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*CH 1 - Intro*

- One of the questions running throughout the book then will be the extent to
which designers have common processes and the extent to which these might vary both
between domains and between individuals.
- The engineerfs process seems to us to be relatively precise, systematic and even
mechanical, whereas fashion design seems more imaginative, unpredictable and
- Actually both these descriptions are to some extent caricatures since good
engineering requires considerable imagination and can often be unpredictable in its
outcome, and good fashion is unlikely to be achieved without considerable technical
- Many forms of design then, deal with both precise and vague ideas, call for
systematic and chaotic thinking, need both imaginative thought and mechanical
- However, a group of design fields seem to lie near the middle of this spectrum of
design activity, [they] all require the designer to produce beautiful and also
practically useful and well functioning end products.
- But there is a paradox here about design. Design is now clearly a highly
professional activity for some people, and the very best designers are greatly
valued and we admire what they do enormously. And yet design is also an everyday
activity that we all do.
- We design our own rooms, we decide how to arrange things on shelves or in storage
systems, we design our own appearance every morning, we select food and prepare our
meals, at work we are still designing by planning our time, arranging the desktops
of our computers, and so we could go on. All these everyday domestic jobs can be
seen as design tasks or at least design-like tasks. We may not aggrandise these
humble tasks with the word edesignf, but they share many of the characteristics
of professional design tasks.
- But professional designers also design for other people rather than just
themselves. They have to learn to understand problems that other people may find it
hard to describe and create good solutions for them
- The designers of today can no longer be trained to follow a set of procedures
since the rate of change of the world in which they must work would soon leave them
behind. We can no longer afford to immerse the student of architecture or product
design in a few traditional crafts. Rather they must learn to appreciate and
exploit new technology as it develops
- Conceptually the studio is a process of learning by doing, in which students are
set a series of design problems to solve. They thus learn how to design largely by
doing it, rather than by studying it or analysing it. It seems almost impossible to
learn design without actually doing it. However the ideas in this book may offer a
complementary resource. One of the weaknesses of the traditional studio is that
students, in paying so much attention to the end product of their labours, fail to
reflect sufficiently on their process
- It is often difficult therefore for design students to develop a process which
enables them to relate appropriately to the other stakeholders in design. Rather it
is easier for them to develop very personally self-reflective processes aimed
chiefly at satisfying themselves and possibly their tutors. Thus, the educational
studio can easily become a place of fantasy removed from the needs of the real
world in which the students will work when they graduate.
- The extent to which the various design fields share a common process is a matter
for considerable debate. That designers educated in each of these fields tend to
take a different view of problems is less contentious
- Designers must not only decide what effects they wish to achieve, they must also
know how to achieve them. So our civil engineer must understand the structural
properties of concrete and steel, whereas our fashion designer must appreciate the
characteristics of different fabrics.
- Unfortunately this sort of specialisation can easily become a strait-jacket for
designers, directing their mental processes towards a predefined goal. It is thus
too easy for the architect to assume that the solution to a clientfs problem is a
new building. Often it is not! If we are not careful then design education might
restrict rather than enhance the ability of the students to think creatively.
- For many of the kinds of design we are considering, it is important not just to
be technically competent but also to have a well developed aesthetic appreciation.
Space, form and line, as well as colour and texture, are the very tools of the
trade for the environmental, product or graphic designer. The end product of such
design will always be visible to the user who may also move inside or pick up the
designerfs artefact. The designer must understand our aesthetic experience,
particularly of the visual world, and in this sense designers share territory with
- The vast majority of the artefacts we design are created for particular groups of
users. Designers must understand something of the nature of these users and their
needs whether it is in terms of the ergonomics of chairs or the semiotics of
graphics. Along with a recognition that the design process itself should be
studied, design education has more recently included material from the behavioural
and social sciences. Yet designers are no more social scientists than they are
artists or technologists.
- One of the essential difficulties and fascinations of designing is the need to
embrace so many different kinds of thought and knowledge. Scientists may be able to
do their job perfectly well without even the faintest notion of how artists think,
and artists for their part certainly do not depend upon scientific method. For
designers life is not so simple, they must appreciate the nature of both art and
science and in addition they must be able to design! What then exactly is this
activity of design? [...] We can already see that it involves a sophisticated
mental process capable of manipulating many kinds of information, blending them all
into a coherent set of ideas and finally generating some realisation of those
- The expert golfer is not thinking about the golf swing but about the golf course,
the weather and the opponents. To perform well the flautist must forget the
techniques of embouchure and breath control and fingering systems, and concentrate
on interpreting the music as the composer intended. You could not possibly give
expression to music with your head full of Chapmanfs advice about the lips. So it
is with design. We probably work best when we think least about our technique.
Beginners however must first analyse and practise all the elements of their skill
and we should remember that even the most talented of professional golfers or
musicians still benefit from lessons all the way through their careers.
- Indeed [design] is a very complex and sophisticated skill, but still one which
can be analysed, taken apart, developed and practised. In the end though, to get
the best results, designers must perform like golfers and flautists. They should
forget all the stuff they have been taught about technique and just go out and do

*CH 2 - Changing role of the designer*

- In the past many objects have been consistently made to very sophisticated
designs with a similar lack of understanding of the theoretical background. This
procedure is often referred to as eblacksmith designf after the craftsman who
traditionally designed objects as he made them, working to undrawn traditional
patterns handed down from generation to generation
- There probably is no one etruef reason for the dishing of cartwheels but rather
a great number of interrelated advantages. This is very characteristic of the
craft-based design process. After many generations of evolution the end product
becomes a totally integrated response to the problem. Thus if any part is altered
the complete system may fail in several ways. [...] Should the problem suddenly
change, however, the vernacular or craft process is unlikely to yield suitable
results. If Sturt could not understand the principles involved in cartwheel dishing
how would he have responded to the challenge of designing a wheel for a steam-
driven or even a modern petrol-driven vehicle with pneumatic tyres?
- The division of labour between those who design and those who make has now become
a keystone of our technological society. [...] The city centre site may bring with
it social problems of privacy and community, risks to safety such as the spread of
fire or disease, to say nothing of the problems of providing access or preventing
pollution. [...] Moreover each city centre site will present a different
combination of these problems. Such variable and complex situations seem to demand
the attention of experienced professional designers who are not just technically
capable, but also trained in the act of design decision-making itself.
- Alexander argues that the unselfconscious craft-based approach to design must
inevitably give way to the self-conscious professionalised process when a society
is subjected to a sudden and rapid change which is culturally irreversible. [...]
Changes in both the materials and technologies available became too rapid for the
craftsmanfs evolutionary process to cope. Thus the design process as we have known
it in recent times has come about not as the result of careful and wilful planing
but rather as a response to changes in the wider social and cultural context in
which design is practised. The professional specialised designer producing drawings
from which others build has come to be such a stable and familiar image that we now
regard this process as the traditional form of design.
- Initially the separating of designing from making had the effect not only of
isolating designers but also of making them the centre of attention. Each form is
now seen as the work of a single man, and its success is his achievement only. This
recognition of individual achievement can easily give rise to the cult of the
individual. In educational terms it led to the articled pupillage system of
teaching design. [...] Even in the schools of architecture students would be asked
to design in the manner of a particular individual.
- The separation of the designer from making also results in a central role for the
drawing. If the designer is no longer a craftsman actually making the object, then
he or she must instead communicate instructions to those who will make it.
Primarily and traditionally the drawing has been the most popular way of giving
such instructions.
- However, an even more important drawing is the edesign drawingf. Such a drawing
is done by the designer not to communicate with others but rather as part of the
very thinking process itself which we call design. In a most felicitous phrase
Donald Schon has described the designer as ehaving a conversation with the
- Compared with the vernacular process, the designer working in this way has great
manipulative freedom. Parts of the proposed solution can be adjusted and the
implications immediately investigated without incurring the time and cost of
constructing the final product. The process of drawing and redrawing could continue
until all the problems the designer could see were resolved. [It] enables designers
to make much more fundamental changes and innovations within one design than would
have ever been possible in the vernacular process, and solves the problems posed by
the increasing rate of change in technology and society. Such a design process then
encourages experimentation and liberates the designerfs creative imagination in a
quite revolutionary way, making the process almost unrecognisable to the vernacular
- Whilst design by drawing clearly has many advantages over the vernacular process,
it is not without some disadvantages. The drawing is in some ways a very limited
model of the final end product of design, and yet in a world increasingly dependent
on visual communication it seems authoritative. The designer can see from a drawing
how the final design will look but, unfortunately, not necessarily how it will
work. The drawing offers a reasonably accurate and reliable model of appearance but
not necessarily of performance.
- Even the appearance of designs can be misleadingly presented by design drawings.
The drawings which a designer chooses to make whilst designing tend to be highly
codified and rarely connect with our direct experience of the final design
- It became apparent that if we were to continue separating designing from making,
and also to continue the rapid rate of change and innovation, then new forms of
modelling the final design were urgently required. [...] Alexander proposed a
method of structuring design problems that would allow designers to see a graphical
representation of the structure of non-visual problems.
- Unfortunately the new models, which were frequently borrowed from operations
research or behaviourist psychology, were to prove just as inadequate and
inaccurate as designing by drawing. [...] The issue no longer seemed to be one of
protecting the individuality and identity of designers but, rather, had become the
problem of exercising what Jones called ecollective controlf over designersf
activities. Somehow the whole process had to become more open to inspection and
critical evaluation. The model of scientific method proved irresistible. [...] How
nice it would be if designers followed such a clear, open and public process!
- In our current state of uncertainty it is hardly valid to give a definitive view
of the future, or even present, role of the designer. [...] Markus (1972) suggests
three broad views which designers today may hold about their role in society.
- The first role is essentially conservative, centred around the continued
dominance of the professional institutions. In such a role designers remain
unconnected with either clients or makers. They passively await the clientfs
commission, produce a design and withdraw from the scene. There are already real
problems with this approach. In the case of architecture the client may often be
some branch of government or a large commercial organisation, and in such cases
architects frequently become employees rather than consultants.
- The opposite to this conservative approach is actively to seek different
structural changes in society but which also would result in the end of
professionalism as we know it. Such a revolutionary approach would lead the
designer to associate directly with user groups. [...] A significant difficulty
with this role is that since these kinds of client/user groups are unlikely to
control any resources valued outside their limited societies, the designer loses
all influence over other designers except by the power of example
- The third, middle, path lies between these two extremes, and is much more
difficult to identify except in vague terms. In this role, designers remain
professionally qualified specialists but try to involve the users of their designs
in the process. These more participatory approaches to design may include a whole
range of relatively new techniques [...] to identify the crucial aspects of the
problem, make them explicit, and suggest alternative courses of action for comment
by the non-designer participants. Designers following this approach are likely to
have abandoned the traditional idea that the individual designer is dominant in the
process, but they may still believe they have some specialised decision-making
skills to offer.

*CH 3 - Route maps of the design process*