Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Understanding Design Opportuniities and Modelling in Design

Image: List of focus areas for sustainability explorations and modelling
Five groups are formed to explore the theme of sustainability as it would impact several areas of human activity in India in the DCC session this time. They are formed into groups and each group would explore one activity through a series of explorations as part of this course. Starting with the selected activity each group would try and plumb their own experience and living knowledge through an iterative series of brainstorming and categorisation sessions in which they would try to make sense of the context, the influencing factors and the various attributes and features of the chosen activity keeping in mind the emphasis on the need for sustainability as a design intention.

Using this approach they would propose models and a discovered structure for the explored space and share this in the form of a visually rich model that is supported by a metaphor which is memorable while the structure provides them with a framework to make the whole situation meaningful and understandable.

The areas that have been proposed for each group are Learning, Food, Health, Play and Mobility and they can interpret the areas in their own way and make their own emphasis to make it meaningful and understandable.

This new batch of DCC students include the Transport Design students of both batches, Product Design students as well as the students of Strategic Design Management from the second year. The blackboard from the class discussion yesterday is shown here below. The focus of the discussions was to look at design and design learning as well as to explolre the many intangible attributes of design thought and action.

We used the comparison between a chess playing computer and a human player as a method of articulating a set of qualities that would distinguish one and from the other and use this juxtaposition to try and discover the core activities in design that would be truly human and at the very core of the capability that we would value in design education as it cannot be delegated to the computer. A number of websites were shared during the class and the students were requested to explore the links on both the Design Concepts and Concerns blog as well as those on the Design for India blog as part of their preparation for this course.

The group assignment is designed to be carried out in several stages and the intention is to create a platform for first hand experience of using design processes to understand complex situations and tasks and to use the collective life experience of the group to first understand the situation and the embedded opportunities as well as to discover the areas of ignorence which could be supplemented later with focussed research and meetings with experts in the assignment that follows. During this assignment the students are not expected to go outside their group since we do believew that it would be quite productive to first map out all that is already known about the subject at hand however new the topic may seem we would have a substantial degree of knowledge and convictions or beloefs which would need to be addressed before embarking on an extended rersearch activity.

The intentions of this assignment which has been described in my papers "The Avalanche Effect"(download pdf 55 kb) (which incidently was written on invitation for the issue on India but was then rejected due to lack of space by Design Issues in 2004) and in my subsequent presentation to the EAD06 Conference in Bremen in 2005 called "Creating the Unknowable: Designing the Future in Education". (download pdf 50 kb) The visual presentation for EAD06 can be downloaded here (as pdf 4.1 mb size)

I had described this course as a abstract for the submission to the EAD06 conference paper and it is reproduced here for immediate reference:
I quote... "Design has changed rapidly in recent years. So have its agenda and manifesto for education. Dealing with layers of complexity in a mandate to surge beyond the production of products and systems to include the economic, ecological, and the spiritual. This new form of design is not as sharply defined in its deliverables by the once accepted parameters of aesthetics and function of the products that it produced for the marketplace. Today it has literally jumped out of its flimsy skin to locate itself in an impossible space between a rich context and the user groups and their environment that it hopes to serve. Our attention thus shifts from the artifact to the interface and further to the effect that it has on the future itself. These concerns led to the experimental development of teaching design processes and design thinking through a modified course that has evolved over many years. The complexities at hand are daunting in a developing economy. Most forms of problem solving are placed in the hands of the specialists in all walks of life, a legacy of the entrenched scientific management tradition. The need therefore for a broad based approach to design education was perceived by the group of teachers as a critical need. The Design Methods course evolved over a ten-year period, it is now called Design Concepts and Concerns and this paper is an attempt to articulate the lessons that have been gleaned, a sort of research through design. That Design as a process of informed synthesis through the articulation of models, diagrams and scenario visualisations that could match the complexity of the real world situations became the premise for assignment design. It is the belief of the author that the power of design lies in visualising the future, the unknowable, through the process of open-ended context driven investigations in design education situations. The ability to feel, to see, to discover, to think, to build and model, communicate and to evaluate, all form the core of design learning. This course includes all these stages in a structured set of learning situations that builds deep understanding and design competence. This reflection on history will look back over the evolution of this course and share cases and findings on the validity of the assignments and processes used to teach design." Unquote. EAD06 conference Speaker and abstract: Ranjan M P

The course has evolved further and now we have two forms that are offered at NID, one of five weeks duration for the undergraduate programme and the other of two weeks duration for the postgraduate programmes.

This assignment now has the following intentions and deliverables:

To understand "Sustainability" as a concept as it would impinge on several human activities as a context for design.
Learning, Food, Health, Play and Mobility are the sub-themes taken for group exploration during this particular course.

To understand group processes in design while dealing with complexity in a reflexive situation of diverse individuals who are grappling with an ambiguous and unknown area with the intention to bring some shared perspectives that are informed by their own life experiences and value systems. These objectives would be handled by a structured set of assignments and processes while workin g in the groups.
Life experience plumbing
Exploring the known universe
Discovering the known and the unknown
Mapping issues, perspectives and opportunities
Finding structure through "Modelling"
Expressing meaning through "metaphors"

To understand design at the "Fuzzy Front End" of knowing and finding "What to Do" and "Where to Look" and not just about "How to do". (see papers by Elizabeth B.-N. Sanders here)

To understand the process of meaning production and building context awareness in design thinking and design action.

The deliverables will include a presentation of the groups explorations, the brainstorming sheets, the informal and formal shared structure showing the hierarchy and relationships within the context as explored by the group and finally an expression of the groups understanding in the form of a memorable visual metaphor that could bew shared with the class at the presentation, a "show and tell" session from which the next assignment would be launched.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.