Thank you Lars, this is a delicious insight, (at least for me, insights are always relative) as I believe that what you are pointing to is that images are somehow better at expressing relationships than words:
> “the complexity of human affairs is always a complexity of multiple interacting relationships; and pictures are a better medium than linear prose for expressing relationships.”
This makes sense, certainly when we are thinking about ‘new’ relationships given the difficulty of language to express the unknown (thus its dynamic nature, the use of metaphor, etc.) but then to connect that with the difficulty in understanding the ‘true’ problem (as Bergson would say) from the user’s perspective is an excellent subtlety.
> “There is little doubt that project requirements are the single biggest cause of trouble on the software project front…”
We considered linguistic inadequacies in cognitive and analytical thought from the perspective of creating in our article: Bauer, R. M. & Eagen, W. M. 2008. “Design Thinking — Epistemic Plurality in Management and Organization.” Aesthesis, 2(3): 568-596, where we used the Jungian model of psychological base functions for the conceptualization of human knowledge rooted in epistemic plurality. Jung (1921) distinguishes four elementary ways of knowing: thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuiting and we suggested that design must necessarily consider all of these modes in creating. Your insight that Epistemic Plurality, specifically visualization, must be considered in the anchoring of the problem before the design solution can be approached makes good sense, and I would offer this reference to you.
When Enerst Fenollosa wrote of the importance of the ideogrammic character of Chinese ( Fenollosa, Ernest, Ezra Pound (1968) The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry. San Franscisco: City Lights Books. ) he was suggesting that the pictorial nature of Chinese writing lent itself to complex thought.
“A true noun, an isolated thing, does not exist in nature. Things are only the terminal points, or rather the meeting points of actions, cross-sections cut through action, snap-shots. Neither can a pure verb, an abstract motion, be possible in nature. The eye sees the noun and verb as one: things in motion, motion in things and so the Chinese conception tends to represent them.“ (Fenollosa, Pound 2001: 141)
The idea that linguistic based analysis has difficulty with the expression of difference based in change gives credence to the suggestion that visualization could provide more complex and creative results.
Lars, this is not offered as some sort of proof but only a path.
On 2010-04-16, at 6:55 AM, Lars Albinsson wrote:
I just found a reference that are addressing this question:
“the complexity of human affairs is always a complexity of multiple interacting relationships; and pictures are a better medium than linear prose for expressing relationships. Pictures can be taken in as a whole and help to encourage holistic rather than reductionist thinking.” ( Checkland, 1999 p A16)
In the field of IS there are a number of studies concluding that failures are often correlated to problems with how different people put forward and understand requirements in relation to a designed solution:
"There is little doubt that project requirements are the single biggest cause of trouble on the software project front. Study after study has found that where there is a failure, requirements problem are usually found at the heart of the problem". (Glass, 1998 p 21).
I have not found any specific study that connects these two statements, but doesn't it appear to be a possibly fruitful hypothesis? Perhaps HCI people and others can provide studies that demonstrate that projects using prototypes are more successful that others? That would be a fairly solid argument for visualization being useful, at least in some ares.
Ps it would be interesting to learn if there indeed are non-visual approaches in for instance architecture?
Checkland, Peter. (1999). Soft systems methodology : a 30-year retrospective ; and, Systems thinking, systems practice ([New ed.] ed.). Chichester: John Wiley.
Glass, R. L. (1998). Software runaways: Lessons Learned from Massive Software Project Failures Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall PTR.
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9 apr 2010 kl. 15.47 skrev Birger Sevaldson:
There's no evidence of any accurate prediction of dynamic design outcomes visual or not. There's to my knowledge no such thing as accurate predictions in design, or the world would be easy.
I am working with visualisation to help design for very complex situations and to understand systems from a designers perspective and to use a designerly approach to systems thinking.
In this process we map very complex information in big maps and we call them GIGA-maps. It's a way of researching and learning a complex field and patterns of relations in this field, more geared towards a holistic understanding of the field than defining borders and hierarchies. We work with information visualisation people. Typically they are geared towards communication and representation and not towards using visualisation as a process tool for individual designers and for co-design or for communication of processes to stakeholders. The way the information is visualised and presented is important for the process and the result.
Is there any proof that it works? No. Is there experience that it works? yes.
Visualisation is crucial in any other field that deals with complexity. And so is interpretation. A friend of mine did very advanced 4D voxel visualisations of fluid dynamics and they discovered certain phenomena in the visualisation. But these were patterns only to be recognised and interpreted by the human eye and mind and visual intelligence. You need an ostensive interpretation of the visual material in any case. Though the data is quantitative the phenomena are only discovered when the data is visualised and the proof is based on qualitative interpretation.
So Terry to my mind your question of proof is sort of on the hard end while the systems thinking we do in design or even design thinking in practice in general is on the soft end.
I think I said pretty much the same as Chuck formulated so elegantly.
From: PhD-Design - This list is for discussion of PhD studies and related research in Design [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Charles Burnette
Sent: 9. april 2010 15:16
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Are visual approaches to design outdated?
Terry, et al
I think the problem with complex systems science comes down to the
interpretation of results. There is of course the problem of nominal
interpretation when defining the input to any statistical method
(Garbage in-Garbage out). More importantly, it seems to me, is the
fact that you must adequately account for human interpretation of the
outcomes from systematically proscribed analysis, whether involving
multiple feedback loops or not. While, such feedbacks might or might
not have some corrective validity, it comes down to the question of
whether you can recognize the relevance of the outcome to the
variables you can act on and that you can believe in. This, puts it
back into the realm of communication between active stakeholders and
whatever shared understandings they can reach. It is ultimately a case
of human interpretation.
Similarly, the act of visualization or its almost instantaneous
interpretation requires the construction or deconstruction (I prefer
the words "blending" and "unblending") of recognizable elements and
relationships . The resultant mental image is a coherent (not just
visual) network of contributing information. It is holistic only in
that it has referential objectivity that affords opportunities for
selective interpretation and transformation.
In sum, it doesn't make sense to deny the human limitations in dealing
with information - whether posited through systems or other
recognizable forms. To much belief in nominal processing doesn't cut
it. Don't drink that kool-aid!
On Apr 8, 2010, at 7:53 PM, Terence Love wrote:
> Dear Meredith,
> Thank you for your message. You express exactly the general state of
> play of the design field on this issue .
> " Visuals ... have a huge potential when we are talking about
> complex problems" and "... *may* [my emphasis] be more than just
> representations", Visuals *may* "... have the potential for predicting
> directions or outcomes"
> This has been the speculation for decades. All of these are
> tentative and
> appear as yet to be without evidence that visuals can actually do
> things. I'm wondering if they are simply wishful thinking and false
> A test: "In complex design situations (multi-feedback loop and more
> than 3
> dimensions) is there ANY evidence visuals can accurately predict the
> behaviour of dynamic design outcomes?
> If anyone has any evidence, I'd be very interested to see it as it
> open up a significant new area of design education and practice. It
> also open the door to Visual Design being able to start to justify
> that design thinking approaches apply to more complex areas such as
> strategy and other real world complex design situations.
> Best wishes,
> -----Original Message-----
> From: PhD-Design - This list is for discussion of PhD studies and
> research in Design [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of
> Sent: Friday, 9 April 2010 1:03 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: Are visual approaches to design outdated?
> Hi Terence,
> Actually I'm doing research in this area. Visuals, which is one of the
> knowledge evidence in design research, in my opinion, have a huge
> when we are talking about understanding complex problems regarding the
> design interaction not just in the computer, but as Meredith Davis
> outside of them. Complexity regarding: access to particular
> communities, a
> diversity of disciplines working together or just networked
> This is the new scenario that design educators should acknowledge.
> more than a "trend", but a new conception of the discipline. We can
> go back
> to Sapient's experience models, that though, they were born for rapid
> business cycles, they can be a referent for the applied world in
> complex and
> interdisciplinary areas like public service. Visuals may be more
> than just
> representations. They might be used as models [simulations or
> something that Hugh Dubberly has been addressing since around 2001,
> if not
> earlier. In this form, they have the potential for predicting
> directions or
> outcomes and, depending if the analysis is driven by statistical or
> qualitative approaches, they might be more or less reliable.
> Davis, Meredith
> 2008 Toto, I'Ve Got a Feeling we'Re Not in Kansas Anymore.
> On 8 April 2010 09:51, Terence Love <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> Hi David,
>> First a big thanks for the pointer to Bob Horn's work.
>> The fundamental issue to be addressed in any kind of design (and
>> often not
>> addressed by graphic designers) is accurately predicting the
>> behaviour of
>> the outcome. For example, how does one know if a poster and a public
>> promotion program will achieve its aim of reducing smoking by 50%?
>> Why did
>> or didn't the design produce the right outcome? To ask these
>> behaviour is central to design as a profession and to development of
>> suitable design methods, design processes and design education.
>> Many early
>> engineering design methods to predict behaviour were visual. With
>> complexity, they ran out of steam which is why engineering
>> designers now
>> different methods that primarily use visual for input and final
>> Bob Horn's work is tremendously useful and interesting. Thank you for
>> reminding me about it. I remember his hypertext book in the late
>> Horn's visuals and visual language approach however are not about
>> predicting behaviour of designs in the manner of a design method, nor
>> primarily about predicting the outcomes of complexity (many feedback
>> Their main role is knowledge mapping to make complicated
>> bits) easier to access and think about. They do this in part by
>> acting as
>> an external memory store in the manner similar to that proposed by
>> Buzan some years ago with mind maps. They are primarily visual
>> representations of knowledge content rather than design methods that
>> behaviour. Similar, though less attractive approaches were
>> developed in
>> 60-s and 70s in the 'for beginners' comic books (e.g. Foucault for
>> and Marx for Beginners etc), soft systems CATWOE maps, criteria
>> echo critical path maps), logic maps, decision tree maps, group
>> making support diagrams and flow diagrams.
>> Horn's description of the Cognome visual language project and
>> problems it
>> faces, identifies the same limitations and problems as above
> rd.edu/%7Erhorn/a/recent/VUscnrioVisualLanguage.pdf>except he
>> hasn't yet added the behaviour prediction problem as his aims as a
>> method don't reach that far... yet. It is, however, implicit in
>> his top
>> long range goal.
>> For improving the quality of design activity, the paper on his site
>> really made me sit up was the one of images that identify what we
>> A paper that might be useful for design research PhD students is on
>> how to
>> conduct research to get little or no effect
>> Amazing. Horn's recent papers and diagrams are at
>> Best wishes and thanks again,
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: PhD-Design - This list is for discussion of PhD studies and
>> research in Design [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of
>> Sent: Thursday, 8 April 2010 3:14 PM
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Re: Are visual approaches to design outdated?
>> Terry et al,
>> A provocative question. I would suggest a resounding NO. I think we
>> beginning to scratch the surface of possibilities in visual
>> work of Bob Horn just mentioned is an example of this. I think we
>> are at a
>> very early but highly productive stage in this kind of work. Look at
>> argumentation mapping as another example. Or the growing uses of MRI.
>> BTW, in talking about complex systems, stakeholders, relationships,
>> loops and multidimensional problems you are using some of the prime
>> metaphors of our time.
>> blog: www.communication.org.au/dsblog
>> web: http://www.communication.org.au
> Constanza S. Miranda M.
> PhD Student NCSU-Design
> "Develop Design, Design to Develop"