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14 SEPTEMBER 2015

Design for Action: designing the immaterial artefact

"Throughout most of history, design was a process applied to physical objects. Raymond Loewy designed trains. Frank Lloyd Wright designed houses. Charles Eames designed furniture. Coco Chanel designed haute couture. Paul Rand designed logos. David Kelley designed products, including (most famously) the mouse for the Apple computer.

But as it became clear that smart, effective design was behind the success of many commercial goods, companies began employing it in more and more contexts. High-tech firms that hired designers to work on hardware (to, say, come up with the shape and layout of a smartphone) began asking them to create the look and feel of user-interface software. Then designers were asked to help improve user experiences. Soon firms were treating corporate strategy making as an exercise in design. Today design is even applied to helping multiple stakeholders and organizations work better as a system.

This is the classic path of intellectual progress. Each design process is more complicated and sophisticated than the one before it. Each was enabled by learning from the preceding stage. Designers could easily turn their minds to graphical user interfaces for software because they had experience designing the hardware on which the applications would run. Having crafted better experiences for computer users, designers could readily take on nondigital experiences, like patients' hospital visits. And once they learned how to redesign the user experience in a single organization, they were more prepared to tackle the holistic experience in a system of organizations."

(Tim Brown and Roger Martin, 2015, Harvard Business Review)

A version of this article appeared in the September 2015 issue (pp.56–64) of Harvard Business Review.

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TAGS

Bill BuxtonCharles EamesCoco Chanelcomplex systems • David Kelley • design history • design intervention • design processdesign thinking • design-oriented approach • design-oriented thinkingdesigned artefactethnographic design approachFrank Lloyd Wright • genuinely innovative strategies • graphical user interfaceHarvard Business ReviewHerbert Simon • holistic user experience • IDEOimmateriality • intervention design • iPoditerative prototyping • iterative rapid-cycle prototyping • iTunes Store • Jeff Hawkins • look and feellow-fidelity prototype • low-resolution prototype • nondigital experiences • PalmPilot • Paul Randpersonal digital assistantphysical objectsrapid prototyping • Raymond Loewy • redesignRichard Buchananrole of the designerservice designuser experienceuser experience design (UX)user feedbackuser interface designwicked problems

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
28 DECEMBER 2013

Connectivist Learning Theory

"A central tenet of most learning theories is that learning occurs inside a person. Even social constructivist views, which hold that learning is a socially enacted process, promotes the principality of the individual (and her/his physical presence–i.e. brain–based) in learning. These theories do not address learning that occurs outside of people (i.e. learning that is stored and manipulated by technology)... In a networked world, the very manner of information that we acquire is worth exploring. The need to evaluate the worthiness of learning something is a meta–skill that is applied before learning itself begins. When knowledge is subject to paucity, the process of assessing worthiness is assumed to be intrinsic to learning. When knowledge is abundant, the rapid evaluation of knowledge is important. The ability to synthesize and recognize connections and patterns is a valuable skill. Including technology and connection making as learning activities begins to move learning theories into a digital age. We can no longer personally experience and acquire learning that we need to act. We derive our competence from forming connections. Karen Stephenson states: 'Experience has long been considered the best teacher of knowledge. Since we cannot experience everything, other people's experiences, and hence other people, become the surrogate for knowledge. 'I store my knowledge in my friends' is an axiom for collecting knowledge through collecting people.

Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self–organization theories"

(George Siemens, P2P Foundation)

TAGS

accepted knowledge • Albert Bandura • Albert-Laszlo Barabasi • Andrew Clark • Brent Davis • Chris Jones • collective knowledge • complexity of views • connection forming • connections and patterns • connectivism • conventional wisdom • Dave Cormier • David Rumelhart • David Wileydigital age • embodied cognition • Ernst von GlasersfeldEtienne Wengerevaluate and select • evaluate worthiness • evaluation skills • Gavriel Salomon • George Siemens • heedful interrelating • I store my knowledge with my friendsindividualismisolated individualJames Gibson • James McClelland • Jean Lave • Jerome Bruner • Karen Stephenson • Karl Weick • know-how • know-what • know-who • knowledge collectionknowledge commons • knowledge evaluation • knowledge synthesis • learning is socially enacted • learning theory • Lev VygotskyLudwig Wittgenstein • Mark Mason • Marshall McLuhan • Martin de Laat • Marvin Minsky • meta-analysismetacognition • Michael Spivey • Neil Postmannetwork societynetworked world • networks are everywhere • P2P Foundation • patterns of connections • patterns of knowledgepaucity • Paul Churchland • recognition rules • Ronald Barnett • Roy Pea • self-organisation theories • self-organising systemsensemaking • Seymour Papert • shared knowledge • shared learning interests • situated learning • social cognitive theory • social construction of knowledge • social learning theory • social-constructivist approach • Starr-Roxanne Hiltz • systems thinkingwicked problems

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
24 FEBRUARY 2012

Design and the Social Sector: An Annotated Bibliography

"Design thinking, user–centered design, service design, transformation design. These practices are not identical but their origin is similar: a definition of design that extends the profession beyond products. The rise of service economies in the developed world contributed to this movement toward design experiences, services and interactions between users and products. The literature about design thinking and contemporary ideas reveals common elements and themes, many of which are borrowed from product design processes. They include abduction, empathy, interdisciplinary teams, co–creation, iteration through prototyping, preservation of complexity and an evolving brief.

The implications of the rise of design thinking are twofold. First, corporate and organizational leaders concerned with innovative prowess are recognizing design thinking as a tool for developing new competitive advantages. Design thinking considers consumers' latent desires and thus has the potential to change markets rather than simply make incremental improvements in the status quo. Second, many organizations have encountered significant barriers to practicing design thinking internally. In some ways, design thinking runs counter to the very structure of a corporation – it is intended to break paradigms, which may mean questioning power relationships, traditions and incentive structure, and it may require a corporation to overhaul its business model and cannibalize its success. Additionally, many corporate leaders treat design thinking in a linear manner, a process that compromises the critical elements of conflict and circularity. In many instances, designers have failed to sufficiently translate and articulate their process, and businesses tend to favor past trends over the promise of new discovery.

With corporations struggling to use design thinking effectively, where does that leave the social sector? The organizational challenges facing corporations do not necessarily transfer to nonprofit organizations: more complex systems, higher stakes for failure, limited resources and intangible evaluation metrics. Designers may be attracted to greater complexity and more wicked problems in the social sector, but they need to be prepared to adapt their process and attitudes to create positive change. Perhaps the most significant adaptation designers need to make is in their role. Where product design connotes a sense of authorship, social design demands that designers be facilitators and educators of their processes. Further, they need to recognize they may not be well equipped to solve problems, but can identify problems and co–create with local leaders and beneficiaries.

The value of co–creation is a predominant theme in the literature surveyed here, particularly for Western designers contributing to foreign communities. Another critical factor is continual presence within projects, or better, a longer–term, sustained involvement. Authors speak of the importance of evaluation and metrics to gauge success, but find many projects lacking, perhaps for the same reasons the social sector as a whole struggles with impact measurement. Scaling, adaptation and replication are buzzwords that pervade the social sector, but are particularly difficult for the product of a design process. Because the process is founded on a deep understanding of a particular user group's needs, the solution for one community likely does not translate directly to another. However, authors suggest that it is the design process that is scalable and should be taught to local leaders. Failed projects support this assertion; benefits flow through the process of a project as well as the end–product, which further advocates for co–creation. Finally, the literature leave us with an unsettling question: Is breakthrough innovation possible in the social sector? Most veterans in this field suggest the answer is no – they recommend that designers start small and introduce incremental change because the complexity of the systems and problems they face will demand it. However, this finding does not negate the potential value of the designer. The social sector needs designers to identify problems, imagine possibilities for a better future and facilitate problem–solving processes."

(Courtney Drake & William Drenttel, Design Observer, 27 October 2011)

TAGS

2012abductive reasoning • adaptation and replication • annotated bibliographybeyond productsbreakthrough innovationbusiness modelchange observerco-creationcomplexity • conflict and circularity • corporate leaders • Courtney Drakedesign disciplinesDesign Observer (magazine)design practicedesign processdesign thinkingdesigners • developed world • empathy • evaluation metrics • evolving brief • imagined possibilities • incentive structures • incremental change • incremental improvements • interdisciplinary teams • iteration through prototyping • new competitive advantages • non-profit professional association • nonprofit organisations • organisational leaders • past trends • positive changeproblem-solvingproduct design • promise of new discovery • questioning power • questioning traditionsservice design • service economies • social designsocial sectortransformation designUCDuser analysisuser experience design (UX)User-Centred Design (UCD)users and productswicked problemsWilliam Drenttel

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
20 APRIL 2006

Wicked Problems Don't Keep Still

"Wicked problems are ill–defined, ambiguous and associated with strong moral, political and professional issues. Since they are strongly stakeholder dependent, there is often little consensus about what the problem is, let alone how to resolve it. Furthermore, wicked problems won't keep still: they are sets of complex, interacting issues evolving in a dynamic social context. Often, new forms of wicked problems emerge as a result of trying to understand and solve one of them."

(Tom Ritchey and The Swedish Morphological Society, 2005)

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TAGS

ambiguity and uncertaintyambiguous • complex • computational complexitydecision making • Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning • dynamic • Horst Rittel • ill-defined problems • Melvin Webber • turbulent contextunfolding possibilitieswicked problems
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