Tag Archives: Core77

A response to Don Norman’s “Why Design Education Must Change”

Don Norman posted an article recently on Core77 discussing design education and the increasing need for designers to possess broad and deep knowledge as they take on ever more complex problems:

In the early days of industrial design, the work was primarily focused upon physical products. Today, however, designers work on organizational structure and social problems, on interaction, service, and experience design. Many problems involve complex social and political issues. As a result, designers have become applied behavioral scientists, but they are woefully undereducated for the task. Designers often fail to understand the complexity of the issues and the depth of knowledge already known. They claim that fresh eyes can produce novel solutions, but then they wonder why these solutions are seldom implemented, or if implemented, why they fail. Fresh eyes can indeed produce insightful results, but the eyes must also be educated and knowledgeable. Designers often lack the requisite understanding. Design schools do not train students about these complex issues, about the interlocking complexities of human and social behavior, about the behavioral sciences, technology, and business. There is little or no training in science, the scientific method, and experimental design.

My reaction to Don’s commentary is that in focusing solely on design education, he may be looking at too narrow a solution space.

The complexity of many problem spaces being tackled by contemporary designers, with physical, technological, psychological, cultural, and organizational factors to be understood and leveraged in creating solutions, necessitates a multidisciplinary approach. It’s usually not realistic to expect one or even several people to possess adequate knowledge and experience across so many domains, so this would suggest taking a team approach — at least including appropriate experts as advisors to a core team.

If the designer is posited as the ringmaster of this effort, then the primary skill set starts to become one of broad familiarity with a variety of domains/disciplines and skilled facilitation of conversation and work across these areas, coupled with the ability to express the ideas that emerge from this effort in a variety of physical and narrative forms. Is this really the province of just the designer, or is this a wider issue?

Perhaps what’s needed is not so much a new approach to the designer. Perhaps it’s a new emphasis on the idea of collaboration as the natural way of doing things, and an increased obligation on experts of all sorts to also be skilled contributors to these types of collaborative efforts.

It’s always worth broadening the designer’s knowledge base, but what might a “collaboration curriculum” look like — one that could be implemented across many domains and disciplines? Could that yield more bang for the buck?

Sparks

A quasi-random sampling of interesting tidbits…

Seth Godin’s inspiring piece on blowing up constraints – Getting Unstuck: Solving the Perfect Problem [via Seth’s Blog]

The way to solve the perfect problem is to make it imperfect. Don’t just bend one of the constraints, eliminate it. Shut down the factory. Walk away from the job. Change your product completely. Ignore the board.

San Francisco architects blow up a constraint by mathematically rethinking the bay windowRandom Acts of Architecture [via Metropolis]

The San Francisco planning code encourages Victorian bay windows, but when you look at it closely, there’s nothing that actually states that you have to create a bay window…It just describes this little chamfered envelope. In the zeitgeist that architects live in, where we’re always constrained by planning codes, we found ourselves emboldened by the realization that it could be crazy! So we deliberately misread it as a mathematical description, which allowed for infinite possibilities.

The ever-increasing hegemony of the smartphoneBank of America & Visa test smartphone as credit card system [via Fast Company]

Amazing cylindrical dioramas from artist Anastassia EliasSee the world inside a toilet paper roll [via Likecool]

Continuum shares their creative processOpen for Branding: Design Museum Boston project [via Core77]

Shyness kills?Research study links shyness to heart problems [via BBC News]

And finally, my favorite of the week – All Ducks are Wearing Dog Masks! – Be forewarned: you’ll never look at a duck the same way after you look at this. Ducks’ Bills: You Never Even Noticed [via i am bored]