To believe or not to believe….

The value of design synthesis lies in the space between concrete human needs and squishy human desires and dreams. It is the ability to reconcile these two very real modes of the human experience that makes the designer special. It is what makes them valuable to any process, because processes are a human creation in their own right. A human way of coping with reality.

I worked through these readings feeling that each author was grasping at a way of reckoning with their own human limitations. Defining those limitations is difficult for everybody, but especially for those who’s responsibility it is to understand other people and change their lives for the better based on that understanding. There are other careers that immediately address improving, or even saving, other people’s lives. We place a lot of trust in our counselors, doctors, and lawyers, for example. We hire them with the expectation that they understand the human condition, they are trained and have special skillsets that will help us. We imagine that prospective doctors, lawyers, or counselors have natural and accelerated skills working with and understanding people that we may not possess ourselves.

Based on our readings from the past two weeks, I believe that we should take a designer’s role in our lives as seriously as we might one of these other widely respected professions. This round of readings largely paints a picture of a designer as being a person who is meant to think holistically. We sit with that ambiguous space between logic and emotion. We can integrate the implicit knowledge and intuitional judgement that we possess with the expressions of others to attack problems from an elevated level.  Regardless of human’s ability to know one’s self, there are limitations of our languages to describe the essences of our needs and feelings. It is the designers job to extract those essences, synthesize many types of qualitative information, and tell those stories to others so we can all have a better understanding of our world.

Working through these readings, I found that most to all of these authors used the concept of context as a way of describing this holistic approach to problem solving, however they all addressed this from very different angels.

My X axis lays these authors out on a framework of “designing with” and “designing for”. This with and for changes meaning slightly across authors, fluctuating between ‘with end users’ and ‘with other designers’ and ‘with other people in the system’. Essentially this axis refers to how much the designer is considering other perspectives as a part of their process.

My other axis relates to this idea of human essence. Some authors ask us to dive deeply into the lives of others and to suspend our own life experience to better understand theirs. Others place less value on this idea, and ask us to consider it when thinking about the value of context, but to remain ultimately distanced from the emotional experience of the end user or other player. Finally there are those who place less value on the role of the designer as a whole, and therefore do not see our holistic approaches to work relevant at all.

This type of empathy, the toeing of the line between emotional immersion into a narrative & keeping a safe distance sounds daunting to us as budding designers. However we practice this much more often than we realize. Think of reading your favorite novel or going to the theater. We all have the ability to (and very often enjoy to) jump fully into a narrative that is not our own. But when we read a novel, we also have no problem maintaining maintaining a sense of self, and while still feeling the feelings of the characters for the time, we can still think critically about the plot without losing our grounding in reality. This experience can be framed as the suspension of disbelief. We can, for a time, give up our own critical faculties to believe something outside of our experience or logic.

For the purposes of this project, I selected the authors that resonated with me most within this framework to discuss in further detail.

My Y axis has one end labeled “suspending disbelief”, referring to how much importance the authors place on on the ability and willingness to suspend disbelief as a part of their design process. The other end of the axis is labeled “resistance to suspension of disbelief”, referring to how the authors consider the importance of remaining grounded in their methods during their process.