussion but never to inject his own ideologies. But ac4d is itself an articulation of many of his beliefs about design.
If you pay attention to how the courses at ac4d fit together, they tell a compelling story about the power of design thinking and the importance of each individual’s frame of reference. During my presentation I made an argument about the viewpoint that the program itself is expressing and placed it the intersection of the axis. Design is enhanced by bias because each person’s background brings a unique frame to each problem. But bias also limits the domain of design research to provocation of design ideas And while design is necessarily specific because each insight is a serendipitous connection that occurs for a particular person, design methods which are generalizable can create the conditions in which these serendipitous moments are much more likely to occur.
Overall, it’s clear to me that the classes we are taking make something more powerful when they are layered together which is absolutely the mark of well designed interaction.
-ScottNo Comments »