The presentation I will be giving today (Oct 11) features eight authors who discuss topics relevant to understanding design thinking.
Herbert Simon’s article, published in 1973, discusses issues initially concerned with artificial intelligence. This article and its examples provide a means for framing problems and solutions in the same manner as a designer would. He makes a case that traditional logic is ill-equipped to deal with the dynamic nature of ill-structured problems (ISPs). Edward de Bono (article from 1988), Rittle and Webber (article from 1973) similarly make the case that a misconception exists where logic appears to solve ISPs after the fact. Simon and de Bono both provide unique approaches to ISP solving, but both involve generating new information or a “dialog” that nudges the solution along in a new direction or new goal. These four men, Simon, de Bono, Rittle, and Webber, have helped us identify a new form of problems prevalent in our contemporary culture.
The other four authors, Pacione, Cross, Wyatt, and Buchanan, recognize that the old liberal arts of mathematics and science were particularly useful in the Industrial Age, but these traditional problem-solving disciplines fall short handling the complex problems of Experience Age. Design, as a discipline of the new liberal arts, has been argued as particularly suited to tackle the dynamic complexities of ISPs, therefore Pacione, Cross, Wyatt, and Buchanan are advocating for the teaching of a new design literacy so that a higher number of people could be brought to bear on a number of contemporary social problems. Pacione parallels a design literacy with how Fibonacci made mathematics useful and accessible with the book, Liber Abaci. Pacione makes a strong point about how Fibonacci’s contribution to teaching and explaining mathematics not just for mathematicians but to everyone else developed into an accessible math literacy, a scaffold on which Western Europe began to flourish and drive both the Industrial and Information Age.
My attendance at the Austin Center for Design was meant to build a more profound understanding of design thinking for me.
Pacione brings up a point in his article from 2010 that resonates with me as a designer. He says a pervasive misconception of design would hamper the progress of design thinking. I agree with this point and perceive a future need to define this problem more. I frequently deal with colleagues and clients who misappropriate the value of my role to bring design’s importance to the table. I think its pretty evident to anyone who has been in a working environment that teams will collaborate far better when roles are clearly understood.
Most people over-inflate the superficial value of style. Vitta and Papanek shared their concern for this misfocused emphasis. Style is but one communication tool out of many. Substance and real communication come to life through various forms like photography, color palette, tone, pace, rhythm, structure, motion, texture, auditory cues. Design serves content and content serves intent.
I attended a design school that called the program Visual Communications. The name helped me affirm my understanding but only after the true nature of design was genuinely understood by me years later. Although calling design, visual communications could help the public reframe design; I think we’re after something else.
I think that it’s more important for the design team to understand what they are defending and nurturing so that conversations with clients are reframed to push content value forward. “Make the logo bigger.” is a common enough demand that its a joke. Try explaining the logo’s size from the defense viewpoint of style. Would that defense sound something like this “A bigger logo would stylistically ruin the balance of the layout.” Either way, defending style is bound to come off like design arrogance, “My opinion is more nuanced than your opinion.” You’ll probably lose the interest or the trust of the client. The communication preference would balance the conversation towards involving the client in a discussion around the hook of the messaging or the order of importance on the page/screen (hierarchy). A designer could also include discussions of the other brand visual cues that already reinforce the company’s presence. The designer has likely nudged the client towards more meaningful input and design rationale.
I will continue to reflect on misconceptions about design and maybe even design thinking. Communication from the product or service point of view will always serve a vital role. A misunderstanding of marketing research and other scientific methods also exists. These reading are also essential because they touch upon this other misconception as well. I will have to find a different time to explore this more but hopefully before I need to explain this to a new client.