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PHD-DESIGN  April 2007

PHD-DESIGN April 2007

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Subject:

Re: Defining Design (Re: Evidence and ethics)

From:

"Dr. Lauchlan A. K. Mackinnon" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Dr. Lauchlan A. K. Mackinnon

Date:

Mon, 9 Apr 2007 11:36:32 +1000

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (126 lines)

Hi Rob,

Thank you for your confirmation about the sense in which Herb Simon inteded this definition to be taken. 

Just to confirm: you'd suggest that even solving an algebra problem such as a straightforward quadratic equation would be considered a design activity under the definition?

Also, in "the definition draws the tightest meaningful boundary around the mental and computational processes that characterise design" do you mean the _loosest_ meaningful boundary? I'm sure you or I could tighten the definition considerably, but this would start excluding classes of people.

Regards

Lauchlan Mackinnon
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Robert Woodbury 
  To: Dr. Lauchlan A. K. Mackinnon 
  Cc: [log in to unmask] 
  Sent: Monday, April 09, 2007 10:35 AM
  Subject: Re: Defining Design (Re: Evidence and ethics)


  I can attest from first hand experience that Herb actually did mean his definition to be so broad. If I can be so bold as to paraphrase his argument, it would be that the definition draws the tightest meaningful boundary around the mental and computational processes that characterise design. 


  The organization I lead, the Canadian Design Research Network, takes Herb one step further. For us, design is the process of making proposals for change. Any tighter boundary excludes interesting scholars with whom we want to work.


  -rob-


  -- 
  Rob Woodbury
  Professor
  Scientific Director, Canadian Design Research Network    (www.cdrn.ca)


  School of Interactive Arts and Technology
  Simon Fraser University Surrey
  Central City
  250 - 13450 102nd Avenue
  Surrey, BC  V3T 0A3     CANADA


  T: 778.782 7501       F: 778.782 7478
  E: [log in to unmask]
  W: www.siat.sfu.ca








  On 8-Apr-07, at 5:19 PM, Dr. Lauchlan A. K. Mackinnon wrote:


      Herbert Simon's definition of design -- to "[devise] courses of
      action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones" --
      covers many fields. These include engineering, management, even, for
      some, nursing or law.


      In my slightly expanded definition, "design is goal-oriented process
      to solve problems, meet needs, improve situations, or create
      something new or useful."


    Ken,


    Thank you for the definitions.


    I would like to add that it seems that your definition (and Herb's) might be
    a bit too broad . . . for example, your definition would seem to cover
    solving straightforward, (highschool-level, linear) algebra problems (goal:
    solve problem), psycotherapy (patient and therapist set goals, try to
    improve situation), neurosurgery following diagnosis of an issue (goal:
    issue resolved; improve situation with regard to health and wellbeing), etc.
    I would have thought that design would not generally be considered to
    include these activities, but they seem to be covered by your definition
    (and by Herb Simon's).


    I think psycotherapy as an example _could_ involve design as the desired
    outcomes are discussed and the context is surfaced with the patient, and a
    suitable approach is crafted. But the nub of the issue (it seems to me) is
    to differentiate between when the activity involves definition of the
    'design problem', and crafting an appropriate response to address and
    resolve the design problem with an approach that leads to gathering the
    relevant information and producing a relevant design that meets the need.


    So as a starting point for an alternative, I am wondering if a better
    definition might be someting along the lines of the following might be
    useful:


    "A process oriented towards identifying, clarifying and addressing a 'design
    problem' by means of crafting and delivering an appropriate approach taking
    into account relevant information and delivering a solution that addresses
    the users (or problems) needs."


    This could still cover engineering etc. But it would be differentiated from
    solving algebra problems (and other straightforward problem solving
    activity) as (i) in its abstract form, there are no defined 'customers' for
    the problem (ii) an algebra problem isn't really a 'design problem' it's
    just a straightforward, abstract maths problem with a relatively
    straightforward solution. The problem is not in the 'design space' it's a
    simple piece of analysis using standard tools.


    For me the nub of the additional work in the definition should be something
    along the lines of the 'metathinking' required to identify, clarify and
    reconceptualise the problem situation, coupled with the crafting of an
    approach designed to resolve it incorporating thinking that contains
    something in addition to standard analysis (e.g. creative thinking,
    understanding user needs and the design context better, iterative
    prototyping and testing of the solution, etc) and produce a 'great' or
    'exceptional' response to the design problem.


    Kind regards


    Lauchlan Mackinnon.

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