After Design Thinking
Friday, November 10, 2017
For several decades, researchers have observed and interviewed designers and conducted experiments with designers vs. non-designers—all contributing to a synthesis, sometimes referred to as design theory or “design thinking.” Design thinking, in this view, is what successful designers have mastered, what student designers must learn, and what sets designers apart from (in many of the studies) engineers. Yet as someone trained in the humanities, I cannot overlook the similarities between the ways that these discourses articulate certain key design concepts and practices and my own experiences studying literature and the philosophy of art. In both, human-made objects are understood as coherent compositions that in some sense to embody/communicate concepts, histories, values, and knowledge, which can be accessed by competent readers/interpreters. In this talk, I propose that, instead of reifying “design thinking” as its own unique phenomenon, there might be some benefit towards exploring its contiguities with related practices. In doing so, we might cross-pollinate concepts and practices, thereby enriching both. In this talk, I will try out this proposal by explicating the purposes and mechanics of interpretation as a literary practice side-by-side with the mechanics of design problem framing—not to argue that they are identical, but to probe their relations and identify openings for mutual benefit.