Design is not a “problem-solving technique”

26 Jun 2010 - 5:30am
4 years ago
29 replies
4770 reads
Steve Baty
2009

Earlier today I received back from an editor the revised version of an article I have in the works. Whilst reviewing the changes I came across the following comment in amongst the annotations: Design is not a “problem-solving technique”...

I completely disagree with this statement. At least, I disagree with it's generality. Design might not only be... or you might say that it is at least in part an approach to problem-solving. To dismiss the role of design in solving problems seems wildly revisionist at best, and blind to the growing application of design in business and government to the solution of complex, knotty problems.

But it raised the question of: what do I mean by 'problem-solving'? in order to argue whether or not design is, or isn't a problem-solving technique.

So, let's start with a broad definition of 'problem-solving' as given at wikipedia.org. "Problem solving is a mental process and is part of the larger problem process that includes problem finding and problem shaping. Considered the most complex of all intellectual functions, problem solving has been defined as higher-order cognitive process that requires the modulation and control of more routine or fundamental skills.[1] Problem solving occurs when an organism or an artificial intelligence system needs to move from a given state to a desired goal state."

The initial phases of a design project focus on the problem finding, through design research and analysis. Problem finding, also according to Wikipedia can be described as: Problem finding means problem discovery. It is part of the larger problem process that includes problem shaping and problem solving. Problem finding requires intellectual vision and insight into what is missing. This involves the application of creativity."

Problem shaping, on the other hand, "means revising a question so that the solution process can begin or continue. It is part of the larger problem process that includes problem finding and problem solving. Problem shaping (or problem framing) often involves the application of critical thinking."

If we look at design again, the early stages involve "Exploring possibilities and constraints by focusing critical thinking skills to research and define problem spaces for existing products or services—or the creation of new categories".

Obviously, in the various forms of design - graphic, interior, interaction, industrial, etc - the medium through which the movement from given state to desired goal state occurs varies. In graphic design the focus is on the use of visual communication; industrial design has a focus on form. The given state and goal state will also influence the most appropriate choice of design method. In the case of interaction design, we're applying our design techniques to shift behaviour from a current state to that desired future state, and we do that through the design of a single, or series of interactions.

Clearly, to me at least, design fits the description for a technique which can be applied to solving problems. More than that, the application of design to solving problems is occuring every day, in thousands of studios and organizations around the world.

I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on this.

Steve

Comments

26 Jun 2010 - 7:06am
Jarod Tang
2007

Hi Steve,

You are not along, Herbert Simon reached the same conclution ( design is kind of problem-solving process ), in "The Sciences of the Artificial, 3rd ed. MIT Press.", And this is already a design theory classic for years,  AFAIK being taught in design schools for some time.

Every intended human activity follows problem solving plan (for basic needs, sex, respect, etc), which are generally planed.

Br,
- Jarod


On Sat, Jun 26, 2010 at 7:06 PM, Steve Baty <stevebaty@gmail.com> wrote:

Earlier today I received back from an editor the revised version of an article I have in the works. Whilst reviewing the changes I came across the following comment in amongst the annotations: Design is not a “problem-solving technique”...

I completely disagree with this statement. At least, I disagree with it's generality. Design might not /only/ be... or you might say that it is /at least in part/ an approach to problem-solving. To dismiss the role of design in solving problems seems wildly revisionist at best, and blind to the growing application of design in business and government to the solution of complex, knotty problems.

But it raised the question of: what do I mean by 'problem-solving'? in order to argue whether or not design is, or isn't a problem-solving technique.

So, let's start with a broad definition of 'problem-solving' as given at wikipedia.org. "*Problem solving* is a mental process and is part of the larger problem [1]
process that includes
finding" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_finding">problem finding
and
shaping" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_shaping">problem shaping
. Considered the most complex of all intellectual [2]
functions, problem solving has been defined as higher-order cognitive [3] process that requires the modulation
and control of more routine or fundamental skills.[1] [4]
Problem solving occurs when an organism [5]
or an artificial intelligence [6] system [7]
needs to move from a given state to a desired goal state."

The initial phases of a design project focus on the problem finding, through design research and analysis. Problem finding, also according to Wikipedia can be described as: *Problem finding* means problem discovery. It is part of the larger
problem process that includes
shaping" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_shaping">problem shaping
and
solving" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_solving">problem solving
. Problem finding requires intellectual
vision and insight into what is missing. This involves the application
of creativity [8]."

Problem shaping, on the other hand, *"*means revising a question so that the solution
process can begin or continue. It is part of the larger problem process
that includes problem finding [9] and
solving" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_solving">problem solving
. Problem shaping (or problem framing) often
involves the application of
thinking" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_thinking">critical thinking
."

If we look at design again, the early stages involve "Exploring [10] possibilities and constraints by
focusing critical thinking skills to research and define problem spaces
for existing products [11] or services [12]—or the creation of new
categories".

Obviously, in the various forms of design - graphic, interior, interaction, industrial, etc - the medium through which the movement from given state to desired goal state occurs varies. In graphic design the focus is on the use of visual communication; industrial design has a focus on form. The given state and goal state will also influence the most appropriate choice of design method. In the case of interaction design, we're applying our design techniques to shift behaviour from a current state to that desired future state, and we do that through the design of a single, or series of interactions.

Clearly, to me at least, design fits the description for a technique which can be applied to solving problems. More than that, the application of design to solving problems is occuring every day, in thousands of studios and organizations around the world.

I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on this.

Steve

(((Plea
26 Jun 2010 - 7:06am
jayeffvee
2007

Interesting. I've always thought that the difference between art and
design is that art needn't solve a problem, but design always does.

The only way the statement "design is not a problem-solving technique"
makes sense is if by "design" the editor meant "ornamentation." Which
is a sense in which the word "design" is sometimes used. But we -
this community - doesn't use it in that way.

I wonder what the editor was trying to get at - can you say more about
the context or would you then have to kill us?

:-)

-- Joan

On Jun 26, 2010, at 6:49 AM, Steve Baty wrote:

> Earlier today I received back from an editor the revised version of
> an article I have in the works. Whilst reviewing the changes I came
> across the following comment in amongst the annotations: Design is
> not a “problem-solving technique”... > > I completely disagree with this statement. At least, I disagree with
> it's generality. Design might not /only/ be... or you might say that
> it is /at least in part/ an approach to problem-solving. To dismiss
> the role of design in solving problems seems wildly revisionist at
> best, and blind to the growing application of design in business and
> government to the solution of complex, knotty problems. > > But it raised the question of: what do I mean by 'problem-solving'?
> in order to argue whether or not design is, or isn't a problem- > solving technique. > > So, let's start with a broad definition of 'problem-solving' as
> given at wikipedia.org. "Problem solving is a mental process and
> is part of the larger problem [1] > process that includes > finding" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_finding">problem
> finding > and > shaping" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_shaping">problem
> shaping > . Considered the most complex of all intellectual [2] > functions, problem solving has been defined as higher-order
> cognitive [3] process that requires the modulation > and control of more routine or fundamental skills.[1] [4] > Problem solving occurs when an organism [5] > or an artificial intelligence [6] system [7] > needs to move from a given state to a desired goal state." > > The initial phases of a design project focus on the problem finding,
> through design research and analysis. Problem finding, also
> according to Wikipedia can be described as: Problem finding means
> problem discovery. It is part of the larger > problem process that includes > shaping" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_shaping">problem
> shaping > and > solving" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_solving">problem
> solving > . Problem finding requires intellectual > vision and insight into what is missing. This involves the application > of creativity [8]." > > Problem shaping, on the other hand, "means revising a question so
> that the solution > process can begin or continue. It is part of the larger problem
> process > that includes problem finding [9] and > solving" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_solving">problem
> solving > . Problem shaping (or problem framing) often > involves the application of > thinking" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ > Critical_thinking">critical thinking > ." > > If we look at design again, the early stages involve "Exploring [10]
> possibilities and constraints by > focusing critical thinking skills to research and define problem
> spaces > for existing products [11] or services [12]—or the creation of new > categories". > > Obviously, in the various forms of design - graphic, interior,
> interaction, industrial, etc - the medium through which the movement
> from given state to desired goal state occurs varies. In graphic
> design the focus is on the use of visual communication; industrial
> design has a focus on form. The given state and goal state will also
> influence the most appropriate choice of design method. In the case
> of interaction design, we're applying our design techniques to shift
> behaviour from a current state to that desired future state, and we
> do that through the design of a single, or series of interactions. > > Clearly, to me at least, design fits the description for a technique
> which can be applied to solving problems. More than that, the
> application of design to solving problems is occuring every day, in
> thousands of studios and organizations around the world. > > I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on this. > > Steve > > (((Ple

26 Jun 2010 - 7:44am
Dave Malouf
2005

Hi Steve,

In what context is the magazine working in? Like Joan said, design can be simply interpreted to mean the aesthetics around a creation. I know for example that industrial designers still face within their own community those practices that only work on the aesthetics while others work on the framing of the "problem". Of course, there are many that do do the problem framing and solving activities you describe.

I think for your article you need to first frame what design means for you. That design is problem discovery and even highlight the examples that groups like IDEO and frog design have written case studies for. Without that framing of design many communities will be confused. I think the assumption of the broad definition of design may be the issue you are having.

-- dave

26 Jun 2010 - 7:06pm
Steve Baty
2009

Dave,

You make a good point, and I'll need to clarify with the editor. I will be a little surprised if it turns out to be the case (design = aesthetics around a creation), but worth confirming.

Thanks
Steve

On 27 June 2010 00:16, David Malouf <dave.ixd@gmail.com> wrote:

Hi Steve,

In what context is the magazine working in? Like Joan said, design can be simply interpreted to mean the aesthetics around a creation. I know for example that industrial designers still face within their own community those practices that only work on the aesthetics while others work on the framing of the "problem". Of course, there are many that do do the problem framing and solving activities you describe.

I think for your article you need to first frame what design means for you. That design is problem discovery and even highlight the examples that groups like IDEO and frog design have written case studies for. Without that framing of design many communities will be confused. I think the assumption of the broad definition of design may be the issue you are having.

-- dave

((
26 Jun 2010 - 7:47am
Dave Malouf
2005

Hi Steve,

In what context is the magazine working in? Like Joan said, design can be simply interpreted to mean the aesthetics around a creation. I know for example that industrial designers still face within their own community those practices that only work on the aesthetics while others work on the framing of the "problem". Of course, there are many that do do the problem framing and solving activities you describe.

I think for your article you need to first frame what design means for you. That design is problem discovery and even highlight the examples that groups like IDEO and frog design have written case studies for. Without that framing of design many communities will be confused. I think the assumption of the broad definition of design may be the issue you are having.

-- dave

26 Jun 2010 - 7:57am
Penny
2008

It seems to me to be both about the definition of what problem solving is as well as what a problem is. I’m not really commenting on your definition, but trying to describe something of the patch of the territory that I see it as falling in (maybe). Perhaps the comment came because when people have tried to describe design practice in the past, and in trying to establish design as a discipline with its own ways of doing things, the description of design as problem solving has often been seen as too reductive or limited in its definition. Partly because in the past we oversimplified the process of problem solving, so descriptions of design have strived to demonstrate the complexities inherent in design practice.


Schön (1983), (instrumental in helping to articulate design as a practice) characterisies design as the exploration of a problem space, rather than a response to a clear hypothesis: problem-setting rather than problem-solving. So the issue there is more around the idea that the problem itself is clear (which I know you are not suggesting).

There is also related discussion tied to describing design as we know it as differentiated from “engineering design” (also slightly dangerous I know). For example, the following is from Jonas Löwgren (1995). (He is talking about why software design is more of a creative design process than an engineering design process)


"I will use the terms engineering design and creative design to refer to perspectives or views rather than narrow and well-defined methodologies...Engineering design assumes that the “problem” to be solved is comprehensively and precisely described, preferably in the form of a requirement specification. The mission of engineering design is to find a solution to the problem. Engineering design work is amenable to structured descriptions and seen as a chain of transformations from the abstract (requirements) to the concrete(resulting artifact)… In contrast, creative design is about understanding the problem as much as the resulting artifact. Creative design work is seen as a tight interplay between problem setting and problem solving. In this interplay, the design space is explored through the creation of many parallel ideas and concepts. The given assumptions regarding the problem are questioned on all levels. Creative design work is inherently unpredictable.”


I don’t think these contradict your definition, just show the different start points people might be coming from …. Maybe… I hope this makes more sense than our other exchange :)


Löwgren, J. (1995). Applying design methodology to software development, Proceedings of the 1st conference on Designing interactive systems: processes, practices, methods, \& techniques. Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States: ACM.
 
Schön, D. A. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner: Basic Books.
 
 


26 Jun 2010 - 6:05pm
Steve Baty
2009

Penny,

Thanks! The key part for me is that design is in part a way of solving problems, rather than that being a comprehensive description with which I'd be comfortable. So I too would reject a description of design coached solely in those terms.

Steve

On 27 June 2010 00:16, Penny Hagen <list@smallfire.co.nz> wrote:

It seems to me to be both about the definition of what problem solving is as well as what a problem is. I’m not really commenting on your definition, but trying to describe something of the patch of the territory that I see it as falling in (maybe). Perhaps the comment came because when people have tried to describe design practice in the past, and in trying to establish design as a discipline with its own ways of doing things, the description of design as problem solving has often been seen as too reductive or limited in its definition. Partly because in the past we oversimplified the process of problem solving, so descriptions of design have strived to demonstrate the complexities inherent in design practice.

Schön (1983), (instrumental in helping to articulate design as a practice) characterisies design as the exploration of a problem space, rather than a response to a clear hypothesis: problem-setting rather than problem-solving. So the issue there is more around the idea that the problem itself is clear (which I know you are not suggesting).

There is also related discussion tied to describing design as we know it as differentiated from “engineering design” (also slightly dangerous I know). For example, the following is from Jonas Löwgren (1995). (He is talking about why software design is more of a creative design process than an engineering design process)

/"I will use the terms engineering design and creative design to refer to perspectives or views rather than narrow and well-defined methodologies...Engineering design assumes that the “problem” to be solved is comprehensively and precisely described, preferably in the form of a requirement specification. The mission of engineering design is to find a solution to the problem. Engineering design work is amenable to structured descriptions and seen as a chain of transformations from the abstract (requirements) to the concrete(resulting artifact)… In contrast, creative design is about understanding the problem as much as the resulting artifact. Creative design work is seen as a tight interplay between problem setting and problem solving. In this interplay, the design space is explored through the creation of many parallel ideas and concepts. The given assumptions regarding the problem are questioned on all levels. Creative design work is inherently unpredictable.”/

I don’t think these contradict your definition, just show the different start points people might be coming from …. Maybe… I hope this makes more sense than our other exchange :)

Löwgren, J. (1995). Applying design methodology to software development, Proceedings of the 1st conference on Designing interactive systems: processes, practices, methods, \& techniques. Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States: ACM.
 
Schön, D. A. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner: Basic Books.
 
 


(((Please leave all content b
26 Jun 2010 - 9:01am
dszuc
2005

If design means:

 

  • Providing a space/medium to talk through ideas
  • Vizualising ideas to help refine focus and get people on the same page (or to clarify if they are on the same page)
  • Get teams working together towards coming up with something better than the individual
  • Creating cultures that encourage failure/iteration etc
  • Giving people an opportunity to workshop and nurture ideas

 

To name a few ... then yes its about problem solving.

rgds,

Dan

 

26 Jun 2010 - 10:41am
Dustin Lucier D...
2008

Hi Steve,

It's been a while since I've come across that perception and I agree with your write up and Dave & Joan's points as well. I'd like to add that where I've seen this arise is in communities that primarily consider "Design"  an output rather than a process. Usually, these folks are focused on the aesthetics as Dave mentioned. It seems to rear its head in Industrial Design "What problem did this new chair solve?" and MarCom - Graphic Design focused. 

I think in certain situations non-practicioners won't be able to make the framing shift of output to process but in others, it is entirely possible and often essential to illustrate and educate on the "Process of Design" and shift thinking away from the "Artifacts of Design."

 

26 Jun 2010 - 11:14am
Chris Risdon
2010

I have to say that the idea that design (process/thinking/creating) is used as a problem solving technique is, to me, what binds the various disciplines that label themselves 'design': visual, industrial, interaction, product, etc.

While design may often be used in the context of ornamentation, in an inoccuous way, I would say it really isn't design if it is just ornamentation without the critical thinking about how the output achieves some objective (functional, communication, etc.). 

I think the reason big-D Design is starting to get more mainstream acknowledgement is because it's slowly breaking the at-large perception that design is just about visuals, that it's more about solving problems around products and services.

Having been a visual design as well as an interaction designer, I feel that much of the same methods of thinking about and approaches to framing problems are the same.

- Chris

26 Jun 2010 - 6:05pm
Steve Baty
2009

"I have to say that the idea that design (process/thinking/creating) is used as a problem solving technique is, to me, what binds the various disciplines that label themselves 'design': visual, industrial, interaction, product, etc."

I really like this point; couldn't agree more.

On 27 June 2010 05:25, Chris Risdon <chrisrisdon@yahoo.com> wrote:

I have to say that the idea that design (process/thinking/creating) is used as a problem solving technique is, to me, what binds the various disciplines that label themselves 'design': visual, industrial, interaction, product, etc.

While design may often be used in the context of ornamentation, in an inoccuous way, I would say it really isn't design if it is just ornamentation without the critical thinking about how the output achieves some objective (functional, communication, etc.). 

I think the reason big-D Design is starting to get more mainstream acknowledgement is because it's slowly breaking the at-large perception that design is just about visuals, that it's more about solving problems around products and services.

Having been a visual design as well as an interaction designer, I feel that much of the same methods of thinking about and approaches to framing problems are the same.

- Chris

(
26 Jun 2010 - 11:29am
Chris Risdon
2010

Just as an addendum:

Lots of things start out as this mysterious mechanisms understood by few elite, but then grow and become understood by many. For example, in 1929 U.S. few people understood how banks actually worked, or how the stock market functioned and affected our economy. Now, everyone (generalization) understands that banks don't actually have all our money sitting there, and everyone can follow the Dow and Nasdaq and know what it means when it goes up or down, and how interest rates affect lending - not just the financial professionals.

That might be an odd example, but the way people understand what design is/can be is definitely understood by a greater audience (slowly but surely) than just by the designers themselves and the select few clients that appreciate the work, as may have been the case 20-30-40 years ago. Again, I think people see that design (of various disciplines) is all around them in solving problems (finding your way, vacuuming your rug, enabling mobile computing, etc. etc.). This is why you see more articles in mainstream publications about design - articles about everything from Apple to Helvetica, people *are* paying attention to the man behind the curtain.

I know that when I try to explain that in my profession as a 'designer' I am less responsible for how something visually looks and more for how it works or functions, I get fewer curious looks than I did just 3-5 years ago.

Which goes back to my thinking that design (discovery/framing/applying) IS problem solving (at least the majority of time) and that concept is what binds various disciplines of design, making it less of a mystery to more and more people.

- Chris

26 Jun 2010 - 1:20pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

I wonder if what the author meant was that it's not A Technique.

I think it's wrong to put design into the category of technique, because, to me, that implies there are alternatives techniques to design for problem solving.

I'm not sure there are.

Jared

26 Jun 2010 - 4:05pm
Jim Ungar
2006

I wondered the exact same thing as Jared. Perhaps the phrase "a technique" is being questioned - as if there were only one design technique. There systematic procedures used to facilitate design are varied and many.

Thanks,

Jim
On Sat, Jun 26, 2010 at 3:46 PM, Jared M. Spool <jspool@uie.com> wrote:

I wonder if what the author meant was that it's not A Technique.

I think it's wrong to put design into the category of technique, because, to me, that implies there are alternatives techniques to design for problem solving.

I'm not sure there are.

Jared

26 Jun 2010 - 5:47pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Jared, There aren't alternatives to "design" for solving problems? ... I'm a little confused. Or do you mean that there is more than 1 technique within the parent category of design for solving problems? 

For me if I used business analysis techniques vs. design techniques I would probably get very different solutions. (they both might be just as good, but very different).

-- dave

26 Jun 2010 - 9:05pm
Christopher Rider
2009

I suppose it comes down to semantics, but to me, "business analysis"
is just another school of design.

design (little d) happens any time people make something new. It's not
always practiced as a concious activity, but it's inevitably there.
Design (big D) is what we call it when we realize what's going on.

Are designers really anything more than business analysts with cool
glasses?

The two schools have different value systems, and different names for
the various things we do. E.g., Designers tend to value elegance,
while BAs tend to prefer expediency. But that's just culture. In the
end, we're more or less doing the same kinds of things.

-- cjrider@gmail.com 773/575-8597

On Jun 26, 2010, at 6:21 PM, David Malouf wrote:

> Jared, There aren't alternatives to "design" for solving
> problems? ... I'm a little confused. Or do you mean that there is
> more than 1 technique within the parent category of design for
> solving problems? > > For me if I used business analysis techniques vs. design techniques
> I would probably get very different solutions. (they both might be
> just as good, but very different). > > -- dave > >

26 Jun 2010 - 9:14pm
Dave Malouf
2005

there isn't little design or bigD design, there is just design as a verb and process as taught through the Euro/US traditions moving from the creative arts into applied arts. To say that BA is just another form of "design" is to say that design is creation and thus becomes so generic as to become meaningless, which is at the heart of Steve's problem. If "design" is all creation.

I'll state again that within design is the required parameter of practicing design vs. just doing creation of any type is abductive thinking. 

I also want to clarify b4 people jump into the "but you can't say that design is better, or others is worse" camp; I am not stating that design is a better form of creation, but that it is a different form. Difference is not the same as judgement.

-- dave

27 Jun 2010 - 1:07am
Christopher Rider
2009

> To say that BA is just another form of "design" is to say that design is creation and thus becomes so generic as to become meaningless...

Well, that's more or less exactly what I'm saying. In my view, any creative process contains a design component. Design as brought over from the Bauhaus is one particular approach to rationalizing that process, but I'd argue that what happens in most IxD studios today bears very little resemblance to that kind of practice. What's left is mostly a value system. Essentially, it's the belief that elegance of form has intrinsic value.

The design toolset that we use as interaction designers - iterative prototyping, more or less - is the same as that of a BA. Where we differ is mostly in our analytical toolset. Personas and Scenarios vs. Actors and Use Cases. These tools may have some effect on the final form, but vastly more important is the value system and experience that we bring into the mix. And, sadly, even more important than that is the corporate culture in which the designer (little-d) is operating.

Having said all that, I call myself an interaction designer, not a business analyst. That's mostly because my value system aligns more closely with this group than with the IIBA. And I think that people who call themselves interaction designers tend to make things that are just nicer than what a BA would design. But nobody can analyze their way into a product. At some point, we all set away the list of requirements, however it's formatted, and start making a prototype. And a little later, we pick up that list again, and hold it up to our prototype to see how well it does what we intended it to do. Then, some of us step back to ask, is it elegant?

No word describes this process better than "design". Those of us who place a higher value on the elegance aspect tend to call ourselves designers.

-- cjrider@gmail.com 773/575-8597

On Jun 26, 2010, at 9:22 PM, David Malouf wrote:

> there isn't little design or bigD design, there is just design as a verb and process as taught through the Euro/US traditions moving from the creative arts into applied arts. To say that BA is just another form of "design" is to say that design is creation and thus becomes so generic as to become meaningless, which is at the heart of Steve's problem. If "design" is all creation. > > I'll state again that within design is the required parameter of practicing design vs. just doing creation of any type is abductive thinking. > > I also want to clarify b4 people jump into the "but you can't say that design is better, or others is worse" camp; I am not stating that design is a better form of creation, but that it is a different form. Difference is not the same as judgement. > > -- dave > >

27 Jun 2010 - 2:05am
Christopher Rider
2009

> I'll state again that within design is the required parameter of practicing design vs. just doing creation of any type is abductive thinking.

Oh. Missed that sentence before I wrote my screed.

We're more or less on the same page. I suppose I'm just saying that the intuitive leap happens in other processes too, just not in as explicit a fashion, and to a lesser degree.

-- cjrider@gmail.com 773/575-8597

On Jun 26, 2010, at 9:22 PM, David Malouf wrote:

> there isn't little design or bigD design, there is just design as a verb and process as taught through the Euro/US traditions moving from the creative arts into applied arts. To say that BA is just another form of "design" is to say that design is creation and thus becomes so generic as to become meaningless, which is at the heart of Steve's problem. If "design" is all creation. > > I'll state again that within design is the required parameter of practicing design vs. just doing creation of any type is abductive thinking. > > I also want to clarify b4 people jump into the "but you can't say that design is better, or others is worse" camp; I am not stating that design is a better form of creation, but that it is a different form. Difference is not the same as judgement. > > -- dave > >

27 Jun 2010 - 1:05pm
James Page
2008


> (design = aesthetics around a creation),Bronisław Malinowski the founder of Ethnography said that everything has a function, including aesthetics. The point of Ethnography was to find the functions of things.  So it could be argued that even a designer adding aesthetics around a creation, is problem solving. That does is make it hard to distinguish between Art and Design.  
J

On 27 June 2010 11:52, Chris Rider <cjrider@gmail.com> wrote:

> I'll state again that within design is the required parameter of practicing design vs. just doing creation of any type is abductive thinking.

Oh. Missed that sentence before I wrote my screed.

We're more or less on the same page. I suppose I'm just saying that the intuitive leap happens in other processes too, just not in as explicit a fashion, and to a lesser degree.

--
cjrider@gmail.com
773/575-8597

On Jun 26, 2010, at 9:22 PM, David Malouf wrote:

> there isn't little design or bigD design, there is just design as a verb and process as taught through the Euro/US traditions moving from the creative arts into applied arts. To say that BA is just another form of "design" is to say that design is creation and thus becomes so generic as to become meaningless, which is at the heart of Steve's problem. If "design" is all creation.
>
> I'll state again that within design is the required parameter of practicing design vs. just doing creation of any type is abductive thinking.
>
> I also want to clarify b4 people jump into the "but you can't say that design is better, or others is worse" camp; I am not stating that design is a better form of creation, but that it is a different form. Difference is not the same as judgement.
>
> -- dave
>
>

(((Please l
26 Jun 2010 - 6:05pm
Jon Montenegro
2008




www.objectifiedfilm.com
may shed some in sight...highly recommended.

Jon



On Sat, Jun 26, 2010 at 4:56 PM, Jared M. Spool <jspool@uie.com> wrote:

I wonder if what the author meant was that it's not A Technique.

I think it's wrong to put design into the category of technique, because, to me, that implies there are alternatives techniques to design for problem solving.

I'm not sure there are.

Jared

26 Jun 2010 - 6:05pm
Steve Baty
2009

Jared,

I think there certainly are other techniques to solving problems than design - algorithmic, simulation, approximation, modelling (to name a few from mathematics & physics). But to your point, the comment seemed to be aimed at the design side of the comparison I was making, rather than the existence of such alternatives.

I also recognise that it's easy to confuse the issue when design wasn't defined in my article, and therefore open to quite broad interpretation.

To Jim's point below, perhaps that also caused some of the adverse reaction. There isn't "a one-and-only design technique" and perhaps that was the interpretation of the sentence.

Thanks for the comments.

Steve

On 27 June 2010 07:00, Jared M. Spool <jspool@uie.com> wrote:

I wonder if what the author meant was that it's not A Technique.

I think it's wrong to put design into the category of technique, because, to me, that implies there are alternatives techniques to design for problem solving.

I'm not sure there are.

Jared

26 Jun 2010 - 6:47pm
mschraad
2010

I may be skirting the edge of the intended topic but design as 'problem solving' comes up a lot in my conversations.

Throughout business, and particularly old school businesses there is a tendency to view design (and all things design) as yet another step in process. A step that we should formalize and standardize for efficiency. I think the benefits of rote process, vis a vie TQM and 6 sigma have been proven in many areas. And While I am sure that there are situations where systemizing (very different from systems thinking btw) are appropriate, I hope that I never work in one. Massimo was known for designing catalogues in a couple of hours at his dining room table and then passing the algorithms on to a production staff for execution. But that is not what we are talking about here.

The closer a design project is to innovation and a competitive advantage, the further it is from a 'factory' like process. In the most wicked of design projects, defining the problem is an essential step - often requiring 50 - 70% of the effort.  But just solving the problem is still a less than optimal approach to design. Somewhat beyond that is the 'how great can we make it' approach that the best of designers work towards (see; Managing as Designing - Boland, Collopy). Not settling for just a solution is what makes for great design that has real impact.

26 Jun 2010 - 11:05pm
Steve Baty
2009

Mark,

There's a big gulf between a sufficient solution and a great one. I think one of the ways in which design really excels is the ability of the designer, through research & synthesis, to reframe the problem in a way that helps make the great solution attainable.

Good points, thank you.

Steve

On 27 June 2010 12:39, mschraad <mschraad@gmail.com> wrote:

I may be skirting the edge of the intended topic but design as 'problem solving' comes up a lot in my conversations.

Throughout business, and particularly old school businesses there is a tendency to view design (and all things design) as yet another step in process. A step that we should formalize and standardize for efficiency. I think the benefits of rote process, vis a vie TQM and 6 sigma have been proven in many areas. And While I am sure that there are situations where systemizing (very different from systems thinking btw) are appropriate, I hope that I never work in one. Massimo was known for designing catalogues in a couple of hours at his dining room table and then passing the algorithms on to a production staff for execution. But that is not what we are talking about here.

The closer a design project is to innovation and a competitive advantage, the further it is from a 'factory' like process. In the most wicked of design projects, defining the problem is an essential step - often requiring 50 - 70% of the effort.  But just solving the problem is still a less than optimal approach to design. Somewhat beyond that is the 'how great can we make it' approach that the best of designers work towards (see; Managing as Designing - Boland, Collopy). Not settling for just a solution is what makes for great design that has real impact.

(
27 Jun 2010 - 11:48am
niyasisk
2010

Thank you for this illuminating for me personally itch scratching discussion.

In 1993 I interviewed Rich Gold at Xerox Parc to feed some research and an article for a Chi paper. Anyway, the first words out of his mouth, "Design is not a problem to be solved."

Given that's how I (we) approached the work at Claris for every UI issue, I was in complete disagreement. He then described that design was more about ubiquitous extension from our bodies to the physical world. And the very concept of 'a problem to be solved' was in fact, surgically removing the natural element of design all around us. The answers are there as we observe people interacting with their world and design from that premise.

Anyway, that conversation has hung in the air one way or another since. And I am happy to see it come up here in this discussion. I especially loved the reference to Schoen because is begs the question 'do we ever solve a problem or do we simply engage new questions and interactive elements, new design with every solution...kind of like life?

Thanks again. This community rocks!

Niya.

27 Jun 2010 - 4:05pm
Toni Taylor
2009



On Jun 27, 2010, at 11:09 AM, niyasisk <niyasisk@mac.com> wrote:

Thank you for this illuminating for me personally itch scratching discussion.

In 1993 I interviewed Rich Gold at Xerox Parc to feed some research and an
article for a Chi paper. Anyway, the first words out of his mouth, "Design is
not a problem to be solved."

Given that's how I (we) approached the work at Claris for every UI issue, I
was in complete disagreement. He then described that design was more about
ubiquitous extension from our bodies to the physical world. And the very
concept of 'a problem to be solved' was in fact, surgically removing the
natural element of design all around us. The answers are there as we observe
people interacting with their world and design from that premise.

Anyway, that conversation has hung in the air one way or another since. And I
am happy to see it come up here in this discussion. I especially loved the
reference to Schoen because is begs the question 'do we ever solve a problem
or do we simply engage new questions and interactive elements, new design
with every solution...kind of like life?

Thanks again. This community rocks!

Niya.

30 Jun 2010 - 1:06pm
lachica
2006

I've had this quote up on my board for awhile now:

"A designer looks for the real thing we are trying to accomplish, unvarnished by the residue of years of organizational habit."

Source: Managing as Designing edited by richard j. boland jr. and fred collopy

Best, Julie

5 Jul 2010 - 5:58am
Steve Baty
2009

Just to tie up a loose end on this thread: I heard back that the editor was complaining that I was being too reductionist in limiting design to just problem-solving. They weren't disagreeing with it's role in this regard, just that it is so much more - with which I agree.

Regards

Steve

6 Jul 2010 - 4:22pm
uxmovement
2010

I agree with the original poster on design being a problem solving activity.

In fact, I wrote an article that talks specifically about this in great detail.

Design is Problem Solving

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