Thought into action!

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"Because design touches on so many subject areas (psychology, ergonomics, engineering, architecture, art) designers bring to the table a broad multi-disciplinary spectrum of ideas from which to draw inspiration and solutions." (Saffer, 2007)

Design knowledge: The term design [designare] stands not only for design practices, but also for the production of knowledge. According to Nigel Cross, design research can be organised into three categories [design epistemology, design praxiology, design phenomenology] which are based on three sources of design knowledge, namely people, processes, and products (Cross, 1999). He also describes the development of a design culture with its own 'things to know', 'ways of knowing', and 'ways of finding out'.

Three worlds: Karl Popper describes a universe with three interacting worlds: A world of physical objects called world 1, a world of mental states, or world 2, and a third world containing products of the human mind. World 3 objects, such as languages, stories and works of art, may have one or many world 1 embodiments. Neither the concrete objects of world 1 nor the abstract objects of world 3 can be known without the intermediary of a human mind. Popper differentiates between subjective knowledge arising from mind-brain processes [world 2, world 1] and objective knowledge comprising thought contents from world 3.

Design thinking: Charles Owen (2007) used the term 'Finder' for creative thinkers who apply analytical methods to explain existing patterns in the world, and the term 'Maker' to designate thinkers (like designers) who combine knowledge with emerging patterns to synthesize objects. Owen's conceptual map of Design Thinking associates the Synthetic/Real [Making] with the field of Design. And while science tends to be focused on truth, correctness and provability, design is more likely to be valued in terms of aesthetics, effectiveness and appropriateness.

Context, network: Designers act within a complex system, they are part of a "dynamic morphology" (Findeli, 2001) where creative change can propagate in various ways to affect not only future artefacts, but also their clients and users. The rhizomatic urge to form opportunistic, interconnected, non-hierarchical structures goes beyond technological- and social determinisms. Latour's actor-networks, moreover, 'recruit' human and non-human 'actors' to share resources and to solve common problems. Scientists, instruments, notepads and conversations are all embodiments- and generators of knowledge. This fluid system is elegantly echoed by distributed cognition (Hutchins and Klausen, 2002) where "trajectories of information" 'engage' representational media to reach our conscious awareness.

Thinking change

  • The application of knowledge also leads to the production of knowledge.
  • Matter may be reduced to energy or data and reassembled in another space.
  • There is a reciprocal connexion between word- and form-finding. When objects become building blocks they don't just occupy space but also contribute to its evolution.
  • Digital environments allow the mind to shape virtual artefacts capable of entering the physical world.
  • The ability to model, learn, reason, and plan allows [autonomous agents] to cross the divide that separates the future from the past.
  • Creativity is integral to human capital. An approach where creativity and rational thinking interact freely helps people understand reality, find the actual problem, and work out solutions.