I have followed this discussion for a while, but have not had the  
chance to read all posts in detail. Still I have would like to  
contribute a few remarks that I hope are relevant.

The discussion on the designer profession/professionalism may be  
understood using Jones model differentiating function, product, system  
and community. Many of the design profession appear to be defined at a  
product level and become  “artifact-centric”, architecture, and  
graphic design for instance. The profession centers on a class of  
artifacts they are trained to design. In most cases their skill is to  
have good ideas about the products/artifacts of their field.

Jones argues that for the system and community levels of design a  
different type of designer may be discovered. This designer role  
shifts from having the best idea towards ensuring that the process is  
right. It is assumed that many stakeholders (and others) need to be  
engaged in the process.

As requested by some list members, I can give an example from  
practice. In two cities in northern Sweden, Gällivare and Kiruna, the  
iron ore mines are gradually growing into the towns. (Between 2 and 10  
centimeters per day) So far the cities have not been able to respond  
with planning, development etc in way satisfactory to the citizens and/ 
or the mine company. I came into this situation being a participant of  
the 2009 ICSID Interdesign workshop; “City Move” in Gällivare.  (Fil  
was also a participant)

Although the interdesign workshop produced a number of great  
“products”; plans etc, a key insight was that the lack of trust  
between citizens, municipality, the mine company and others made any  
single suggestion unsatisfactory. What was need was process where  
different stakeholders can work on more or less together, amongst  
other things to build trust, hope and energy.

I have spent some months with the municipality and the mining company  
to design such a process, which now has a started as a joint project  
between them.

While some skills and experiences in urban planning has been useful,  
the key challenge has been to come up with process that can address  
the situation, that also makes sense to the municipality, people and  
businesses. The planning process of the professional urban planner is  
inadequate. It also become a question of personal involvement and  
ethics, I have frequently been, and expect to continue to be,  
challenged with partiality. And there is of course no objective  
position or process. They key will be to earn trust in that the  
process will allow different parties to participate and be heard.

Considering the joint project that now have started as a design  
process, has implications on the issue of language. Such co-design  
processes are highly dependent on languages that are/can be made  
common to the stakeholders. The key is to find/develop a language that  
helps people with varied backgrounds to discuss ideas of the future.  
Such languages can be words, images, dance or whatever, but they need  
to be external; that is not only an internal in the mind of a  
designer. They must support the thinking of individuals, but also the  
communication between them.  (Which is point Klaus is making). I have  
not been able to find much research on such languages. There are of  
course studies in participatory design (PD), Carroll for instance, but  
these often are “artifact-centric”, for instance PD in information  
systems design. Alexander’s Oregon Experiment is interesting but the  
pattern language he suggests is “artifact-centric”. Klaus presents a  
certain repertoire (especially metaphors and scenarios) in  “the  
semantic turn”, but I think there is room for more work on “people- 
centric design languages”.

It also enters the discussion on the professionalism of the designer.  
In this situation there is little use in distinguishing professional  
participants in the process from non-professionals. It is not unusual  
for instance that non-professionals have better ideas for the  
artifacts than professionals. (Which is the core of user centered  
design, the studies of Von Hippel and is also observed by Jones.)(I  
believe someone made a similar remark in the list, but I can’t find it  
aging, sorry).

Concerning “mechanical engineers” etc various professionals do need to  
participate. In Gällivare some 25% of the population may loose their  
dwellings in the next 30 years. Part of the outcome needs to be  
artifacts of the class buildings.  And there are no clear boundaries  
between designers on different “Jonesian levels”. The houses will have  
need to part of the overall design of Gällivare. For instance the  
speed of building will affect the overall plans, the use of local  
materials and constructions firms may foster other business  
developments, spectacular designs have even been suggested as part of  
the emergence of a “city move tourism”.  It is not likely that any  
specialist discipline can do everything on its own. The process needs  
to allow effective collaboration amongst many different disciplines.  
(This has been also noted in the artifact-centric disciplines, for  
instance the field of IS where the gap between user interface  
designers and engineers is pointed out to be a key challenge).

But isn’t this new designer role also a specialist? In my view yes,  
but a specialist in designing design processes, design processes that  
span all Jones levels. Part of this maybe expertise in co-design  
languages; languages useful in co-design among diverse groups. It can  
possibly be designated as an artifact-centric discipline, where the  
artifact is a “design process”. But one still need to recognize that  
the “design process artifact” is not an end itself; the purpose is to  
design some other artifact(s). So it may as Jones suggest constitute  
something different.

In my view this thinking is part of a human-centered design movement.  
I don’t think this will immediately replace the “artifact-centric”  
design and research. There are certainly justified needs to improve  
many artifact-centered disciplines’ practices, research and training.  
I think the systems/community-leveled design will live parallel with  
the artifact-centered designs, but is also likely to influence these.   
Issue of sustainability, poverty etc indicates that many artifact- 
centered design disciplines also need to increase the number of  
stakeholders concerned. I conclude that the regonition and study of  
“design-process” designer should receive more attention

I believe “design” will soon find itself in a deep crisis if the  
artifact-centered notion is the only dominating. (The recent film  
“objectified” in my view portrays this crisis very well).


Jones, J. C. (1992). Design methods (2nd ed.). New York: Van Nostrand  

von Hippel, E. (2005). Democratizing innovation. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT  

Krippendorff, K. (2006). The semantic turn: a new foundation for  
design. Boca Raton: CRC/Taylor & Francis.
Alexander, C., & Center for Environmental Structure. (1975). The  
Oregon experiment. New York: Oxford University Press.
Carroll, J. M., & Rosson, M. B. (2007). Participatory design in  
community informatics. Design Studies, 28(3), 243-261.
Seffah, A., & Metzker, E. (2004). The obstacles and myths of usability  
and software engineering. Commun. ACM, 47(12), 71-76.

+46 (0) 70 592 70 45
[log in to unmask]


10 okt 2009 kl. 18.38 skrev Filippo A. Salustri:

Klaus et all, see embedded comments.

2009/10/10 Klaus Krippendorff <[log in to unmask]>

> fil,
> briefly,
> i agree that the boundaries between the inside functioning of and  
> the human
> interface with an artifact are not always sharp.  in the design of  
> scissors
> you deal with both, but in the design of a computer there is a clear
> division of labor.  interface designers do not need to know how bits  
> are
> stored and changed, and the designers of a microchip have very little
> interest or place for how the icons look.  my suggestion is that
> human-centered designers declare an area of competence as their own  
> and
> become so proficient as to be indispensible in the design of  
> technology
> generally.

I can see that it makes pragmatic sense to do this, given how "things  
these days.  I would just urge that we do what we can to distinguish  
the competencies of different kinds of designers - which might  
reasonably be
expected to facilitate practise, research, and learning - and the use  
of the
boundaries implied by the creation of those competencies to partition up
aspects of actual products and services that are artifacts of design
processes.  The latter of which I really strongly believe is a "bad  

This happens in engineering and outside it too.  An engineering  
example: a
modern car is very clearly a "mechatronic device" in that it is really a
complete blend of electronic, electric, and mechanical elements.   
cars are still developed as if the mechanical and electrical/electronic
systems were entirely separate things.  This artificial separation  
hurts car development.

My concern is that promoting a distinction between human-centred and
technically-centred designers creates a similar separation that will be
similarly disadvantageous.

> i hope this also sheds some light on the second sentence you are not  
> happy
> with.  i suggest: if designers know a little bit of everything, as
> comfortable or useful this might be, and nothing deeper that what  
> other
> disciplines have to offer, there is no special competence that  
> designers can
> do research in, develop methods for, and offer to their clients,  
> then they
> can easily be replaced by those who know can offer slightly more  
> bits of
> knowledge of everything.

You missed my point.  The special competence that a generalist has is in
looking outside a given specialization.  I, for example, have a certain
familiarity with formal logic that virtually NONE of my researcher
colleagues have.  While it's a very tough row to hoe, I have been  
working on
formal models of designerly activities that are descriptive (not
prescriptive) and allow a kind of structured reasoning that is just not
available elsewise.  Whether there's any /benefit/ to my work for
practitioners or the world at large remains to be seen.  Breadth at the
expense of depth can lead to innovation.  All I'm saying is that  
see things differently, and we need both specialists and generalists  
to "see
it all."


> klaus
> -----Original Message-----
> From: PhD-Design - This list is for discussion of PhD studies and  
> related
> research in Design [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of  
> Filippo
> A. Salustri
> Sent: Saturday, October 10, 2009 1:10 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: current Trends in Design Research, where are we going ?
> Klaus, sorry I've been so long in replying, but my teaching schedule  
> is
> crazy this semester.
> Your post (below) is quite clear.  I understand what you mean, and I  
> agree
> with it, insofar as it describes a common conception in design  
> practise
> (engineering and otherwise).  However, when you write:
>> ask some engineers whether their design process is driven by
>> the conceptions that potential users may bring to their design or  
>> from
> the
>> conceptions of the logic of the mechanism they envision.  i think
> engineers
>> would prefer the latter.
> I think you are only partially correct.
> Yes, there are at least some engineers that think this way.  Maybe  
> even the
> majority of engineers.
> But I also know this is changing.  I meet them all the time,  
> engineers who
> have realized that a truly great design gets design must account for  
> both
> the technical and the human aspects.  And the education system is  
> pushing
> all the time towards better balance between human needs and technical
> requirements.  This takes a lot of time; you can't throw a switch and
> suddenly change a whole engineering faculty into human-centred  
> anythings.
> But it is changing.
> Which brings me to my main point: in a well-designed product, the
> engineering and human aspects vanish - there is only the product.  I
> believe
> the distinction between the human and technical aspects /of the  
> product/
> are
> entirely artificial.  While I can appreciate that the engineering  
> designer
> and the non-engineering designer might do different kinds of  
> designing,
> it's
> that way, I think, because we haven't figured out how to train single
> individuals to do both.  There is also a matter of complexity, that a
> single
> person would have much more difficulty addressing.  However, I also  
> think
> that the distinction is "breaking" some of the interfacing links  
> between
> engineering and non-engineering design.
> And I personally set as an ideal, to work toward a way of thinking,
> researching, and practising design that does not require those kinds  
> of
> distinctions.
> Lastly, I worry about your statement:
>> designers who know a little bit
>> of everything, none too deeply, are universal charlatans.
> I call such people "generalists" and I include myself among them.  The
> generalist serves a very important function: he pulls together bits
> knowledge, integrates them, for widely diverse fields to create new  
> ideas
> that specialists, with their deep but narrow expertise, could not  
> ever come
> up with.  So I'm not really sure I agree with you at all on this  
> point.
> Cheers.
> Fil
Filippo A. Salustri, Ph.D., P.Eng.
Mechanical and Industrial Engineering
Ryerson University
350 Victoria St, Toronto, ON
M5B 2K3, Canada
Tel: 416/979-5000 ext 7749
Fax: 416/979-5265
Email: [log in to unmask]