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In the 1960s, scholars in the Design Methods Movement believed that design could be turned into a science—that a “single rationalised method”1 for design could be established, or even automated using computers.
That vision, certainly a problematic one, never materialized—but many of the design process models from that time period still live on in our work today.
On March 28, 2023, I’ll be presenting a half-day workshop at the 2023 information architecture conference (IAC) with Molly Taaffe and Julie Cohen. I’ve stated that this is a workshop on “the most passé topic in design, ever”, but in truth, I’ve always been fascinated by mid-century thinking on design methodology and the lessons that it offers, even when considering the problematic history and current reality of design and design thinking.
The workshop will explore historical and current views on design methods, centering on a live, group critique of selected design process models as a vehicle for us to develop our own point of view on contemporary design methodology.
Here is the official workshop description from the IAC program:
Information architecture and UX are practiced as forms of design—the design of products, systems, and desired futures to satisfy human needs and values.
In practice, we use models of ”the design process” that are over 20 years old, if not a half century old. Our field is rapidly changing, and we know that the Double Diamond doesn’t tell the full story of how we work. Are existing models of the design process still applicable to information architecture today? Do we need new process models to help us design changeable and resilient structures for a complex, information-driven society?
For both new and advanced practitioners, this half-day session is both a workshop and a collaborative roundtable where we’ll explore these questions as a group.
We’ll use Hugh Dubberly’s compendium of design process models, and Design Methods by John Chris Jones, as source materials to compare, contrast, and critique historical models of “the design process”. We’ll unpack core themes and theories that explain why and how design “works”; discuss personal challenges/tensions we experience in putting a design process into practice; and come away with concrete ideas on how to improve our / our teams’ approach to design. Finally, we’ll look at examples of contemporary, more radical models of design that confront challenges such as system complexity, power dynamics, and ethical responsibility.
This workshop is an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of design methodologies, hear insights from peers who experience similar challenges in other organizations, and contribute to a conversation about the evolution of IA and UX practice.
1 Cross, N. (1993). A History of Design Methodology. In: de Vries, M.J., Cross, N., Grant, D.P. (eds) Design Methodology and Relationships with Science. NATO ASI Series, vol 71. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-015-8220-9_2