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PHD-DESIGN  April 2007

PHD-DESIGN April 2007

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Subject:

Re: Problem vs opportunity: DESIGN

From:

Jerry Diethelm <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Jerry Diethelm <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 26 Apr 2007 12:23:24 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (102 lines)

Dear MP,

> Many years ago I gave up describing design as a "Problem solving
> activity" 

> Further, design is a reflexive
> activity where the action takes place (always) in a field of other
> thinking and acting individuals and groups, a social space, which
> reacts, responds and acts on the situation as well as the designers
> themselves, thereby changing the conditions and contexts far beyond the
> control of any individual or group, however resolute their intentions.

I always look forward to reading your posts, which convey a designer busily
engaged in designing, attempting to respond to situations in effective ways,
not ideologically rigid, genuinely interested in people, looking for
language and images that best fit with your experiences and that help
represent the complexities of your thoughts.  You seem not easily locked
into explaining something in just one way, as in your statement above.

And with a deep commitment to designing an understanding of designing that
is useful and teachable.

> I wonder if there is a body of published work dealing with "ideological
> perspectives in design"

Peter Rowe's book "Design Thinking," attempted to do this for architecture
some years ago now (1986).  You probably already have it.  One of the things
I remember from his conclusion was its speculation about the role and place
of value-based thinking in emerging theory. It wasn't much but it caught my
eye because that was what I was trying to.

> The model for understanding the
> designer that I used with my students first started with a three pronged
> diagram (influenced by Gregory Bateson's model in his "Steps to an
> Ecology of Mind") which had Knowledge, Cognition and Skills: Knowing,
> Thinking and Doing.

Bateson has been a strong influence on me as well.  I think we are in
nature, in environment, and in a postmodern sense in language, in culture,
in history, in belief, ethical, economic, political and technical systems,
in place.  I usually refer to this as designing being situated and
conditioned in a field and write it like this: {designing}.  Your examples
and experiences in India always bring this to life.  Some persist in
thinking postmodern philosophy has just been a bad trip, but it did happen
and has, I think, opened up new ways of thinking about design.  Plural
perspectives, plural narratives, with respect to design theory (ideologies?
I hear them ringing through the list.) is just one of them. A loss of
confidence in meaning is another - which I think is an opportunity to better
explore a richer approach to meaning in design. I've tried to do this.

>However something was missing and some years later
> (in 1991 at a conference on design education at the IDC, Mumbai),  i
> presented a revised model which included "Values" at the centre of the
> triad, Values, or Feeling and Attitude seemed to complete the picture

Your design theory diagrams remind me that I forgot to thank Terry for the
links to Victor Papanek's diagrams from the 70s, which I think remind us all
of the importance of visual thinking for designers and where we were at that
time.  I know I made my share of these.  They expressed a need to gather and
represent many aspects of designing, certainly the widening of
considerations that was taking place, simultaneously.  Mapped lists?  The
farther reaches of this practice has been the need to try and make these
spatial arrays into models, being clearer about defining the parts and their
relations. Complex thinking clearly benefits from the making of images of
wide scope as well as careful writing.

I agree that valuing belongs at the center.

A starting point for me is to describe human life as a valuing experience.
("The habit of art is the habit of expressing vivid values." Whitehead)

You'll find my attempt to describe and diagram designing from this point of
view on my website in the two pieces I first developed for Wonderground.
Neither the written essay or the Powerpoint version would have made a good
20 minute presentation, so I've posted them for exchange with others
thinking along these lines.

The paper is at
http://www.uoregon.edu/~diethelm/Designing06.pdf

and the Powerpoint is a zip file on my web page
http://www.uoregon.edu/~diethelm/
labeled {Designing}.ppt

Happy to share and hear your comments.

Warm regards,

Jerry
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jerry Diethelm
Architect - Landscape Architect
Planning & Urban Design Consultant

    Prof. Emeritus of Landscape Architecture
           and Community Service  University of Oregon
    2652 Agate St., Eugene, OR 97403
       e-mail: [log in to unmask]
       web: http://www.uoregon.edu/~diethelm

       541-686-0585 home/work 541-346-1441 UO
       541-206-2947 work/cell

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