Travis Wall

(Sometimes Graphic) Designer. Working on a PhD: Design Thinking +/= Heterogeneous Engineering. General flâneur. Chronic knowledge gatherer.

Location: Sydney, Australia

The word design is thrown around a lot: we have people called graphic designers, industrial designers, fashion designers, interior designers, interaction designers to name a few… and these are just job titles using the word… to go along with all the people who generate designs, such as mechanical engineers, civil engineers, computer engineers, architects, urban planners, policy makers, and so on. It could be very reasonably argued that just about everyone designs as part of what they do, professionally or otherwise. What does this mean for the word design? What does design actually mean? Does it even have any useful meaning anymore? This is an on-going project collecting attempts people have made at pinning down this design word into something meaningful.

Herbert Simon The Sciences of the Artificial 1969

Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones.

Might be considered the first classic definition of the design studies movement. Note that there is no prerequisite of a material object.

What if we thought of the 'wickedness' of problems in terms of temperature instead? The 'wicked problems' concept was first created by Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber in the early 1970s through their study of the structure of governmental policy and planning problems, finding them as structurally different to problems found in sciences. Wicked problems were argued to be more unstable, complex and subjective than a typical science problem (a tame problem), and therefore require a method of dealing with them different than typical scientific enquiry. Richard Buchanan then successfully imported the idea into conversation around creating material objects, arguing that the built environment and technological culture has become so embedded in human existence that the kinds of problems people creating material objects deal with have the same structure as wicked problems. Things may not be this simple though - using Michel Callon’s concept of integrated socio-technical structures and economic analysis to the tame/wicked model suggests categorising problems might be better considered on a spectrum - cold to hot. Building this new direction on top of Rittel and Webber's original concept handles the messy reality of problems, and provides a helpful jumping off point for further exploration and development.

Richard Buchanan Wicked Problems in Design Thinking 1993

Individual designers often possess a personal set of placements, developed and tested by experience. The inventivess of the designer lies in a natural or cultivated and artful ability to return to those placements and apply them to a new situation, discovering aspects of the situation that affect the final design. What is regarded as the designer’s style, then, is sometimes more than just a personal preference for certain types of visual forms, materials or techniques: it is a characteristic way of seeing possibilities through conceptual placements.

Tim Brown Lean Startup Meets Design Thinking 2014

At it’s most abstract level design is about crafting the world around us to meet the needs of us as people … Through an understanding of people, we can then craft the technology and materials we have at our disposal to create things, they might be products, they might be services, they might be systems, that most meet the needs of those people.