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PHD-DESIGN 2003

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Subject:

Re: Design Learning

From:

"Prof. M P Ranjan" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Prof. M P Ranjan

Date:

Mon, 1 Sep 2003 18:28:07 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (159 lines)

Reply

Reply

Design Learning: Comments on the Discussion – Prof. M P Ranjan – 1 September
2003

Long Post!! New Member...

Dr Charles Burnette’s description of Design Learning appeals to me since it
corresponds extremely well with the stages that I have experienced
personally (over the past thirty years) as a teacher and, as a professional
designer, and a design theorist over many different kinds of design
situations and covering several design disciplines that are practised and
taught at the National Institute of Design in India.

I quote “…Design learning to me, involves learning to initiate, guide and
manage intention; learning to access and develop relevant information;
learning to develop and analyze conjectural models; learning to
interactively resolve and communicate responses to situations; learning to
act on proposed responses efficiently; learning to assess success in terms
of intention; and learning to acquire and adapt knowledge for future use.
(For me, design learning is related to the seven modes of thought that are
the basis of my theory of design thinking. Design learning is role related
and modal even as it is holistic, autobiographical, cultural and concerned
with learning about learning)….” Unquote

The first deals with learning to understand the context and the situation
that usually leads to trying to get clarity from a very complex set of
signals and processes the provide the essence of a direction. This kind of
learning, like many others, does go through several iterations but at the
end of these multiple cycles the level of conviction and sense of purpose is
usually very high in the task and the purpose that it represents. Many a
times this conviction can be a source of great frustration since few others
have the insights that the design learner has garnered from the unique
situations that has been investigated in some considerable depth.

The second deals with access to information to many classes of information
types which includes published and reported facts and speculations and also
field based observations and self initiated experiments that are
contextually mediated to fill gaps in the current information or for a
direct confirmation of some reported fact or speculation which cannot
otherwise be verified easily, to list only a small sub-set of the
information types involved in design investigation. Designers have drawn
from all kinds of disciplines the tools and techniques perfected within
these disciplines over the years of specialised investigations. For example
for tips on field work and observation of people in the field the work and
techniques of anthropologists and sociologists have been adopted and used in
numerous cases that I know of.

The third deals with analysis of conjectural models and the tools to conduct
such analysis. The hypothesis that drives design investigation is in the
form of advanced scenarios of parts or the whole of the design situation or
in the form of stories that cover both the micro and the macro levels of
observation and visualisation of the need and the consequences that are
being investigated by the designer. This too moves through numerous
iterations till a selection is possible of a few alternate courses of action
that can be taken to the next level of investment, be it models, experiments
or prototypes of part or whole, as the case may be. This also applies to the
pre-cognitive diagrams, doodles and fuzzy sketches that are the preliminary
visualisations created in many cases intuitively by the designer for
themselves in the search for possible configurations and relationships of
the various attributes of the solution in a search for affordances that
resolve the many contradictions that exist in all design tasks. We can call
this an analytical exploration of the design situation using visual tools
and processes that generate external models rather than numerical or verbal
expressions, although in some cases even these would be used in conjunction
with the visual.

The fourth kind of learning deals with the typical nature of design that
involves a number of participants who need to be convinced as the work
progresses. This calls for many interactions with numerous stakeholders and
in most cases approving authorities with whom the interactions are both
critical and necessary for the task to progress to the next logical level of
action with funding and other supports. The learning involved is in
communication, in seeking collaborations and in understanding the responses
with empathy to the situation and the needs and feelings of the identified
users.

This leads to the fifth kind of learning to accept and process the feedback
into constructive actions which brings about a great change in the
individual themselves since some of this feedback could be cultural or
outside the accepted frame of the designers frame of “personal ethics” – for
want of a better term. There are any instances of the designer embarking on
a new path outside the scope of the current task based on the insights and
convictions derived from the learning experiences.

The sixth form of learning is in decision-making choices from out of the
numerous alternatives of parts and wholes that are the result of progressive
visualisations and experimentations conducted in the progress of the design
task. The definition of the task itself is open to review and many a times
the investigations and design investments have veered of into an entirely
new direction as a result of this kind of review which is quite normal in a
design situation that is complex and previously less explored.

The seventh deals with the constant self development that we see designers
do in their search for new and interesting bits of knowledge that would be
of value in the future on some not yet anticipated task usually within the
frame of interest paths that each designer traverses over a career of
continued learning to cope with the new and the unexpected in their usual
area of work and areas that overlap their multiple interest paths.

Thank you Dr. Burnette for this very crisp and evocative classification of
learning styles available and often adopted by designers. In spite of this
level of understanding exhibited at this forum we still find design
education programmes floundering with very antiquated methods and contents
for technology, skills and conceptual areas of subject content for design
and the delivery of these that are neither effective nor suitable for the
absorption of design concepts and capabilities, not only in India but in
many parts of the world. The implication that this understanding has for the
design of individual courses and projects and the whole curriculum at the
under-graduate and post-graduate levels of design education are quite
significant when it comes to the integration of a design programme inside a
pre-existing University that deals with the traditional Arts and Sciences
streams of education. In India we are indeed looking at such a possibility
when we need to expand the base for design education and the question that
comes to my mind for this forum is “How do we differentiate the content and
style of delivery of course contents for designers while the teachers may
have to be drawn from the traditional disciplines in the new University
departments for design education?” Is there a body of work that deals with
this difference or do we leave the designer to integrate ones learning on
their own?

This is a very long post but there are so many other observations that come
to my mind on the numerous and exciting posts that have appeared over the
past few days on this subject of Design Learning that I thought of venturing
some comments from the Indian perspective. I will perhaps add other comments
at a later date. I have been a member on this list for a few months now and
have browsed through the archives, which I find of a very high quality. I
have been a teacher at the NID for over thirty years now and am indeed glad
to have a forum to share views and learn from an active dialogue on design
and design issues. My school was set up in 1961 based on a report (The India
Report, 1958) by Charles and Ray Eames and was influenced in the early years
by the teachings at the Bauhaus and Ulm. I will be happy to share more about
our school and its design education if it is of interest on or of the list
for which I could fall back on some of my earlier writings on design in
India and at the NID in particular.

This is my first post to this list and my first name is Ranjan, which is
what most of my students and colleagues call me,  in our rather informal
design education environment at NID.

With kind regards

Prof. M P Ranjan
Faculty of Design and
Head, NID Centre for Bamboo Initiatives
from my office at NID
1 September 2003 at 10.15 pm IST

email: [log in to unmask]

Professor
National Institute of Design
Head, NID Centre for Bamboo Initiatives
National Institute of Design Paldi
Ahmedabad 380007
INDIA

Fax: 91+79+6605242
Home: 91+79+6610054
Work: 91+79+6639695 ext 1090

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