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Comments (11)

Rob Ryan said

at 12:36 pm on Apr 16, 2010

First, I should say -- I'm not entirely sure this is where we're to place our colloquial reply (to each other), but it seemed like the correct link from our wiki home.

And in response to our reading: "awesome!" I couldn't help fist-pumping in several parts -- not because the author says anything novel, but because his formulation of design culture really struck a chord with me. As Brie notes, classicalist frameworks are always more powerful to Western students, precisely because they echo other elements of our education. Because Nelson pairs a daring new proposal (cultivating an active design culture) with the strains of an old metaphor (Hephaistos), his idea comes across as particularly smooth.

What is it that I like so much about his conception? I felt as though his essential point: that design is an act of bicameral innovation (often literally, if we're speaking neurologically); the designer has always played two games. Innovation (what Brie above terms "ideation") in form is teamed with actualization in function, for what Frank Lloyd Wright called: "form and function together as one; a spiritual union."

And as Nina commented on my post from last week, this is probably why designers have always attached themselves (at least administratively) with engineering departments -- the technical knowledge in that guild of thinkers is an essential half of the designer's soul. But Nelson is after honoring both halves -- when I think of the power of having a peerage of designers in the world of academia, I get some pretty pleasurable chills. Here's to what looks to be a great talk!


chigusa said

at 12:44 pm on Apr 16, 2010

Assigned paper was a Prelude of a book, so that we can just get the general idea, not detail. But the idea to define "design" most broad sense is clearly conveyed. Having got that notion, we can start thinking about design as the fundamental human intellectual process to "imagine that-which-does-not-exist" and "make it appear in concrete form as a new, purposeful addition to the real world." This reading material made me curious about the whole book, which covers many dimensions of "design", and the lecture, too.

Andrew Hershberger said

at 12:55 pm on Apr 16, 2010

I liked this quote from page 15:

"The wisdom of the knowing hand, that of making, producing and acting, must be connected to the wisdom of reason. But, wisdom—in the realm of design—requires that we take a step back. Design wisdom requires the reconstitution of sophia. Design wisdom is an integration of reason with observation, reflection, imagination, action and production."

This makes me wonder about how design teams should be formed: groups of specialists or groups of generalists or both?

Rob Ryan said

at 10:39 pm on Apr 16, 2010

@Andrew -- I was going to ask him that, but felt like I'd sort of spent more time on the offensive than I should have. But seeing as we have six more speakers, there's always a chance to ask the rest.

Steven Dow said

at 1:08 pm on Apr 18, 2010

@Rob -- We are increasingly seeing a community of designers who understand design as a third discipline, different from science and humanities. Coming from more of a scientific background, I traditionally felt uncomfortable labeling myself a designer. Even as I came to understand Design with a big d as an endeavor beyond craft, I always felt humanities folks had a stronger claim on design. Thanks to Harold Nelson and others, my view of design is shifting to encompass the rationale and creative, the designer's agency and their intention to serve.

Steven Dow said

at 1:09 pm on Apr 18, 2010

@Andrew -- That will be a perfect question to ask Ed Catmull.

Brie Bunge said

at 5:07 pm on Apr 19, 2010

@chigusa -- I was inspired by Dr. Nelson's perspective on design too. I was particularly inspired by his philosophical allusions. I am going to look into this topic further in a paper for my introduction to humanities class.

I also wanted to express my appreciation for the opportunity to actually meet the authors behind the texts. I realized after speaking with Dr. Nelson that I got the message wrong in my personal post.
.5 humanities person + .5 engineering person != 1 designer
Design is, as Dr. Nelson said, a third, distinct culture.

Andrew Hershberger said

at 11:14 am on Apr 23, 2010

@Steven -- I agree that design is a third kind of discipline. One frustration, though is how to respond to job postings like the following (company info removed):

"We need this person to know everything that ranges from graphic design to interactive and visual design related to web, print and branding projects. A good understanding of technology and software development ... is a always a plus."

Is this really the requirement for being a designer? Personally, I don't think that a designer needs to be good at all of these things, and I think finding someone like that is quite rare. As I read more about the power of creative teams, I am becoming more and more convinced that not every member of the team needs to be good at everything from graphic design to interactive design to engineering. In fact, it seems crazy to expect, as an organization, to ever find enough people like this to keep your operation going. Instead, I think learning how to build diverse teams of people with complimentary talents and areas of expertise, and creating an environment and culture in which they can work together creatively is the real key. That said, I could be wrong. I'm interested to hear your (and others') thoughts on this topic.

Nina Khosla said

at 12:37 pm on Apr 23, 2010

@Steven it's interesting, I was asked by my advisor what I really enjoyed doing - and what I'd be interested in pursuing further academically at Stanford. It was hard for me to articulate, because I couldn't simply say something like, "Programming computer programs," and I couldn't articulate what it was. I ended up describing a love of ethnography and the subsequent analysis and understanding. I think this understanding of process is really interesting, and not something that's focused on at Stanford, either. For example, this was recently sent out in an email list I'm part of: http://www.stanford.edu/~ktam/cgi-bin/SI/site/page?view=about. I didn't know how to respond to this, because it seems to me that this process is very diluted - it treats the brainstorm as if it were a magic cureall, sort of reminding me of the beliefs around Coca-Cola's original release (see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coca_cola#History). But rather, the foundation of a good brainstorm is built on preparation, not 10 minutes of listening to someone describe a problem, and a sense of shared trust between participants, not carrying "your" ideas from group to group to compete for the title of "best idea." It seems like so much of design is about tearing apart old expectations and beliefs and putting in a new set.

Steven Dow said

at 3:08 pm on Apr 26, 2010

@Andrew: the dSchool belief is not that designers should be expert craftspeople in many domains, but that they should possess an ability to adapt and pick up new skills on the fly. One may even argue that becoming too good in photoshop (or some other representational media) encourages designers to communicate through a channel with limited communicative properties. So to counter your intuition, I believe a good design team can comprise a bunch of broadly-skilled generalists.

Poornimaw said

at 11:26 am on May 7, 2010

WOW! - this is one mind blowing presentation and paper - I feel like the first few lines "Humans did not discover fire—they designed it. The wheel was not something our ancestors merely stumbled over in a stroke of good luck; it, too, was designed. The habit of labeling significant human achievements as ‘discoveries’, rather than ‘designs’, dis- closes a critical bias in our Western tradition. " capture the essense of the need to think of design thinking not just as a separate third discipline but as Steven said, it is a "cross cutting" skill, where people from a variety of domains need to cultivate that mindset - of being able to spot problems / challenges / shortcomings in their daily lives/ actions or dealing and trying to apply that creative problem solving technique to it. The question is how do we make that "practical, purpose-driven and integrative approach to the world" a part of as many people as possible? I don't agree that ppl with design thinking should be a distinct set of "cool people". Real improvements and breakthroughs can be brought about when you can help as many people to inculcate that mind frame and to probe and question until they see "that-which-does-not-yet-exist". Intriguing - I can't help trying to also link our session with Mitch (and the stuff about Scratch ) - Steven you asked twice "what do the children learn on Scratch" - is it simply drawing - sharing or collaborating. Why can't scratch be interpreted in a larger context as a launch pad to ignite the "design thinking practice" in kids?

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