Estelle was in Barcelona last week for the 12th International Conference Design Principles & Practices. She presented a paper Portraying designers’ singularity in regard to design thinking models. Here are a few echoes from presentations heard.
The reflective practitioner framework (see Schön) calls for critical enquiry, allowing to experience confusion (1) and develop a praxis. Following the principles of enaction (see Varela, Thompson & Rosch, 1992), the sense-making process is dynamic, and meaning emerges in action (2). Insights thinking and abductive logic (see Pierce, 1958) are indeed at the basis of designers’ way of thinking.
Designers are blue-sky thinkers, driven by curiosity. Understanding how little we know and how it is a privilege to ask the question, realizing that no one works theories and methods the same way, makes our power (April Munson, Kennesaw State Univ, USA). Yet, enlightened designers adopt a critical stance towards the primary generator (see Drake, 1999), this gestalt intuition about a situation (3).
As their expertise develops, designers build their own repertoire including a portfolio and a toolbox but also a narrative of practice. Asking « why do you design? » involves personal ontology and ethics (4). Make the exercise!
Some might see objectivity as an ideal, but it remains unreachable. Only honesty is, by exposing our self – our blind spot, the place from which we operate. Unlike ego, this allows for opening a conversation, constantly fine-tuning the role we play, our position and stance. Thinking of the self is twofold: as a designer versus other professions, as a person versus other designers.
As a critical inquiry on practice, ethics emerges through the experience of our own freedom (5). Yes, our responsibility is bounded by intentions. We can only be accountable for what we can foresee, hoping that overall intelligence can achieve an ethical view (6). But it is also our duty to anticipate real-life scenarios. Especially as designers claiming to have a view on human experience.
A problem-solving mindset must be completed by ethical reasoning, to make sure we seek to address human aspirations (see Findeli) – mysteries rather than technical problems. The question is not only whether a piece of design works or not, but how it makes us feel as a person (in terms of emotions, relations, values…). As said screenwriter Roger Ebert: “It’s not what a movie is about, it’s how it is about it.”
(1) Joy Swallow, Univ of Missouri, USA
(2) Virginie Tessier & Mithra Zahedi, University of Montreal, CA
(3) Sébastien Proulx, Ohio State Univ, USA
(4) Katryn Campbell & Diane Janes, Univ of Alberta, CA
(5) Ariel Guersenzvaig, ELISAVA, ES
(6) Ezio Manzini, DESIS network, IT