I am taking a course through the University of Pennsylvania titled “Design: Creation of Artifacts in Society.” According to its description:
This is a course aimed at making you a better designer. The course marries theory and practice, as both are valuable in improving design performance. Lectures and readings will lay out the fundamental concepts that underpin design as a human activity. Weekly design challenges test your ability to apply those ideas to solve real problems. The course is deliberately broad – spanning all domains of design, including architecture, graphics, services, apparel, engineered goods, and products. The emphasis of the course is the basic design process: define, explore, select, and refine. You, the student, bring to the course your particular interests and expertise related to, for instance, engineering, furniture, fashion, architecture, or products. In prior sessions of the course about half of the participants were novices and about half had prior professional design expertise. Both groups seem to benefit substantially from the course. All project work is evaluated by your peers — and indeed, you will also be a peer reviewer. This format allows you to see an interesting collection of projects while getting useful feedback on your own project.
As a process designer, I am hoping that learning more about the design process, and how it is applied in other domains, may make me a better designer. I will be posting my thoughts during each of the 8 weeks of the course.
According to our text, of the same name of the course, the design process is the planning of the creation of an artifact that closes a “gap” in user experience. An artifact must be something tangible, not an idea, although it may be physical, such as an ice cream scoop, or non-physical, such as software.
The design process consists of four phases – sensing the gap, defining the problem, exploring alternatives, and selecting a plan from among those alternative.
I was struck with how similar this process is to many problem solving methods. For example, Eli Goldratt (“The Goal”), defines problem solving as “Where we are”, “where we want to be” and “how to get there.” Six Sigma’s DMAIC process is also based on these notions of defining the process, then planning and implementing and solution.
The process is iterative, as shown above – as we progress through the design process, we may go back to redefine our problem, generate new alternatives, or select different alternatives. This is very similar to the iterative, Agile methodologies that are sweeping information technology.
I am looking forward to learning more about “sensing gaps” in next week’s lessons.