Design Judgment: Decision-Making in the 'Real" World

What is design judgment? What is that ability that designers have to have to be able to make decision when they face overwhelming but incomplete information and conflicting goals and desiderata? How do you as a designer know what to focus on and what to leave out? Designers always engage in making judgements: design judgments.

Yesterday I found an article that Harold Nelson and I wrote in 2003. It was published in the Design Journal, and I have not seen it since then. The article is partially built on a chapter in our book 'The Design Way' where we have a chapter on judgment.

The title of the paper is Design Judgment: Decision-Making in the 'Real' World. The title reveals that design judgment is not about how to make decisions in a perfect or ideal world, instead it is about being in the real world with all its richness, contradictions, dilemmas, insufficient knowledge, etc. It is also about making decisions that has a real impact on the world we all live in.

Even though Harold and I have 'preached' about design judgment for years (together with some other design scholars) it is still not a concept that has  received enough attention. It seems as if most design research, especially research with the purpose to support designers, instead takes the approach to reduce the dependency on judgment by introducing methods, techniques and tools that will let designers do a good job without being required to make judgments. It sometimes even looks as if the ideal solution would be to have a design process with methods and tools that would be indifferent of who is the designer is, that is, a process that is independent of the designers ability to make judgment. However, the road to design success can only be reached when design judgment is seen as an unavoidable and crucial aspect of the being a designer and enough attention is payed to the development of it. In this article we take some steps towards such a position.

You can download the article here.

Comments

Harold Nelson said…
I keep hoping that the idea of 'judgment' gains some traction in the design world. It is where praxis 'meets the road' (see: 'where the rubber meets/hits the road').

This is a very important idea that has some presence in all professions.
pinsym said…
Hi Erik

Even as a full-time researcher now, I find myself constantly taking these leaps of judgement, and also encouraging others to do so. I am saddened, in particular, when researchers take the trial of evidence too far, and require data on all matters, including requiring user data (really, subjective judgment) to support design decisions.

Thanks for the reminder that judgment is just another way to move forward.
Interesting article Thanks for sharing!!

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