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Design

Design work is grounded in inquiry and reflection.

Design work proceeds through inquiring materials, carrying out a conversation with them.
The qualities of inquiry and reflection as a process determine the qualities of a design.

Design work consists of producing design representations in different modalities, scales and materials, and their constant transformation.
Designers work with text, diagrams, comics, video, sketch models, screenshots, virtual models, mock-ups, prototypes…
Some of these representations are precise and detailed but most are conceptual, metaphorical and in formation.

Design work emphasizes experimental and experiential methods

Design work does not proceed through applying a formal, consistent, or comprehensive theory of design or a universal methodology.
Because design problems are not “given”, design work is about defining and framing problems rather than working with predefined solutions.
Design work is being creative as well as applying methods from engineering and qualitative research.

In design work there is an important role for …

  • Ambiguity and provocation – encouraging participation in meaning-making.
  • Wicked problems – demanding problem setting and reframing;
  • Narrativity – stories, both factual and imagined, about objects and places;
  • Expressiveness – with ‘drama’ and ‘theatre’ as design methods allowing people to learn in an experiential way, involving all their senses and emotions;
  • Inspirational material – inspiring designers’ thinking, helping express and communicate ideas, capturing particular qualities of a design;
  • Techniques for ‘seeing things differently’ – to shift perspectives, to carry out experiments, to present and perform, to have time and space for free play and day-dreaming, and to generate a ‘different view’.

Design work is an open process

Design work rarely proceeds in a linear, step-by-step mode.
It artfully oscillates between pre-scribing and de-scribing, fixing and opening, between details and the whole, between precision and fuzziness. This is what we describe as ‘meandering’.
Openness is a challenge and requires dense collaboration between participants.[5]
Constraints are crucial in creating innovative design.

It is a process that starts with concepts, scenarios and simple implementations that are experimented with, analyzed, modified, and further developed.
Designers work through reducing and expanding the design space, introducing constraints and responding to them.
A crucial aspect of this process is to be able to work with fuzzy concepts and placeholders, and to maintain things at different stages of incompletion.

Design work includes and requires social inquiry 

It requires understanding the social context of history, culture, organization, work practices and tasks, environment …
It requires sense-making – of people, their motivations, practices, beliefs and values, fears …

Inquiry proceeds through ethnographic work and other qualitative methods.
Inquiry enables to envision use, with designers and users engaging in joint explorations of the design space, <s>and</s> helping designers to better understand users’ needs.
Working with users reaches beyond mere usability testing or evaluation. It requires involving users in the design process, turning them into co-designers. Ultimately users appropriate a design into their practice.

Design work is multi-disciplinary

At its core is cooperating with others – specialists of all kinds (for system architecture, user interface design, graphic design …), users, marketing specialists, etc. – mobilizing their imagination.
The production of communication objects or ‘persuasive artifacts’ is an essential part of the design process. They help create a common understanding of a design idea or task, evoke imaginations rather than prescribe, and invite others into a dialogue.

Design work is a social activity through which social realities are constructed

Design work is about creating software concepts and translating them into executables

Design work is shaped by design principles. These are not always explicitly articulated.
The design of interfaces and software structures are closely intertwined.
Programming is not about building software; it is about designing software.

Approaches like user centered design, cooperative design and participatory design are known to result in better systems.
The use of methods and instruments from other design disciplines strengthens the creative potentials of developers.
Everything in software development is part of the design process: coding, testing and debugging as well as software design.
Software design is similar to systems design. It can span multiple technologies and often involves multiple sub-disciplines.

Design work is about managing complexity