Why the old question–what is design was asked again and again?

It is all about the old question:”what is design?” Because it is across disciplines and cultures, nobody can really give a single definition about it, no matter how many bullet items were added into the definition. When we add more, we find more which needed to be added and revised. Just because its complexity, it is full of “supernatural attractive” to those who want to truly understand what it is. And, yes, when we learn more, we find more to explore. From the using of technologies and fundamental materials to social responsibilities, from the products to the process, we try to understand it and make the design into a kind of creative, responsible, and realistic thinking process in the certain context based on all kinds of limitations. However, we still don’t know how to do the design, which means there is no patterns we can follow. Under this condition, to understand its meanings, its developing history and current stage, the design culture, and both the intellectual process and interactive relationships in a design becomes very important even necessary. We believe that the universal truth exists in all of these aspects of design. By understanding these, we will not be frightened when we face a complex system design situation; we could make balance and compromise but not wince; we make sound argument without reckless; we could feel less confused and frustrated when we face dilemmas during the design process.

At the end of this post, I feel that the relationship between the three stages of technology use and the three waves of HCI. I’d like to say that the 3waves in HCI’s development is only an instance of the three stages although maybe it is not appropriate to say that HCI is a technology. The 3 waves are the history and the path HCI goes through. The happened at certain time and conditions. The three stages of technology use is always happening for a new technology. And they are mapped into the experimental stage, the beginning period of using as a principle of a method or a nontechnical support of a tool, and the matured practical technology to be fully accepted. Sometimes these three stages are not exclusive,and sometimes technologies get matured and new technologies emerged in the loop of these three stages.

1 Comment

  1. jeffreybardzell

    I think you have offered a nice answer to the question of what is design, when you wrote, “we try to understand it and make the design into a kind of creative, responsible, and realistic thinking process in the certain context based on all kinds of limitations.” That is, there is the act of understanding, which is aided through strategies of criticism (which we’ll be talking about in this class), and then there is the act of design, which you nicely characterize as a form of thinking that is creative, responsible, and realistic within a specific context filled with various limitations.

    One of the reasons we like to ask the question of “what is design” is not because we expect to hear a nice answer (even though you gave one!), but because asking the question is productive of high quality dialogue and thinking. I hope over the course of this semester we ask a lot of questions like this, which are productive of thoughtful conversations!


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