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Researchers
Supervisors

 

Host institution: Lancaster University, UK
Lead supervisor: Alan Dix: alan AT hcibook.com
Researcher: Layda Gongora

Understand the impact of explicit design space representations on innovative design

Description:
Design has been defined as the science of the artificial, but for many engaged in day-to-day or professional design it seems more of an art. The explicit representation of the design space in terms such as dimensions, sets of options, models, or frameworks, is a critical element of regarding design as science in addition to (not instead of) art. Some designers resist more explicit analysis for fear that it over-simplifies their rich, nuanced implicit understandings and thus may cramp their creativity. On the other hand there are some, for example the design consultancy PDD, who make it part of their professional practice to explicitly analyse what appear to be ‘soft’ aspects of design, such as ‘value’, in order to move more consciously to new designs and to have confidence in their impact when released on the market place. Moreover, even designers who would resist apparently reductionist analysis of their work would still use rich vocabulary when describing it betraying a level of meta-cognitive understanding of their process. As a parallel, in ordinary language there are debates on the dangers of simplistic understanding of human concepts but it is clear that the explicit naming of concepts in language is incredibly powerful, indeed Clark regards language as an essential semi-external scaffolding of our cognitive processes.

This project will study the prevalence and kinds of external representation of the design space using examples drawn form across the DESIRE network as well as targeted surveys and fieldwork. Through a combination of empirical research and more theoretical analysis, it will attempt to assess the factors that make such representations valuable, especially in making large innovate ‘leaps’ through the design space, and how to avoid the potential dangers of establishing conceptual blinkers.

Outcomes:
Collated experience from across the entire DESIRE network on explicit representations in design; rich empirical analysis of this; a conceptual framework addressing meta-design issues building on our early work critical and theoretical evaluation and synthesis of methods for obtaining meta-design knowledge.