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PHD-DESIGN  March 2013

PHD-DESIGN March 2013

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Subject:

Re: Research on unmet needs of designers

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, 1 Mar 2013 08:57:28 +0100

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Dear Mark,

Thanks for your clarification.  I stand corrected, and I
apologise for miss-assigning you with a PhD topic.  Sorry!

What you describe of your experience as a designer is
interesting.  

My own experiences as a designer, and what I have found from
getting to know the ways of other designers, working in a
variety of kinds of designing, coincide with what you
describe.

However, I arrive at a different diagnosis.  To me, building
the tools needed to do some designing is an integral part of
doing the designing.  It helps with building an understanding
of what the designing needs to be doing, how it can be done to
do this, and how the outcomes can be developed and presented.
And, in my experience, designers often enjoy this aspect of
designing, though sometimes they get a bit side tracked by
doing it.

Mostly, designers don't start building needed tools form
scratch; they adopt, adapt, change, refine, improve tools
they've made before for some previous designing: tools that
have worked well and tools that haven't, but look like they
might this time.

Having said this, I don't want to give the impression that 
it's all happiness and roses for these designers, nor for me, 
when I'm designing. It isn't. But, the frustration is not so 
much with the tools themselves not being right for the job, 
it's with the stuff we have for building the tools. 

Computation is wonderful stuff for building tools with;
amazing, in fact: there's nothing else like it.  But, too
often the way computational stuff gets packaged and offered to
designers, and not just designers, of course, leaves little
room for any modification, adaptation, development, change,
improvement, of anything.  The configuration options are often
poor, to say the least, the scripting languages are typically
horrible, and programming is hardly ever offered.  It's an
irony to me that in a world now so full of computers, so few
people know that they can be programmed, not just that they
don't programme them.

So, what I would say deserves investigation is how to deliver
good tool building stuff to designers, not "the right tools
for the job."  I don't think "the right tool for the job" can
be specified, but the needed tools can be worked on and
developed as a useful part of getting the designing done, if
some good tool building stuff is available.

To counter balance all this vague and general talk, with an
example, a nice tool building system that I've used and like is
MetaFont, a programming language designed and built by Donald
Knuth for designing and making [digital] fonts.  MetaFont
formed the basis for another nice tool building system I use,
called MetaPost.  This is like MetaFont, but produces
Postscript or PDF. As programming languages they offer some
very powerful functions that offer just the things you need to
build good font design and other graphical design tools and
things.  So, to me, these are examples of good (computational)
design tool building stuff.

Of course, it takes some learning and practice to develop the
skills need to use these kinds of things to build the tools
you want and like.  But I belive these are knowledge and
skills better suited to doing designing, than the learning and
skills needed to use the often rigid design tools designers
are typically expected to use.

One again, sorry for miss-understanding you before.  But 
thanks for this conversation!

Best regards,

Tim

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

On Feb 28, 2013, at 21:45 , Mark Whiting wrote:

> Thanks Tim,
> 
> I should clarify that this is NOT my PhD research topic and I don't think I
> presented it that way, as I stated in my first message, I'm "not
> researching it at the moment." It is just an area I find interesting. I
> don't think I have expressed anything that could be used as a research
> question without significant adjustment and, I do agree with your comments
> on research.
> 
> The back story on my initial post is that I've worked as a freelance
> designer and when I did I found that there were a lot of tools I wanted
> that did not exist. This is also true of the financial concerns I mentioned
> in earlier messages. As I began to talk with other designers I found many
> had responded to similar issues. Friends of mine at companies like IDEO as
> well as others doing freelance work had built work arounds, using various
> kinds of templates or particular practices in modeling software, graphical
> software, layout tools etc. to facilitate the way they prefer to
> design. Everyone does this, not just designers, but I
> was immediately interested by the design opportunity of building software
> tools that help us design (not just draw, or model, or communicate as many
> of the software tools we now use do).
> 
> I think your reading of my prior statements is astute but I don't think it
> effects the point of either one. I have not claimed that there is one
> design process, or that methods and process have an identity relation.
> Further, I am not particularly interested in the application of design
> methods. I am also not that interested in *why* there are not many digital
> tools for designers.
> 
> I am interested in finding ways to help designers produce better work and I
> think building better digital tools for them is one possible approach to
> that issue (also not my research topic). I think many people will research
> related topics but I hope someone *makes* a company which produces great
> tools for design.
> 
> Thanks for your further book recommendations.
> 
> *Mark Whiting*
> *
> *
> PhD Candidate
> Integrated Design Innovation Group <http://www.andrew.cmu.edu/org/IDIG/> at
> CMU <http://www.cmu.edu/>
> 
> email: [log in to unmask]
> mobile: +1 (352) 226-9212
> About.Me/MarkWhiting <http://about.me/markwhiting>


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