>From Alec Robertson
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One book worth including:
Art and Artefact - Jean Baudrillard, (Ed)
Nicholas Zurbrugg, 1977 Sage Publications
isbn 0 7619 5579 8
I look forward to receiving a copy of the list you are compiling.
>From Ken Friedman
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Read your research request with interest. Been
meaning to gather some references
for you. Also forwarded the request to colleagues
involved in philosophy, art, and
I’m sending an old version of a paper that you may find useful. This includes a
reference list that may guide you to some other
good thinkers. I am still struggling to
get a better version done.
I’m traveling too much these days. In a week or
so, I will sent you a bibliography of
useful sources. Others also write about some of
the topics considered here. John
Broadbent, Terry Love, Harold Nelson, and Erik
Stolterman describe design from a
systems standpoint. Many of us frame design in
the context of complexity thinking
and complex adaptive systems, but no one seems to have done enough to apply the
mathematical models of complexity studies to
design process. Judith Gregory, Lily
Diaz, and Pelle Ehn work from a position that embeds design activity in social
process, and their work addresses significant philosophical issues.
Among philosophers whose work is valuable, I can point to John Searle, Steve
Fuller, Albert Borgmann, and Joseph Dunner. Some other scholars also address
specific philosophical problems that apply to
design, such as Robert Sternberg’s
work on wisdom, or Michael Polanyi’s work on knowledge.
Several people specialize in philosophy and design. Per Galle and Peter Kroese
have done a great deal of work to build this
field, as has Louis Bucciarelli.. Richard
Buchanan has been a central figure, and a number of people in Australia have
worked on these issues from different positions,
including Keith Russell, Cameron
Tonkinwise, and Tony Fry.
In Europe, Michael Biggs, Robin Durie, and Mark
Palmer are particularly notable as
philosophers who also work with art and design, and Jan Verwijnen is a designer
and architect who has been approaching these issues from the other side.
There are also theologians who work with
philosophical issues that apply to design.
I don’t mean the notion of a “designer,” but the concept that human beings must
design their relationship to the world because
they have no predetermined role in
nature. According the Walter Kasper, for example,
reality in its an entirety is the
natural human environment. Because of this, human beings must create our
environment and orient ourselves within it as
social beings. This view is remarkably
consistent with Herbert Blumer’s view of the way
that human beings develop, and it
fits nicely within the Berger and Luckmann
approach to the social construction of
reality. Many of the philosophical conclusions
that follow from this are useful in
design, whether or not we believe in a specific
religious or theological doctrine as
Kasper does. Kasper’s views as a Roman Catholic theologian and cardinal can be
distinguished from the philosophical issues that
apply to design. There are other
theologians whose work can be used in the same way, including Martin Buber,
Soren Kierkegaard, and Paul Tillich. Applying the
work carefully is difficult because it
requires close reading to build distinct bridges,
but the specific interest of these
theologians in the nature of human responsibility
in a social world is what makes
many of them philösophers whose work can be useful in design.
It will take me a while to gather these items up
for you. I’ll send them when I can.
Good luck with your research request.
Design knowledge: context, content and continuity
Ken Friedman, Ph.D.
Professor of Leadership and Strategic Design
Department of Knowledge Management
Norwegian School of Management
This is the extended version of a paper published as:
Friedman, Ken. 2000. “Design knowledge: context, content and continuity.” In
Doctoral Education in Design. Foundations for the Future. David Durling and Ken
Friedman, editors. Proceedings of the La Clusaz Conference, July 8-12, 2000.
Staffordshire, United Kingdom: Staffordshire University Press, 5-16.
Copyright © 2000 by Ken Friedman. All rights
reserved. This text may be quoted and
printed freely with proper acknowledgment.
1. Ten challenges to design
2. From prehistoric making to postindustrial complexity
3. The making disciplines in a complex world
4. Thinking in a complex world
5. Design knowledge and systems thinking
6. An end-user’s tale
7. A model of design
8. Kinds of knowledge
9. Philosophy and design
10. The challenge of continuity
1. Ten challenges to design
Design is a broad field of making and planning
disciplines. These include industrial
design, graphic design, textile design, furniture
design, information design, process
design, product design, interface design,
transportation design, systems design,
urban design, design leadership and design management and well as architecture,
engineering, information technology, and computer science.
Around the world, conferences, colloquia,
seminars, and discussions now focus on
design research and on the kinds of design theory
that support fruitful research. One
purpose of these conferences and meetings is to
analyze the field. Another is to
generate, develop, and articulate streams of research and theory construction.
This definition of design covers a broad spectrum of fields. In many ways, they
overlap in thought and practice. Barriers divide them even so.
These fields focus on different subjects and
objects. They have distinct traditions,
methods, and vocabularies. They involve distinct
and often different professional
groups. The traditions dividing these groups are
also distinct. Common boundaries
often form a border where common concerns should build a bridge.
Despite differences, ten challenges face all the
making disciplines. These are three
common performance challenges, four substantive
challenges, and three contextual
challenges. These challenges bind the making disciplines together as a common
The three performance challenges held in common
by all the making disciplines are
1. Act on the physical world.
2. Address human needs.
3. Generate the built environment.
In the past, these common attributes weren’t
sufficient to transcend the boundaries of
tradition. Today, objective changes in the larger
world cause scholars, practitioners,
and students to converge on common challenges. These challenges require
frameworks of theory and research to address contemporary problem areas and
solve individual cases.
These problem areas involve four substantive challenges. These substantive
1. Increasingly ambiguous boundaries between artifact, structure, and process.
2. Increasingly large-scale social, economic, and industrial frames.
3. An increasingly complex environment of needs, requirements, and constraints.
4. Information content that often exceeds the value of physical substance.
They also involve three contextual challenges. These are:
1. A complex environment in which many projects
or products cross the boundaries
of several organizations, stakeholder, producer, and user groups.
2. Projects or products that must meet the expectations of many organizations,
stakeholders, producers, and users.
3. Demands at every level of production, distribution, reception, and control.
These ten challenges require a qualitatively different approach to professional
practice than was the case in earlier times. Past
environments were simpler. They
made simpler demands. Individual experience and personal development were
sufficient for depth and substance in
professional practice. While experience and
development are still necessary, they are no
longer sufficient. Most of today’s design
challenges require analytic and synthetic
planning skills that can’t be developed
through practice alone.
Professional design practice today involves advanced knowledge. This knowledge
isn’t a higher level of professional practice. It
is a qualitatively different form of
professional practice. It is emerging in response
to the demands of the information
society and the knowledge economy to which it gives rise.
Research is vital if we are to meet these
challenges. Consequently, design research
has become a central framework for inquiry in design over the past decade.
2. From prehistoric making to postindustrial complexity
Acting on the physical world, addressing human needs and generating the built
environment have defined the making disciplines for thousands of years.
Homo habilis manufactured the first tools over
two and a half million years ago. That
is when toolmakers and builders consciously began
to act on the physical world to
address human needs. They generated the built environment thereby.
Over the millennia that followed, makers
diversified from generalized tool making
into such specialties as architecture, textiles,
or pottery. As they did, they continued
to perform the three essential functions. The
making professions have been with us
Not all of the making professions have been with
us for an equally long time.. Some
of today’s challenges have brought about significantly new professions.
Computer design is one example of a significantly
new profession. Examining this
profession will reveal some of the issues
inherent in the challenges we all face.
Over the past two centuries, scholars,
scientists, inventors, and engineers have
made major contributions to the birth of the computer. The engineering design
process of computer design began long before the
first computer was realized as a
working instrument. Charles Babbage conceived the
first version of his difference
engine in the 1820s. While he began designing the mechanism of the machine in
1834, Babbage never finished his machine. He moved from one stage of his device
to the next before completing a working model.
Some say that Babbage never finished because his work because it would have
been impossible to do so using 19th century
technology. This is not so. A project at
the Science Museum in London recently built a
working difference engine using only
the technology available to Charles Babbage. This demonstrates that Babbage’s
project was feasible using the machine technology
of the 1800s. Whatever the real
reasons for Babbage’s failure, the computer as we
know it only took shape in the
When Vannevar Bush created an early electronic
computer in 1930, the field took an
important leap forward. Bush (1945) also entered
Internet history by proposing a
conceptual model of the World Wide Web is his 1945 article, “As We May Think.”
Computer design made another leap in 1937 when Alan Turing created the
hypothetical “Turing Machine.”
Computer design as a distinct profession began to
take form in the 1950s. This is
when computers began to be manufactured for
regular use in business and industry.
The computer design profession grew as the computer developed an increasingly
important role in the contemporary world.
The first civilian computers resembled their
early military research counterparts.
These were huge, mechanical-electric computers built by engineers. As they
diversified into different specialized
information tools, they developed powerful
specialized components. As this transformation
took place and gradually ramified
into multiple branches, the computer design
profession branched off into specialized
subfields. Each has its own specific requirements
and skills. The general profession
of computer design as we know it today is now
half a century old. Some subfields of
computer design are as recent as the past year or two.
Software design is far older than the computer.
As a branch of mathematics, some
aspects of software design date back hundreds of years.
The conceptual Turing Machine of 1937 can perform any computation possible on
the most advanced supercomputer available today. While processing speed is
inevitably slow, a Turing Machine can perform any computation that a massive
parallel processor array can perform -- give or take a few decades.
Much of the computation in early computers took
place on a physical level. Some of
it was hard-wired into the machinery. Performing computations or processes of
certain kinds required physical manipulation of the equipment. Other forms of
computing relied on punch cards that were
physically manipulated by the computer,
a method of programming that goes back to the 1801 invention of the Jacquard
Loom for weaving textile patterns.
It was not until the creation of the digital
computer that computer programming truly
came into its own. The birth of programmed digital computing on multi-purpose
computers created the profession of software design. Over the past two decades,
this field, too, has branched out, specialized,
and developed its own subfields.
This has been the pattern for the vast majority
of the world’s professions and trades.
A few millennia ago, there were only a few
hundred kinds of jobs. Many jobs had a
wide, ambiguous range of responsibilities. The development of advanced
civilizations created an ever-increasing division of labor.
By 1776, when Adam Smith (1976) wrote The Wealth of Nations, the principle of
specialized skill and division of labor was recognized as a key to the coming
industrial economy. At that time, there were
probably a few thousand kinds of jobs.
Now, at the beginning of the twenty-first
century, kinds of jobs and the kinds of work
associated with them have exploded in variety,
nature, and skill requirements. At the
same time, increasing numbers of jobs have moved
from the direct manipulation of
physical material to the kinds of work that Reich
(1992) summed up under the rubric
of symbolic analysis.
Grocery clerks now operate advanced computer-based information systems to
answer customer questions about available
products and product-related services.
They check the produce for freshness and serve
coffee at the same time that they
load dough into an on-premises, automated, computer-driven mini-bakery.
Deliverymen manage sophisticated
inventory-control systems that use shipping and
restocking labels to instruct an array of
computerized information systems. These
systems link factories to distributors and
retailers on the downstream side. They help
to control the delivery of raw materials and just
in time subcontracted parts on the
Information technology has transformed routine
manual labor into jobs associated
with advanced knowledge and skill. Information technology also adds a dimension
of manual labor to jobs associated with advanced skills and knowledge.
Research scholars and scientists take part in
skilled manual labor nearly every day.
Scholars now perform tasks once associated with
secretaries and unionized printing
When we write research reports, we type the manuscripts and do the proofreading
once associated with secretaries. The same act prepares the typesetting once
handled in a letterpress shop. When we use copiers with advanced collating and
binding functions, we manage the print production once undertaken by the
Many jobs are increasingly informated in the
industrial democracies. Nearly all jobs
in the complex information landscape are changing in response to the multiple
stimuli of the demanding environments within which work is performed. This has
1. Formerly distinct job categories tend to blur and mix.
2. There are now more kinds of jobs than ever before, with several hundred
thousand distinct job descriptions.
3. The built environment takes on a complex new
relationship to those who live and
work in it.
Traditional service jobs of the old kind will
continue to exist in a social economy that
values a diversity of goods and services. Bakers
will bake, chefs will cook, taxi
drivers will transport passengers, and bartenders
will serve drinks. Each of these
service professionals also uses informated technology in some way. They all use
informated technology when they move from their seemingly old-fashioned work to
their home life as the consumers and end-users of
goods and services produced by
others. Even Old Order Amish now use advanced information technology
(Rheingold 1999), though they control its use far
more consciously than the rest of
us and are therefore influenced by it in less complex ways.
3. The making disciplines in a complex world
The making disciplines are only now recognizing
the challenges that this kind of
change imposes on the built environment. Some designers have yet to adapt.
Professional adaptation by rethinking the nature of design is essential to the
demands of contemporary work. Design professionals develop the artifacts,
structures, and processes that hundreds of
thousands of other kinds of workers use.
The rate of change and the nature of change in
other fields inevitably affect design.
This, in turn, affects how designers must think.
Depending on our analytic frame, we are living in a postindustrial society, an
information society, or a knowledge economy. If Charlie Chaplin were to shale
hands with Jacques Derrida, they might describe the present moment as
The modern era had many birthdays. Some place the pivotal point with the
beginning of First Industrial Revolution and the
publication of The Wealth of Nations
by Adam Smith. For others, the modern era was born in the same year – 1776 –
while the triggering event was the American Revolution.
The French Revolution of 1789 gave birth to the concept of a revolutionary
population organized as what Marx would come to call the masses and the minor
revolutions that swept Europe in 1848 paved the way for the middle class.
The American Civil War that began in 1861 saw the development of the first
industrialized society. The Civil War also marks
a turning point in the use of railroads
These moments, together with the advent of mass-produced motor cars and the
widespread use of the electric light at the
beginning of the 20th century, denote a
nascent economy different than any that came before. Revolutions in material
production, electrical production, chemical engineering, material science,
communications, information technology and now biotechnology have each been a
step moving civilization from the distant world
of agricultural production to the world
we inhabit today.
These transitions have not been easy. When the
century began, the vast majority of
the world’s people were engaged in agriculture.
They were busy from first light until
dusk, working to feed each other. Since the dawn
of time, agriculture also created
the surplus that made possible the growth of
cities, modern economies, and a larger
industry. This has now changed. Other sectors
shape the surplus that fuels growth.
In today’s advanced societies, two or three
farmers per hundred citizens feed all the
While powerful changes have affected great parts
of the world, other parts of the
world remain much as they have been for millennia. When Jules Verne wrote
Around the World in Eighty Days in 1873, it was a novel set at the border of
adventure and science fiction. Traveling at that
speed was a remote possibility. It
remained beyond the practical reach of all but an
elite few until this past decade.
Today, we can fly around the world fast enough to
see the sun rise several times on
the same day. At the same time, vast portions of
the world’s population live in the
world we would have inhabited only a century ago. Many people have never
traveled farther than a day’s walk from the place where they were born.
Over three centuries have gone by since Robert
Hooke published the first technical
description of a telecommunication device (Flichy 1995: 7). In 1684, Hooke
described an early version of the semaphore
telegraph under the title, Method for
making your thoughts known far away. It was
nearly a century before the semaphore
telegraph became a reality. Over the century that followed, semaphore telegraph
gave way to the electric telegraph and finally to
the telephone. In this century, the
landline telephone gave birth to extended
telephone networks, radio, television,
mobile telephones, and wireless telephones linked
by satellite. Even so, most of the
world’s messages travel no faster than a man or woman can walk.
Each layer of advanced technology is built onto
the technology of the prior systems,
and many of these survive alongside recent developments. The behaviors that
enabled us to adapt to and use the older technologies survive. We rely on them
along with behaviors that are more recent. Our
cultures and behaviors are folded
around the past much as the layers of the human
brain are folded around biological
traces of the older primate brain and still older
sections of the brain that we hold in
common with distant reptile ancestors.
Someone said it well: “The future is already
here. It’s just not evenly distributed.” The
shifts from feudalism to modernism to the world
we live in today have left their mark
in the layers of our culture. During that long
period, the world has been transformed
from a relatively stable environment to multiple, unstable social, economic and
industrial systems. These systems are increasingly described by the paradigm of