Friday, October 03, 2014

Article Note: "A design thinking rationality framework: framing and solving design problems in early concept generation" by Jieun Kim and Hokyoung Ryu

I just read this (quite long) article "A design thinking rationality framework: framing and solving design problems in early concept generation" by Jieun Kim and Hokyoung Ryu (in Human-Computer Interaction, 2014 Vol 27). I did not know about this work at all but was positively surprised. The authors are doing a great job in referencing a lot of contemporary design theorists. The authors clearly know the field. They also report from a large experiment where they engaged experienced and non-experienced (novice) designers in a design task. The insights from the study is primarily that experienced designers are more effective in framing a design problem but also that they "stick" to their early ideas (what the authors call "design fixation"), while inexperienced designers are not as good at framing a design problem but instead are more willing to let go of initial ideas.

I think these findings are interesting, specifically since I usually hear people argue that inexperienced designers are the ones who stick to their initial ideas while experienced designers do not. The fact that experienced designer are better at framing design problems is less surprising. Anyhow, a lot of interesting material in this article.

My only concern with the work is (something that often concerns me with research articles) when the authors try to use their findings as a tool to improve the design process. They write "These studies might suggest how to develop a creativity-support system that can help expert designers avoid bias and design fixation and assist novice designers in approaching better design strategies". I do not mind so much the second part, the one about novice designers, but I have a problem with the first part.

If it is a fact that experienced designers are more engaged in design fixation (that is, staying with an initial idea) I would be very careful in drawing the conclusion that that is a bad thing. Expert designers probably have this particular behavior because they realize (maybe not consciously) that this behavior leads to good consequences. There are some studies out there that support and argue that the idea of sticking with early ideas and working with variations of that idea instead of working on many parallel ideas is more successful. Anyway, the leap from observation to implication is always a dangerous and difficult leap. Great observations and insights does not have to be transformed into actionable prescriptions. Many times the observations and insights transformed into theoretical concepts is more than enough.


Frank He said...

Fixing an idea or coming up with more ideas is really a painful choice in our design process. Especially in the current IDP project, in which Marty require ourselves define our problem space instead of providing a prompt with a clear design problem. Designers can always get new ideas continually in the early stage of design, but there is never a standard "stop point" to say "let's do it", so fixation is really hard for green-hand designer. It seems to me that both of the two ways of design mentioned in this article have advantages and shortcomings, and may be suit for different situations. Early fixation is not necessarily an approach that decreases creativity of the design, it starts with a more clear core, could be another way to embrace creativity with a "yes and" way of thinking.

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