Monday, February 11, 2019

The changing nature of design arguments

When my students in my graduate design theory course have to do interviews with practicing designers (combined in this year's class, about 100 interviews), one thing keeps surfacing.

In many cases, especially from more experienced designers, they mention the changing nature of design arguments. This is not unknown, but it is interesting to see that it is mentioned as a serious change in their practice. The change of design arguments can be simply characterized as a shift from a 'show and tell' model to a 'show and explain' model.

The show-and-tell model basically means that the designer shows the design itself (idea, prototype, etc) with its functionality, looks, etc. The show-and explain model means that the designer also engages in explaining how they came up with the design, what the process looked like, and what testing and evaluation they have done that shows the quality of the design. This is pushing many designers to be much more careful with their process planning and documentation. And it also forces designers to have a broader skill set when it comes to their process. They have to engage in more research like activities.

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, also emerging in these interviews is that some designers feel as if they have to change their design argument model only for the purpose of satisfying their client, not because it helps them in their design practice. Actually, some see this shift as a waste of time and effort and that it takes time away from their 'real' design activities. In some cases, they even see it as a form of deception or pretense. And, since they do not themselves, believe in this form of arguments they do not feel good about it.

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