Design knowledge: context, content and continuity - Ken Friedman

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<p>Design knowledge: context, content and continuity Ken Friedman Department of Knowledge Management, Norwegian School of Management</p> <p>Design is an interdisciplinary and integrative process constituting a professional field and an intellectual discipline. The complex requirements of material and immaterial production in a knowledge economy call for philosophical inquiry and renewed theory in understanding design. This paper examines the nature of design knowledge. Taxonomy of design knowledge maps the continuum of issues in the field. A six-domain model clarifies the integrative nature of design. It is a discipline drawing on (1) the natural sciences, (2) the humanities and liberal arts, and (3) the social and behavioral sciences. It is a field of practice and application drawing on (4) human professions and services, (5) creative and applied arts, and (6) technology and engineering. The paper concludes with proposals for future development. This includes a progressive research program and an agenda of core research issues.</p> <p>Design knowledge: context, content and continuity</p> <p>Design is a broad field of making and planning disciplines. These include industrial design, graphic design, textile design, furniture design, information design, process design, product design, interface design, transportation design, systems design, urban design, design leadership and design management and well as architecture, engineering, information technology, and computer science. These fields focus on different subjects and objects. They have distinct traditions, methods, and vocabularies. They involve distinct and often different professional groups. The traditions dividing these groups are also distinct. Despite differences, ten challenges face all the making disciplines. Common concerns and challenges are building bridges among design fields. These challenges bind the making disciplines together as a common research field. The three performance challenges of making disciplines are that they: 1. Act on the physical world. 2. Address human needs. 3. Generate the built environment. Changes in the larger world cause design scholars, practitioners, and students to converge on common challenges. These challenges require frameworks of theory and research to address problem areas and solve cases. These problem areas involve four substantive challenges: 1. Ambiguous boundaries between artifact, structure, and process. 2. Large-scale social, economic, and industrial frames. 3. A complex environment of needs, requirements, and constraints. 4. Information content that often exceeds the value of physical substance. They also involve three contextual challenges: 1. A complex environment in which many projects or products cross the boundaries of several organizations, stakeholder, producer, and user groups.</p> <p>2. Projects or products that must meet the expectations of many organizations, stakeholders, producers, and users. 3. Different and sometimes conflicting -- demands at every level of production, distribution, reception, and control. These ten challenges require a qualitatively different approach to professional practice than earlier times. Past environments were simpler. They made simpler demands. Individual experience and personal development were sufficient for depth and substance in professional practice. Experience and development are still necessary. They are no longer sufficient. Most of todays design challenges require analytic and synthetic planning skills that cant be developed through practice alone. Professional design practice today involves advanced knowledge. This knowledge isnt a higher level of professional practice. It is a qualitatively different form of professional practice. It is emerging in response to the demands of the information society and the knowledge economy. Rich new kinds of knowledge are vital if we are to meet these challenges. Consequently, design research has become a central framework for inquiry in design over the past decade. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, kinds of jobs and the kinds of work associated with them have exploded in variety, nature, and skill requirements. At the same time, increasing numbers of jobs have moved from the direct manipulation of physical material to the kinds of work that Reich (1992) summed up under the rubric of symbolic analysis. Jobs are increasingly informated in the industrial democracies. Nearly all jobs in the complex information environment are changing in response to the multiple stimuli of the demanding environments within which work is performed. This has three results. 1. Formerly distinct job categories tend to blur and mix. 2. There are now more kinds of jobs than ever before, with several hundred thousand distinct job descriptions. 3. The built environment takes on a complex new relationship to those who live and work in it. Professional adaptation by rethinking the nature of design is essential to the demands of contemporary work. Design professionals develop the artifacts, structures, and processes that hundreds of thousands of other kinds of workers use. The rate of change and the nature of change in other fields inevitably affect design. This, in turn, affects how designers must think.</p> <p>As an integrative discipline, design must address problems across many ranges of complexity. All designed artifacts and processes can be described at some point on the spectrum of complexity. Some artifacts may be found at several such points, depending on the level of analysis. A steel hammer, for example, is static. In manufacture and use, however, a hammer undergoes rich and complex forms of interaction with the surrounding environment. Design increasingly involves a full spectrum of processes that lead to the development and use of the designed artifact. Design also moves beyond use to after-use, and recycling. The growing need for full-spectrum product development and concurrent design processes in industry point in this direction. Such concepts as co-design and usercentered design engage the designer in the flow of a constantly changing, complex environment. Complex systems operate at what many describe as the edge of chaos. Working at this edge requires intellectually mature and behaviorally adaptive skills. In this context, the nature of design moves beyond the tacit craft practice of manipulating material artifacts to the explicit professional practice of systemic development and adaptation. In industrial practice, these skills can be summarized by what W. Edwards Deming (1993: 94-118) terms profound knowledge. This knowledge is comprised of four parts, all related to each other: appreciation for a system; knowledge about variation; theory of knowledge; psychology (Deming 1993: 96). Working in the context of complexity requires more sophisticated ways of thought than were needed in world of craft knowledge. The world of craft knowledge moved slowly. The patterns of craft skill were essentially reproductive. For the most part, they involved tacit knowledge, and apprenticeship and guild effectively transmitted them (see: Friedman 1997). Adapting to the demands of a complex world requires us to generate knowledge. This knowledge must be created against the background of existing events while looking forward to a world that does not yet exist. Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) describe this frame in the knowledge creation spiral. The crucial factor in the knowledge creation spiral isnt management or making so much as understanding the epistemological and ontological dimensions of managing and making (Nonaka and Takeuchi 1995: 70-73). Human beings shift knowledge from one frame to another. As they do, they embrace knowledge, enlarging it, internalizing it, transmitting it, shifting it, giving it new context and transforming it. Humans create new knowledge by acting on and working with knowledge. Knowledge creation requires social context and individual contribution. To do this effectively requires effective thinking. Here, we must address the intersection of design and philosophy as the foundation for design theory and design research. Design is first of all a process of thought and planning. Using the term design as a verb or a process description noun frames design as a dynamic process (Friedman 1993). This makes clear the ontological status of design as a subject of philosophical inquiry.</p> <p>Fuller (1969: 319) describes the design process in a two-stage model of the design science event flow. The first stage is a subjective process of search and research. The second is a generalizable process that moves from prototype to practice. The subjective process of search and research involves: teleology &gt; intuition &gt; conception &gt; apprehension &gt; comprehension &gt; experiment &gt; feedback &gt; Under generalization and objective development leading to practices, he lists: prototyping #1 &gt; prototyping #2 &gt; prototyping #3 &gt; production design &gt; production modification &gt; tooling &gt; production &gt; distribution &gt; installation &gt; maintenance &gt; service &gt; reinstallation &gt; replacement &gt; removal &gt; scrapping &gt; recirculation A designer is a thinker whose job it is to move from thought to action. A taxonomy of design knowledge domains (Friedman 1992, 1995, 1999) describes the frames within which a designer must act. Each domain requires a broad range of skills, knowledge, and awareness. Design involves more skill and knowledge than one designer can provide. Most successful design solutions require several kinds of expertise. It is necessary to use expertise without being expert in each field. Organization theory suggests building teams or networks to engage the talent for each problem. Understanding the issues these domains involve and the relationships between and among them offers a useful framework for considering design knowledge. Domains of Design Knowledge: a Taxonomy Domain 1: Skills Domain 2: The Domain 3: The for Learning and Human World Artifact Leading Problem solving The Human Being Product Interaction method Human Development Coaching behaviorInformation Methodology Mind mapping semantics Market research Research skills Knowledge creation Innovation research Analysis Physiology and Problematics Rhetoric ergonomics Product generation Logic Research and Creating new Mathematics methodology products Language The Company Transforming old Editing Organizational products</p> <p>Domain 4: The Environment Natural environment Ecology Evolution Environment Impact Built Environment Cityscape Economy Social web Infrastructure</p> <p>Writing Presentation skills Public speaking Small group Information graphics</p> <p>management and behavior Business economics Company culture Leadership Administration Future planning Process management Change management Process skills Company functions Governance Logistics Production Marketing Finance Society Trends Legal issues Media Social economics Communication The World World trade European Union USA Asia Cross-culture Issues Political economics Theory Basics Culture theory Sociology of knowledge Reception theory History of design Sociology of taste Content analysis World history Paradigm analysis Models Fig. 1: Domains of design knowledge</p> <p>Product regeneration Correcting problems Improving products Positioning Re-engineering (lean production) Design Product design Ergonomics Product semantics Product graphics Functionality Graphic design Visual ergonomics Typography Corporate design Behavioral design Information design Knowledge design Process design Manufacturing Technology Operations Statistical quality control Logistics Process management</p> <p>Traffic Telecommunication Airports Food distribution Human ecology Architecture Informated buildings Usage Architecture as idea Architecture as corporate identity Profile architecture Interior Furniture Interior as corporate identity Psychology Function Social structure The shape of work The shape of play The shape of private life Installation Philosophy of space Culture theory Art ideas Inquiry</p> <p>To work consciously with the relationships among the several domains and areas of design knowledge requires systemic thinking. The designer is one member of a team or network that generally involves several elements described by the matrices implicit in the taxonomy. Here arises a difficulty. When we speak of manufacturing todays complex industrial products, we necessarily involve a large network of interacting systems. When the process works well, nearly every part of the system in some way affects every other part of the system. When parts of the system affect each other adversely, the entire system suffers. The failure of systemic thinking in manufacturing complex products leads to major problems across entire industries. A good example of this is the way in which the ascendancy of cost accounting in the automobile industry distorted the entire manufacturing process (Halberstam 1986: 201-221). In contrast, consider W. Edwards Demings approach to management, and the ways in which a systemic overview helped the Japanese automobile industry to surpass its American and European counterparts (Halberstam 1986: 301-320; Deming 1966, 1986, 1993; Walton 1989, 1990; Aguayo 1990; Mann 1989; Scherkenbach 1991). Systemic thinking gives perspective to the models of design offered here. The designer is neither the entry-point nor pivot of the design process. Each designer is the psychological center of his own perceptual process, not the center of the design process itself. The design process has no center. It is a network of linked events. Systemic thinking makes the nature of networked events clear. No designer succeeds unless an entire team succeeds in meeting its goals. Herbert Simon defines design in terms of goals. To design, he writes, is to [devise] courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones (Simon 1982: 129). Design, properly defined, is the entire process across the full range of domains required for any given outcome. The nature of design as an integrative discipline places it at the intersection of several large fields [See figure 2]. In one regard, design is a field of thinking and pure research. In another, it is a field of practice and applied research. When applications are used to solve specific problems in a specific setting, it is a field of clinical research.</p> <p>Figure 2: Model of the field of design One model for the field of design is a circle of six fields. A horizon bisects the circle into fields of theoretical study and fields of practice and application. The triangles represent six general domains of design. Moving clockwise from the leftmost triangle, these domains are (1) natural sciences, (2) humanities and liberal arts, (3) social and behavioral sciences, (4) human professions and services, (5) creative and applied arts, and (6) technology and engineering. Design may involve any or all of these domains, in differing aspect and proportion depending on the nature of the project...</p>