praxis – design – creativity

Dual thinking and scientific progress

You go out to your favorite noodle shop. They’ve got four types of ramen, but you always order the shio. Should you stick with it or try a different one? The ramen-lover’s quandary illustrates, on a personal (and whimsical) level, a trade-off that occurs across systems from biological to organizational and social: exploiting current tendencies, [...]

Designerly ways for action research

The Third Edition of the Sage Handbook of Action Research is out and includes a chapter I wrote on designerly ways. Here’s the introduction: Consider design in the broad sense: design as ‘planning and patterning’ (Papanek, 1971: 3), design as ‘creat[ing] possibilities’ (Krippendorff, 2007), and design as ‘devis[ing] courses of action aimed at changing existing [...]

Design principles that inform systemic change

“Always love declarations of principles,” professed Bruce Sterling in his 2013 SXSW talk. “It’s not that I obey them. I’m just glad to see them.” If, like Bruce S. (and me), you love design principles, you’re in luck. They seem to be everywhere. One reason, I think: When dominant institutions are inadequate to contemporary challenges — [...]

Ian McHarg on creativity

“Creativity,” defined landscape architect Ian McHarg, is “the employment of energy and matter to raise matter and energy to higher levels of order.” This creativity “always shows the tendency to move from a greater to a lesser randomness, from simplicity to complexity.” Creative fitting, therefore, is “the ability to find of all environments the most [...]

Collecting and comparing design principles

I collect design principles. Some are identified as design principles, others not; but they are unmistakable anyway. These are not the “what we stand for” or “why we do what we do” principles. These are the “how” principles: high-level guidelines that inform the selection and development of methods or practices, heuristics for effective engagement in [...]

Reading Rittel: Research on, in, and for design

For all the talk about wicked problems, I find that few have heard of or read Horst Rittel, who coined the term in 1967 and was lead author on the wicked 1973 paper, “Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning” (pdf). Rittel was on faculty at the Ulm School of Design and a leader in [...]

Grant Jones on nonhuman “clients”

A wide-ranging interview with landscape architect Grant Jones, by author Edward C. Wolf, posted earlier this month in ARCADE: ECW: Resilience has emerged as a goal and ideal amid the new reality of climate disasters. What role does resilience play in your work? GJ: I’ve always considered it a responsibility of the landscape architect to [...]

Koestler: creativity in humour, science, art

The “logic of laughter,” according to Arthur Koestler in 1964’s The Act of Creation, is in “the clash of two mutually incompatible codes, or associative contexts, which explodes the [narrative] tension.” Here is a joke he attributes to John von Neumann, who like Koestler was Jewish and from Budapest, Hungary. Koestler was born on this [...]

Design as performative sensemaking

Are there designerly ways of knowing — distinct from the ways of the sciences and humanities? I’ve explored these questions in the writings of Béla Bánáthy and Nigel Cross, from whom I adapted the table above. This re-drafted version of the “three cultures” table includes some recent thinking and one additional source, Klaus Krippendorff’s “Design [...]

Action research in the search for a better world

“The purpose of knowledge-making is so rarely debated,” write Peter Reason and Hilary Bradbury-Huang in the introduction to 2008’s The SAGE Handbook of Action Research: Participative Inquiry and Practice. We start from these assertions — which may seem contentious to some of the academic community, while at the same time obvious to those of a [...]

Knowing in action and the practice turn

“When we go about the spontaneous, intuitive performance of the actions of everyday life, we show ourselves to be knowledgeable in a special way,” wrote Donald Schön in 1983’s The Reflective Practitioner. “It seems right to say that our knowing is in our action.” Re-reading Schön in relation to the “practice turn.” Wikipedia on social [...]

Hofstadter: Analogy, seeing the deep essence

“Virtually every thought in this book (or in any book) is an analogy,” writes cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter in 2007’s I am a Strange Loop. Indeed, analogous arguments are everywhere. They appear in the phrase “standing on the shoulders of giants,” and in Stuart Kauffman’s theory of adjacent possibilities, and in Janine Benyus’ advocacy for [...]

99% Invisible podcast: Design is everywhere

“Design is everywhere in our lives, perhaps most importantly in the places where we’ve just stopped noticing,” writes Roman Mars in his first post for the first 99% Invisible podcast, “a tiny radio show about design.” Tiny perhaps, but also playful, informative, and, indeed, highly designed. From an interview with Mars, by Debbie Millman on [...]

Systems thinking and design praxis

Just looking again at the call for abstracts (due next week) to this fall’s symposium on Emerging Contexts for Systemic Design. “In re-examining the relationship of systems thinking to design we believe it possible for systems thinking and design praxis to develop the foundations for new, interrelated practices.” Symposium co-chairs are Birger Sevaldson of the [...]

Creativity through abductive reasoning

Organizational and social innovation cannot happen without the emergence of novel practices, norms, and other institutions. In a word: creativity. But how well is creativity understood, and to what extent can it be described as a process of abductive reasoning? — as referenced in recent talks and articles by Roger Martin in Design Observer, Carl Steinitz [...]

Chronicle of Higher Ed on cultivating creativity

The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Dan Berrett on “Creativity: a Cure for the Common Curriculum”: Creativity, when conceived of as a thought process rather than an inherent attribute or talent, has theoretical roots in psychology and philosophy. J.P. Guilford, the psychologist, drew a distinction between two forms of thinking, convergent and divergent. With its frequent [...]

Bela Banathy: Salient attributes of the designer

Design, broadly understood, is about purposeful action, the process of creating change in the world around us. If design is to be thus understood — as a fundamental domain of inquiry, alongside the sciences and humanities — then our conception of the designer must evolve as well. Béla Bánáthy wrote on this topic in Designing [...]

Science, humanities, design: The three cultures

[Update: 20AUG2013 posted revised table at top. See update here.] Are there designerly ways of knowing? Does the design mode of inquiry depend on distinct methods and values? How might design ability be developed? Nigel Cross, emeritus professor of design studies at The Open University, has been exploring these questions since the 1970s, in a long [...]

What do design labs look like up close?

Be visual. Be creative. Be iterative. Be diverse (multidisciplinary). Be human centered. That’s one approach (from iip/create) to the design of design labs, a term that is interpreted in a lot of ways. In some cases, it’s used to describe a long-term engagement, in others a one-day workshop. The best overview I’ve seen is the [...]

John Chris Jones: Design for system transformation

“Why is designing difficult?” asked John Chris Jones in his prescient 1970 book, Design Methods: Seeds of Human Futures. “The fundamental problem is that designers are obliged to use current information to predict a future state that will not come about unless their predictions are correct.” Jones, whose early work was in industrial design, cited [...]