Thanks for your summary.
You misunderstand me. Your reinterpretation (see snip below> is the OPPOSITE
of what I was trying to say.
The aesthetics of a design is still a property of the *output* (the
design). The problems of seeing design activity and outcomes in that limited
way and the need to change from that perspective is what I was writing
I was suggesting that instead it is necessary to centralise design theory on
the broader *outcomes* resulting from use of the design in the world.
To use David's (Sless) work as an example. If I assess whether a document, a
form for applying for disability benefit say, can be read more easily or
communicates more accurately, that is an OUPUT-based focus on the
properties of the designed object.
If instead, I focus on the scale and type of changes over time in the lives
of persons with a disability, or even of changes to society more broadly,
that result from the document, then this becomes a focus on the OUTCOMES
resulting from that design.
Another example, which I've posited before, is the design of a replacement
book cover. An OUTPUT-based analysis is on its aesthetics and whether the
client was happy. An OUTCOME-based analysis is whether it sold the
additional numbers of books that was intended.
A difference between them is that an OUTCOME-based approach enables
meaningful contracts for achieving purpose. In these cases, the designer
can be financially responsible (like other professionals) for achieving
specific outcomes for designs.
Additionally, this OUTCOMES-based approach is a basis for designing to
achieve specific social, environmental and ethical targets.
However, an OUTCOMES-based approach requires different sorts of design
theories and different kinds of design research - especially as any actual
specific design is itself of less relevance.
To those who say this can't be done, many design fields from Advertising to
Service Design are already doing it to some extent. People in Operations
Design have been doing it for decades
An example. We have yet to develop research and theories that guide design
activity such that we could easily address the problem of designing a way to
get passengers on a plane 30% faster and more pleasurably than at present
and in such a way that as a result costs are cut by 5% ad prices increased
by 1% with no loss of passenger numbers.
If you imagine, you could as part of this, use some outputs of Visual
Design. However, measuring the designs (the *output*) in terms of their
aesthetics properties, is not a particularly big bit of the picture in
working out what is best to achieve the *outcomes*. More important is design
theory that can predict exactly what needs to be done to achieve the
In many areas of design the above kinds of design theory and research are
still missing. They offer an opening for many many really interesting PhD
Affordances (Norman and Gibson) offer one starting point....
Dr Terence Love
Design Out Crime & CPTED Centre
Perth, Western Australia
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+61 (0)4 3497 5848
"Terrence Love provided a few nice references and the predictive gap. I will
address the last paragraph: " To focus on *outcomes* requires, however, the
development of design theories that can predict outcomes. So far, these
kinds of theories are mostly missing in almost all design fields. They are
not difficult to develop. Rather, developing them has been overlooked. The
problem has been an obsession with designed outputs, rather than the
consequences for the world of those designed outputs."
Me: I will interpret the last phrase "consequences for the world" in
relation to aesthetics, as how the designed object is seen. Gibson seems not
to be able to make predictions which are what Jane and Jake Designer need
(and my students). From my limited reading of Gibson, there seems to be no
point where I see an idea that means if you do X then you might expect Y to
happen (apart from the affordances issue). Even then, I think the
affordances point owes more to Don Normanīs work than Gibson.
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