13 June 2008

Design – it must involve exploration

James Lowgren is one of my favorite thinkers when the topic turns to design and design thinking. He has a new column that frames design in this way:

(/from james)

~ Design work is about exploring possible futures, starting from a situation at hand.

~ It intends to change the situation for the better by developing and deploying some sort of product or service, i.e., the concrete outcome of the design process.

~ It considers instrumental and technical as well as aesthetic and ethical qualities throughout the design process.

~ Design work involves developing an understanding of the task – the "problem", or the goal of the design work – in parallel with an understanding of the space of possible solutions.

~ Finally, it entails thinking by sketching, building models, and expressing potential ideas in other tangible forms.

(/end from james)

By no means is this a comprehensive definition, but I doubt it is intended as such. One of the important take aways from this is that design requires… let me say that again, requires exploration. A be line to the obvious solution is almost never the best approach. All of us, typically when we are young and intimidated by the pressures of get it done soon, rather than get it done well, have committed this cardinal sin of design. Many non-designers don’t get this, and it is important that we help them to understand the importance of exploration.