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Ideas and Beliefs in Architecture and Industrial Design

Ideas and Beliefs in Architecture and Industrial Design

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Published by Pankaj Jedermann

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Published by: Pankaj Jedermann on Jan 10, 2012
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12/03/2012

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“The time to begin writing an article is when you have

finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to

clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to

say.” —Mark Twain i.e. Samuel Langhorne Clemens3

This thesis is built around freestanding chapters, each based on different
perspectives on the values found within architecture and industrial design.
The first chapter deals with limiting the scope of this thesis and, in essence,

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sets the stage for the following chapters. Chapter 2 introduces the reader to
the nature of values in general and includes an introduction to values within
the context of design. Chapter 3 introduces the concept of a profession and
then compares the architectural and industrial design professions to this
general concept of a profession, all from a value perspective. Deviations from
this general concept within architecture and industrial design are highlighted,
as well as the relationship between design and the general society.

Chapter 4 describes the values typically found within architectural and in-
dustrial design practices and their educational institutions. Values within this
perspective are attributed to three main domains, including: (1.) external
conditions, (2.) internal self imposed conditions and (3.) a knowledge per-
spective.

Chapter 5 describes value positions found among individual designers, which
tend to have their roots in different design movements. These individual
values are grouped into a number of main categories including: aesthetic
values, social values, environmental values, traditional values and gender
values.

Chapter 6 describes how the values introduced in chapter 3, 4 and 5 are
utilised in the design process. The main emphasis within this chapter is on the
concept of value sets, as designers have different value set. This is followed
by an examination of value sets in relation to design decisions conducted
within a design process. The chapter is rounded out by a description of design
evaluation and its dependencies on value sets.

The thesis is concluded in Chapter 7 where the previous chapters are wrapped
up and reflected upon. In addition, future avenues for research in this field are
introduced.

The overall structure attempts to capture values within architecture and in-
dustrial design from different perspectives and on different levels which are
intimately connected.

1.2 BACKGROUND, OBSERVATION, INTEREST

AND DEMARCATION

“Nor must we forget that in science there are no final

truths. The scientific mind does not so much provide the

right answers as ask the right questions.” — Claude Levi-

Strauss4

(Lévi-Strauss, 1994: 7)

The initial impetus for writing this thesis occurred while I was studying for a
Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design at the Central Saint Martin’s College
of Art and Design5

in London. It was further developed as a result of the
stark contrast I experienced between the design based Bachelor’s degree and
the subsequent Master’s degree in Computer Science I received from the
Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine6

, also situated in
London. Though both schools command considerable reputations, they
treated the two subject areas very differently which was startling and
puzzling from a student’s point of view. I became increasingly perplexed
while working in different departments of the telecommunications company
Telenor PLC7

. All of these experiences developed my interest in understand-
ing the underlying cause of these fundamental differences.

My interest was further increased by two particular observations I made
while working at Telenor. The first of these observations was that it was
common for members of cross-professional teams, i.e. projects consisting of
people representing a number of different professions, to have different goals
and values. This was particularly evident during the peak of the Internet
bubble which reached its height only a few years after I joined the company.
A number of these cross-profession projects were characterised by conflicts
and problem areas, but from my point of view the most profound short-
coming was a lack of common understanding and agreement over the
definition of the main guiding principles i.e. values of a given project. This
came to light in a number of situations as team members tended to have
different understandings of the project’s visions and core values. As an
organization, Telenor did not customarily examine value conflicts in cross-
professional teams which made it difficult for team members to establish an
explicit value discourse while working on projects. This often led to different
singular perspectives being pursued by different team members. In practical
terms this often led to some team members focusing on the technical
possibilities provided by the Internet technology while others remained
concerned with expanding the customer base nationally and internationally.
Some team members focused on the user experience, others on the increased
value these new services could contribute to the Telenor brand. The value
conflicts that occurred in some of these projects had—from a designer’s point
of view—devastating consequences; the collaboration lacked shared common
goals and as a consequence did not produce the desired result. There were
indications that these value conflicts affected numbers of areas including:
performance, user experience, technical reliability, market share and the
revenue stream. What is beyond speculation is that some of these projects
were not ultimately successful despite heavy investments by Telenor.

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4

The second of these observations was that value conflicts were not restricted
to cross-profession projects alone, but were equally present between indus-
trial designers, including myself, in the Research and Development
Department of Telenor. While developing new telecommunication services, it
became apparant that the different members of the design team had different
design values. Consequently, many of the projects that this small group was
working on at the time posed difficult value related realisations, questions
and trade-offs.8

Whilst this group represented industrial design traditions
from United Kingdom, Denmark and Norway, none of us had the intellectual
training or tools to deal with issues related to value conflicts and trade-offs.

Both of the above observations highlight the importance of values in the
workplace; most or all of the participants in the projects in question lacked
the training and tools necessary to successfully handle the value conflicts and
trade-offs that emerged during the duration of their project. These examples
demonstrate that value conflicts are not restricted to disciplinary projects, but
can be found within most professions. In other words, design professions are
no exception. The education I received at Central Saint Martins College of
Art and Design reiterated the fact that designers are not educated in even the
most common value positions. As a result they avoid or are unable to articu-
late their own value positions when they become practicing professionals.

My initial interest supplemented by the above-mentioned observations caused
me to theorize that the reluctance among architects and industrial designers to
tackle value conflicts and to articulate their own value positions, often results
in a “circular” argument where vague references to values are used to
legitimise form solutions, while the form solutions are used to legitimise
equally vague value positions. This “hunch” also supposes that the implicit
way of dealing with values within architecture and industrial design, has the
potential of creating conflicts between collaborating designers and/or
between designers and their clients. Thus, this thesis project is primarily
focused on investigating what values exist within architecture and industrial
design and, to some extent, the impact some of these values have on the two
design professions.

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