Creative design and human-computer interaction

Dispelling Design as the ‘Black Art’ of CHI , Wolf TV, Rode JA, Sussman J, Kellogg WA, Proceedings of CHI 2006. The paper interestingly tackle the issue of "creative design" and differentiate it from the notion of "design" as propelled by HCI researchers. The authors' main claim is that the typical usage of design in HCI is "at best limiting and at worst flawed". The first part of the paper describes what design is not: it's not a formal model, there is a different use of prototyping ("not about punctuating the design process with the rigor of evaluation but rather about presenting the design with opportunities to analyze her work. Analysis here refers to not to user studies or formal evaluation, but to the collaborative and introspective processes of designers"). All the statements and claim of the authors are based on existing literature as well as a case study they present.

What was interesting to me is the excerpts that follows about how creative design build knowledge that is different from the one that emerged from scientific practice:

"Creative design constitutes a ‘praxis’ (i.e., rational action and reflection on decisions within the context of design activity) in pursuit of what we have called design rigor. (...) Design praxis is comprised of the following professional qualities, which overlap with each other and are necessarily entwined, contributing to an overall design culture: 1) a non-linear process of intent and discovery, 2) design judgment, which is informed by a combination of knowledge, reflection, practice and action, 3) of artifacts, and 4) the design critique (‘crit’)."

The article goes further by giving some hints about to move forward:

"To create a thriving professional practice of design within the CHI community, we need to address a number of factors. First, when discussing design, we must account for the strong relationship between intention, activity as inquiry, and judgment.

Second, ensuring design rigor requires organizational support. Projects must be set up with design as a core competency with trained designers on hand to fulfill that role

Third, we need to develop more innovative practices to facilitate shared understanding among members of multidisciplinary teams."

Why do I blog this? I am often intrigued by this discussion about the word "design" tat seems to refer to lots of things (almost as much as the word "research"). Misunderstandings are one thing but how to define design is also important IMO, especially given the context of my work. It would also be interesting to have this discussion with the different "design fields" I have discussion with (game designers, industrial designers, architects).

Coming from a cognitive sciences and HCI background, this is of tremendous importance not to reiterate the mistakes of the past about how research can fuel design.

Finally, this notion of design as a "black art" is of curious and seems also to be opaque even for designers, look at this for example.