Fear and Loathing of Evidence in Design Research

Peter Jones Design for Care, Design for Practice, Design research

Depending on the discourses you follow, you might notice “design-led everything” has charged ahead with design thinking, speculative and design futures, empathic HCD and so on. Design research and advanced methods have lagged in these discourses. Emerging designers could easily believe that a product/service business case can be supported by small-sample field observations and a keen sense of empathy for participants (i.e., would-be customers).  At many design schools, the belated rise of human factors (endorsed in second gen design methods) has drifted off into mixed-mashes of methods. I hate to admit how little emphasis we give to evaluation in my courses now – in the 1990’s, usability and contextual evaluations established a positive reinforcing process in competitive growth cycles. Back when money wasn’t cheap and the web wasn’t monetized by surveillance adverts, you couldn’t afford to launch a weak product. Business decisions were based on data, and we had “real data.” So the recent arguments about evidence are puzzling. Perhaps its only the difference between “evidence-based design” and what I call “design with evidence.” Don Norman has been advocating an evolution in design thinking and education with …

Edge Practices: How Do You Measure Value?

Peter Jones Design for Practice, Service Design, Social Systems Design, Strategic Innovation

Every design discipline (even industrial design) has had to develop its best rationale for the question “why should we keep/hire/use you guys?” If they keep asking, “what is it you do again?” you may have more work to do more on strategic communication. Emerging practices will always be considered marginal at first, within an organization. Practices (not processes) are formed from collective agreement, and are often tacitly formed.  When an organization first develops a core process, such as project management, it starts as a practice. Outcomes are uncertain, its value to cost is assessed. When a practice, such as user experience, becomes vital to every project, it becomes formalized as a process. You can tell practices because they have small in-groups, communities of practice that may form to develop methods, ensure quality, share learning, as in nearly all user experience groups in the past.  (I can speak as having been the “first one” and developed UX capacity in several organizations). This agreement of practice requires enrollment of participants over a period of time. You don’t “pitch” your own organization to …

Design Thinking’s Convergence Diversion

Peter Jones Design for Care, Design for Practice, Transformation Design

(Updated from 2010) We now tend to think of design thinking as embracing all that represents “new design.”  Yet there remains more value in some of the original views of design thinking from decades ago than in most of what’s presented today. Design thinking is often treated as a process for moving an idea from ideation through prototyping to a concept test or an early alpha design. Or we mean it to represent the creative process associated with the structural mechanics of a generic design process – identify user needs by empathy and observation, iterate a promising prototype, add visual design and some marketing and voila. Let’s go back 30 years. The 4 orders of abstraction Buchanan (1992) describes in Wicked Problems in Design Thinking are usually left untapped in design thinking discussions. Buchanan lists: Symbolic and visual communications Material objects Activities and organized services Complex systems or environments for living, working, playing and learning Another 4-phase description of design thinking is GK van Patter’s Design 1.0 – 4.0 as described in numerous NextD articles and presentations. The four phases …

Co-designing for power balance in social systems

Peter Jones Design for Practice, Dialogic Design, Social Systems Design, Transformation Design

Power remains a hugely unresolved issue in strategic design, “systems change,” OD, and progressive management. Healthcare, like other public and social sector institutions (education, social welfare, government) is organized by what Jane Jacobs in Systems of Survival calls Guardian systems, the moral syndrome of ruling.  As in government, the values of authority, prowess, rank, restraints on trading, and “deceit for the task” are important in these sectors, though we don’t like to admit it. Even democratic governments are not democratic in values or style, they inherit the mantle of the warrior class, which makes a living by “taking”. In some ways, business – even corporate America – is fairer and more open. In Jacobs’ model, business (or merchant systems) tends to care about collaboration, honesty, results and of course customers – this leads to power toward winning joint ends and achievement, rather than winning process (or means) struggles. Power manifests in many ways – so in design processes, we adapt and deal with power issues in different ways, according to different environments.  Design practices tend to deal with power differentials …