Designerly Ways of Knowing

Can a “Designtific Method” be formed using the established Scientific Method, but in a designerly way of knowing? Emphatically I say No. After trying it out in seminar last Wednesday, I became frustrated at the task. Using the following model:

My group tried to construct a method for design. The first problem my group ran into was that instead of accepting the problem at hand, we immediately begin to think about what is possible. While in science the researcher might ask questions that are restricted within the given laws commonly accepted within the field of Science, Design does not deal with such laws. Virtually anything is possible, whether it be a redefinition of questions, an approximation, or a reshaping of context. As we study the scientific method process we realized the reason a Design method could not be fit into the same type of structure is that there are knowledge areas that are just not represented within the scientific method process. Designers not only deal with the body of knowledge embodied in a thing, but also with a wide range of contexts. Science deals in truths and Design deals with complexity. As we went through each step we roughly translated what each step might mean in a designerly way of knowing:

Research ——–> Understanding of conditions, constraints, as well as opportunity. Defining the contexts and get to know it

Hypothesis ——> Proposition, prototype (which might be conceptual), ways of understanding particular situation, objective innovation (taking away, yet giving something back that is better)

Test with an experiment ——–> Fit to a context, compromise, negotiation

Analysis results ———–> Understand complexity, making something that resonates, an understanding of the features and capabilities of a person and a thing, fit psychologically

Report Results ————–> Can never fully know effects of results, can not repeat because artifacts come out of particular contexts, may arrive at multiple answers, a redefinition of a situation

Largely the reason that it is difficult to equate Design with Science is that there are many ambiguities that design deals with. Science is arriving at an understanding of facts, of truth in existence a priori. Design deals with imagining new ways of existence that might not have ever been. While we can roughly outline some steps involved in a designerly way of knowing, these steps will inevitably change or even be pushed aside dependent on the particular context a designer is working with. Perhaps one doesn’t even need steps. The knowledge that is inherent in design is one that is experimental (this might be its connection to science), but also one that is about creating options, trying new things, and approximating. It is an acute apprehension of the human situation and the psychology of this where as a scientific way of knowing is about fact, laws, and a faith in the consistency of them.


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