Lazy designers

Since I have started researching on design processes and design methods, I have received different kind of comments, questions and suggestions, such as:

– Why do you want to study design processes?
– Design process is a complex process to be studied, and most of these processes are pure intuition.
– Do you want to systematise a creative process?
– Can be developed a design method?
– Are designers going to use it? Is it useful to have design methods?

I have been looking for books, articles, and journals about both themes during the last three years. The results were a big quantity of books about design processes but focussing on how to create a good artefact and be a successful designer, instead of analysing the decision-making-process it self.
While I was struggling trying to find more documents that help me to easily explain what I meant with design processes, one day a good friend published this video:

Thanks Mati! The video shows in simple words and clear images the same concept I was looking for: the existence of a process of brainstorming, thoughts and planning in every project.
Fortunately, I found more key pieces of information in some specialised journals that explained the same idea than the video but in more academic words. Authors such as John Chris Jones and Bruce Archer gave me the first arguments to confirm I wasn’t in the wrong way trying to analyse this unusual approach of design. Both authors have defined design as a complex discipline that involves more than one area. In addition, they have explained that design is a hybrid activity where can be found an artistic, a scientific and a mathematical side. Its process is, as well, a result of this combination. As my research is focussed on a rational theory of the design process, it can be said that my thesis will analyse the mathematical and scientific sides of design processes.

In terms of my design methods research, at the beginning, most (maybe all!) of the references I found were from the 60s and 70s. I spent months wondering why I could not find any author from the 90s dealing with the design methods issue.
Few months ago I found a paper in Visible Language journal where his author has been asking himself exactly the same question: What had happened with the design generation of the 80s and 90s? Chris Conley (2004) suggests an interesting theory: the evolution of technology. Computers development is one of the key breakthroughs of the last 30 or 40 years for graphic designers. On the one hand, computers have become powerful tools for designers, allowing them to dramatically reduce the time of production. Thank to specialised software, designers can try different languages and graphic possibilities in a couple of minutes, increasing the amount of new design projects day-by-day.
However, on the other hand, as they have so many steps already done by computers, they seem to have become lazy to spend too many hours thinking about ‘design without images’. Most designers (included me) just sit down in front of their Macs and start drawing and designing, without a previous plan of what they are going to do.
In contrast, designers from the 60s and 70s had to think carefully before technically start a design project. They organised every step of the decision making process until being absolutely clear about all the steps of the process.

Different context, specialised technology and reduced timings are the main reasons to doubt whether designers are going to use a design method, and if it is worth to spend time on it before starting every new design project.
Although I am aware of this risk, I still believe that having a design method would be useful and would help designers to organise ideas and possibilities. Probably, modern designers have never used a design method because nobody told them to use it or which benefits could be by using it. In the last 10 months, I have realised that there is a growing generation of both designers and researchers that have (re)started to analyse the process of design and are developing new (and useful) design methods, specially thought and created for modern technological designers.

– Conley, C. (2004) Where are the design methodologists? Visible Language Vol 38.2, pp 196-215.

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