Philosophical Frameworks and Design Processes (Book)

Re:Research, Volume 2

This collection showcases diverse perspectives in design and design research, with topics ranging from the introduction of design in the primary education sector to designing information for artificial intelligence systems. Divided into seven thematic volumes, the Re:Research series maps out where the field of design research is now.

Category: Cultural Studies
Series: Re:Research


Just as the term design has been going through change, growth and expansion of meaning, and interpretation in practice and education – the same can be said for design research. The traditional boundaries of design are dissolving and connections are being established with other fields at an exponential rate. Based on the proceedings from the IASDR 2017 Conference, Re:Research is an edited collection that showcases a curated selection of 83 papers – just over half of the works presented at the conference. With topics ranging from the introduction of design in the primary education sector to designing information for Artificial Intelligence systems, this book collection demonstrates the diverse perspectives of design and design research. Divided into seven thematic volumes, this collection maps out where the field of design research is now.


Two Blind Spots in Design Thinking

  • Estelle Berger


From the 1980s, design thinking has emerged in companies as a method for practical and creative problem solving, based on designers’ way of thinking, integrated into a rational and iterative model to accompany the process. In companies, design thinking helped valuing creative teamwork, though not necessarily professional designers’ expertise. By pointing out two blind spots in design thinking models, as currently understood and implemented, this paper aims at shedding light on two rarely described traits of designers’ self. The first relies in problem framing, a breaking point that deeply escapes determinism. The second blind spot questions the post project process. We thus seek to portray designers’ singularity, in order to stimulate critical reflection and encourage the opening-up to design culture. Companies and organizations willing to make the most of designers’ expertise would gain acknowledging their critical heteronomy to foster innovation based on strong and disruptive visions, beyond an out-of-date problem-solving approach to design.


Creating Different Modes of Existence: Toward an Ontological Ethics of Design

  • Jamie Brassett


This paper will address some design concerns relating to philosopher Étienne Souriau’s work Les différents modes d’existence (2009). This has important bearings upon design because, first, this philosophical attitude thinks of designing not as an act of forming objects with identity and meaning, but rather as a process of delivering things that allow for a multiplicity of creative remodulation of our very existences. Secondly, Souriau unpicks the concept of a being existing as a unified identity and redefines existence as a creative act of nonstop production of a variety of modes of existence. In doing this he not only moves ontological considerations to the fore of philosophical discussions away from epistemological ones, but does so in such a way as to align with attitudes to ethics that relate it to ontology – notably the work of Spinoza. (This places Souriau in a philosophical lineage that leads back, for example, to Nietzsche and Whitehead, and forward [from his era] to Deleuze and Guattari.) In thinking both ontology and ethics together, this paper will introduce a different approach to the ethics of design.


Investigating Ideation Flexibility through Incremental to Radical Heuristics

  • Ian Baker, Daniel Sevier, Seda McKilligan, Kathryn W. Jablokow, Shanna R. Daly, Eli M. Silk


The concept of design thinking has received increasing attention during recent years, particularly from managers around the world. However, despite being the subject of a vast number of articles and books stating its importance, the effectiveness of this approach is unclear, as the claims about the concept are not grounded on empirical studies or evaluations. In this study, we investigated the perceptions of six design thinking methods of 21 managers in the agriculture industry as they explored employee- and business-related problems and solutions using these tools in a 6-hour workshop. The results from pre and post-survey responses suggest that the managers agreed on the value design thinking could bring to their own domains and were able to articulate on how they can use them in solving problems. We conclude by proposing directions for research to further explore adaptation of design thinking for the management practice context.


Design Research and Innovation Model Using Layered Clusters of Displaced Prototypes

    - Juan de la Rosa, Stan Ruecker


The ability of design to recognize the wicked problems inside complex systems and find possible ways to modify them, has led other disciplines to try to understand the design process and apply it to many areas of knowledge not traditionally associated with design. In additional, design’s creative solutions and ability to innovate have made designers a valuable resource in the contemporary economy. Nevertheless, there is still an unnecessarily constraining polemic about the meaning and model of the process of academic research in the field of design, the ways in which design research should be conducted and the specific knowledge that is produced with the design research process. This paper tries to broaden the discourse by describing the prototype as a basic element of the process of design, since it is connected to a specific type of knowledge and based on the working skills of the designer; it also proposes a model of the use of prototypes as a research tool based on four different theoretical concepts whose importance in the field of design has been strongly established by different academic communities around the world. These are embodied knowledge, displacement, complexity and that we learn about the world through transforming it. Pursuing these models, we develop a process to intentionally produce designerly knowledge of complex dynamic systems, using layered clusters of displaced prototypes.


Solution-Generation Design Profiles: Reflection on “Reflection in Action”

    - Shoshi Bar-Eli


Solution-generation design behavior in general, and “reflection-in-action” in particular, can serve to differentiate designers, recognizing their personal reflecting when designing. In psychology, reflection is found a more robust tool to enhance task performance after feedback from a personal “device” that generates the process itself while interacting with visual representation. Differences among students’ interior design processes appear in their solution-generation design behavior. A “think aloud” experiment identified solution generation behavior profiles. Qualitative and quantitative methodologies showed how design characteristics unite, forming patterns of design behavior. A comprehensive picture of designers’ differences emerged. The research aimed:

  • to identify individual design students’ solution-generation profiles based on design characteristics;
  • to show how reflection-in-action appearing in the profiles can serve to predict how novice designers learn and act when solving a design problem;
  • to enhance the uniqueness of reflection-in-action for designers as distinct from reflection in other fields.


Four distinct solution-generation profiles emerged, each showing a different type of reflective acts. Identifying reflection-in-action type can robustly predict how designers develop design solutions and help develop pedagogical concepts, strategies and tools.


Let’s Get Divorced: Pragmatic and Critical Constructive Design Research

  • Jodi Forlizzi, Ilpo Koskinen, Paul Hekkert, John Zimmerman


Over the last two decades, constructive design research (CDR) –also known as Research through Design – has become an accepted mode of scholarly inquiry within the design research community. CDR is a broad term encompassing almost any kind of research that uses design action as a mode of inquiry. It has been described as having three distinct genres: lab, field and showroom. The lab and field genres typically take a pragmatic stance, making things as a way of investigating what preferred futures might be. In contrast, research done following the showroom approach (more commonly known as critical design [CD], speculative design or design fictions) offers a polemic and sometimes also a critique of the current state embodied in an artifact. Recently, we have observed a growing conflict within the design research community between pragmatic and critical researchers. To help reduce this conflict, we call for a divorce between CD and pragmatic CDR. We clarify how CDR and CD exist along a continuum. We conclude with suggestions for the design research community, about how each unique research approach can be used singly or in combination and how they can push the boundaries of academic design research in new collaboration with different disciplines.


Critical and Speculative Design Practice and Semiotics: Meaning-Crafting for Futures Ready Brands

    - Malex Salamanques


This article concerns the use of critical design practices within the context of commercial semiotics, arguing that incorporating practices from a critical design approach is valuable for client brands, but also an important means with which to incite brands to consider more deeply their role in shaping the future. As an alternative to the oppositional approach frequently taken by critical design practitioners, working through design practices collaboratively alongside client brands creates potential for the radical changes sought by many of the movement’s vanguard. A case study of recent work with a corporate client demonstrates the practical effects of using critical design practice within a commercial setting, proving the complementarity between critical design practice and commercial semiotics – where the confluence of the thinking brought new value to improve product design for example – and points to the value of using current leading edge thinking within the design community.


Beyond Forecasting: A Design-Inspired Foresight Approach for Preferable Futures

    - Jorn Buhring, Ilpo Koskinen


This paper engages with the literature to present different perspectives between forecasting and foresight in strategic design, while drawing insights derived from futures studies that can be applied in form of a design-inspired foresight approach for designers and interdisciplinary innovation teams increasingly called upon to help envisage preferable futures. Demonstrating this process in applied research, relevant examples are drawn from a 2016 Financial Services industry futures study to the year 2030. While the financial services industry exemplifies an ideal case for design-inspired foresight, the aims of this paper are primarily to establish the peculiarities between traditional forecasting applications and a design-inspired foresight visioning approach as strategic design activities for selecting preferable futures. Underlining the contribution of this paper is the value of design futures thinking as a creative and divergent thought process, which has the potential to respond to the much broader organizational reforms needed to sustain in today’s rapidly evolving business environment.


Developing DIVE, a Design-Led Futures Technique for SMEs

  • Ricardo Mejia Sarmiento, Gert Pasman, Erik Jan Hultink, Pieter Jan Stappers


Futures techniques have long been used in large enterprises as designerly means to explore the future and guide innovation. In the automotive industry, for instance, the development of concept cars is a technique which has repeatedly proven its value. However, while big companies have broadly embraced futures techniques, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have lagged behind in applying them, largely because they are too resource-intensive and poorly suited to the SMEs’ needs and idiosyncrasies. To address this issue, we developed DIVE: Design, Innovation, Vision, and Exploration, a design-led futures technique for SMEs. Its development began with an inquiry into concept cars in the automotive industry and concept products and services in other industries. We then combined the insights derived from these design practices with elements of the existing techniques of critical design and design fiction into the creation of DIVE’s preliminary first version, which was then applied and evaluated in two iterations with SMEs, resulting in DIVE’s alpha version. After both iterations in context, it seems that DIVE suits the SMEs because of its compact and inexpensive activities which emphasize making and storytelling. Although the results of these activities might be less flashy than concept cars, these simple prototypes and videos help SMEs internalize and share a clear image of a preferable future, commonly known as vision. Developing DIVE thus helped us explore how design can support SMEs in envisioning the future in the context of innovation.


Mapping for Mindsets of Possibility During Home Downsizing

  • Lisa Otto


How can design orient people to an expanded sense of future possibility? Design researchers are beginning to recognize design’s potential role not solely in producing products, services and strategies but, instead, in shifting mindsets and behaviors. This shift requires a different view of the design practice, from engaging users to gather insights to be implemented, to that process as the actual material of the design. Borrowing from the framework of practice-oriented design, a first step in these processes is expanding participants’ understanding of future possibilities. In opening future possibilities, one recognizes an expanded range of futures and, ideally, engages in dialog with other people and their range of possibilities. This paper introduces mapping activities that are intended to reframe participants’ perception of possible futures. This study conducted pilot workshops with participants who were downsizing their home and struggling with decisions about their things and spaces. This paper argues that working with people already engaged in life transitions such as downsizing presents a rich opportunity for these futuring [sic] methods, as they are already beginning to grapple with designing for possible futures. These methods provide a stake in the ground for future exploration of potential methods to engender mindsets of possibility and engage in trialing methods like living labs.


Storytelling Technique for Building Use-Case Scenarios for Design Development

  • Sukwoo Jang, Ki-young Nam


Numerous studies have dealt with what kind of value narrative can have for creating a more effective design process. However, there is lack of consideration of storytelling techniques on a stage-by-stage level, where each stage of storytelling technique can draw attention to detailed content for creating use-case scenarios for design development. This research aims to identify the potential implications for design development by using storytelling techniques. For the empirical research, two types of workshops were conducted in order to select the most appropriate storytelling technique for building use-case scenarios, and to determine the relationship between the two methods. Afterwards, co-occurrence analysis was conducted to examine how each step of storytelling technique can help designers develop an enriched content of use-case scenario. Subsequently, the major findings of this research are further discussed, dealing with how each of the storytelling technique steps can help designers to incorporate important issues when building use-case scenarios for design development. These issues are: alternative and competitor’s solution which can aid designers to create better design features; status quo bias of user which can help the designer investigate the occurring reason of the issue; and finally, social/political values of user which have the potential of guiding designers to create strengthened user experience. The results of this research help designers and design researchers concentrate on crucial factors such as the alternative or competitor’s solution, the status quo bias of user, and social/political values of the user when dealing with issues of building use-case scenarios.


Group Storymaking: Understanding an Unfamiliar Target Group through Participatory Storytelling

  • Hankyung Kim, Soonju Lee, Youn-kyung Lim


Based on a sound research plan, qualitative user data help designers understand needs, behaviors and frustrations of a target user group. However, when a design team attempts to design for unfamiliar target groups, it is extremely difficult to accurately observe and understand them by simply using traditional research methods such as interviews and observation. As a result, the quality of user research data can be called into a question, which leads to unsatisfying design solutions. Inspired by a fiction writer’s technique of generating stories together with readers, we present the new method, Group Storymaking that supports designers to quickly gain broad and clear understanding of an unfamiliar target group throughout a story-making activity with actual users. We envision Group Storymaking as a new user study method that designers can easily implement to learn about an unfamiliar target, involving actual users in a research process with less time and cost commitment.


Animation as a Creative Tool: Insights into the Complex

  • Ian Balmain Hewitt, David A. Parkinson, Kevin H. Hilton


A Design for Service (DfS) approach has been linked with impacts that significantly alter touchpoints, services and organizational culture. However, there is no model with which to assess the extent to which these impacts can be considered transformational. In the absence of such a model, the authors have reviewed literature on subjects including the transformational potential of design; characteristics of transformational design; transformational change; and organizational change. From this review, six indicators of transformational change in design projects have been identified: evidence of nontraditional transformative design objects; evidence of a new perspective; evidence of a community of advocates; evidence of design capability; evidence of new power dynamics; and evidence of new organizational standards. These indicators, along with an assessment scale, have been used to successfully review the findings from a doctoral study exploring the impact of the DfS approach in Voluntary Community Sector (VCS) organizations. This paper presents this model as a first-step to establishing a method to helpfully gauge the extent of transformational impact in design projects.

Gjoko Muratovski is the founding editor of the Journal of Design, Business & Society and director of the Myron E. Ullman Jr. School of Design at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP). He is the editor of Consumer Culture: Selected Essays and three volumes of Design for Business, and co-editor of Global Fashion Brands: Style, Luxury and History, all also published by Intellect Books.

Craig Vogel is associate dean for graduate studies and research at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) and professor at the Myron E. Ullman Jr. School of Design.

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