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PHD-DESIGN  March 2013

PHD-DESIGN March 2013

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Subject:

Re: Designing and researching ... was: Verification, Falsification,validation, design and wicked problems

From:

Tim Smithers <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

PhD-Design - This list is for discussion of PhD studies and related research in Design <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 29 Mar 2013 01:24:48 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (101 lines)

Dear David and Keith, 

When you, David, write, and you, Keith, agree with

  "We invent new ways of doing things.  Sometimes we repeat
   our ways of doing things.  After repeating them for a few
   times we articulate this way of doing things as a rule
   which can be applied more widely.  But then we discover
   that the breadth of the application of the rule is limited.
   Also, we like to break rules or flout them, and make new
   rules.  We also find that some rules are worth keeping, at
   least for a while, because they seem to work in the context
   we apply them.  But all rules are subject to change."

what I would say you write of is discovery, and not of what I
would call research.  It is discovery of new knowledge and
understanding, but not, I would say, of the same kind that
research results in.

Designing, practiced over many designings, can be, and often
is, a discovery process.  And what is discovered sometimes is
usefully documented and presented in things like Style Guides.

In saying this, I don't mean to belittle discovery nor Style
Guides, and certainly not Robert Bringhurst's The Elements of
Typographic Style, which is a book I know well and hold in
high regard, having used it to learn much of what I know about
Typographic design.  Much professional practice in many
different disciplines is based upon the use of well documented
discoveries.

Research--the kind of activity I like to use this word
for--needs mechanisms of discovery.  Discovery is a basic
component of research.  Hence designing can be a way of doing
research, but, as I've said, research needs to be more than
just the designing.  Other ways of doing research use other
ways of doing discovery: experiments, observations, case
studies, prototype building and testing, and writing and
drawing, for example.  But, again, just doing experiments, or
making observations, or doing case studies, or building and
testing prototypes, or writing, or drawing, is not enough to
make it doing research.  They are ways of doing a necessary
part of research, but are not sufficient, in and of
themselves, for doing all of what is needed to make it 
research.

So, as elegant and informing as Bringhurst's book is, it is
not quite, I would say, a research publication: a
communication of research outcomes.  It is, nevertheless, a
mistake not to include works of this kind, particularly works
of this quality, in building the critical states of the art
and practice need to support good research.

Though, as with all the literature we consider in building
critical state of the art, care and good judgement is needed.
For example, and staying with Typography, Jan Tschichold's The
New Typography: A Handbook for Modern Designers, is, I would
suggest, as much a manifesto as it is a useful handbook for
designers.  And manifestos do not make good components of the
kinds of critical states of the art needed for doing research.
Though, as Tschichold's books shows, they can still be good
handbooks and style guides.

In summary, good research needs good ways of doing discovery,
but discovery on its own does not yield reliable knowledge and
understanding.  This requires showing that new discoveries fit
or don't fit with what we already know and understand.  And
showing how and why they fit or don't fit, and that they are
reliably (re-)discoverable under similar and related
conditions.

This is how I would suggest we should understand the research
by design[ing] that you speak of, David: discovery by
designing plus showing how and why the discoveries build upon
what we already know and understand in a reliable way.

Best regards,

Tim

==============================================

On Mar 28, 2013, at 03:44 , David Sless wrote:

> Hi Keith,
> 
> I think we agree, but I would put it differently. 
> 
> We invent new ways of doing things. Sometimes we repeat our ways of doing things. After repeating them for a few times we articulate this way of doing things as a rule which can be applied more widely. But then we discover that the breadth of the application of the rule is limited. Also, we like to break rules or flout them, and make new rules. We also find that some rules are worth keeping, at least for a while, because they seem to work in the context we apply them. But all rules are subject to change.
> 
> The accumulated good rules that seem to work get put into Style Guides. 
> 
> David


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