The 'crit'...

Piggybacking on the last point of the previous post, I honestly believe a lot of good would come from elucidating to design students the structure of thought that drives the process of design. Conceivably there could be a pitfall in creating a sort of checklist that stands in for an actual in-process mode of thought, but when one is engaged in design its cognitive processes naturally call for reflection. The designer, by necessity, must stop to contemplate their own mode of thinking. To elaborate I will again refer to Bryan Lawson and Kees Dorst's research on design thinking and expertise, particularly their model for the nature of design activities.

To start with, Lawson & Dorst present the caveat that 'design' is a generic term for a range of activities and professions. Furthermore, these activities are complex and entail elements of problem solving, learning, analytic and convergent thinking, and solution directed thinking. Their model provides a framework for understanding the steps toward solving a design problem with the acknowledgement that they are not followed in a strictly linear fashion. The steps often form feedback loops in advancing parts of an overall design. Now to the model, step-by-step:

Formulate. Once a designer is presented with a design brief the process of drawing out important elements and/or (re)stating the problem commence. Designers frame the issues of importance to devising a solution. Remembering from my last post, there are a range of frames that are used depending on the designers level of expertise.

Represent. A designer will immediately start the process of representing the issues through different mediums. An architect may pick up a sketchbook after reading a brief. This starts a kind of conversation between the designer and the representations.

Move. Making a move starts the meat-and-potatoes portion of design. The designer introduces an idea which feeds into the process of representation. Moves may take the form of guiding design principles or a generator-a vaguely predefined solution that is inserted to generate new moves.

Evaluate. This step is key and probably causes the most frustration in design education. Moves lead to evaluations. Each idea has to be considered for its suitability in creating a solution to the design problem as framed. Here is the critical link between the formulation and evaluation. Evaluation may feed back into representation and moving stages in an iterative process. However, it may also reveal a fault in how the problem was framed, leading to a reformulation of the problem. Evaluation is undertaken by the designer but also by third parties (clients, instructors, design crits...)

Manage. A higher level of evaluation that's concerned with the course of the process and design methodologies occurs at the same time that immediate reflections occur within the process. This is a meta thinking about ones thinking. This is the goal of design education in general and is also the path to greater awareness of ones approach to design.

There is something missing from this list-an end. There is no 'presentation drawing' or 'celebrate then sleep' stage. Here is where learning this model may give the student of design some perspective. Any design process could potential last forever in iteration after iteration. The designer will either decide that enough-is-enough (exception) or will simply run out of time (rule). In design studios that will come with final jury.

Consider it this way: studio is all about the five things listed above. That's it. It really doesn't make sense to worry about being 'done' when pinning up for a presentation in an academic setting. If each of these steps is manifest in the process (in abundance, and the loopier the better!) than the project will at least be a partial success. If the final outcome misses the target but the process is revealing, that is a sort of victory. Anyways, you have the rest of your professional life to fret about being done.


Bryan Lawson and Kees Dorst, Design Expertise (Oxford, Elsevier: 2009) Pgs. 24–80.

No comments:

Post a Comment