Design vs. re-design, and how to innovate

Year: 2009
Editor: Clarke, A, Ion, W, McMahon, C and Hogarth, P
Author: Leblanc, Tatjana
Page(s): 348-353


Responsive to the challenges of modern times, designers and educators see the need to re-examine their role and responsibility. Several of them adopted human-centered approaches that make the user and the process of interacting and experiencing products their primary focus. To sustain these approaches requires extended theoretical knowledge and a sensibility for complex phenomenon such as human cognitive processes, user behavior and attitudes. Therefore, some schools added courses such as material cultures, eco-design, sociology, anthropology or cognitive psychology to their repertoire. Nonetheless, concerns are being raised about students' ability to assimilate and apply these notions. Others question if human-centered design really produce significantly different results and if traditional teaching methods are still valid. A design studio has been dedicated to examine these questions and let students compare an object-focused design approach with a human centered approach in which the user and the contextual environment play a central role. The studio not only lets students explore advantages and limits of both approaches and scrutinize the pertinence of their results, it also allows educators to assess the assimilation of theoretical knowledge. The paper describes the experimental setup of the studio as well as its outcome, and stresses the need for raising awareness of how results can vary depending on how problems are being approached. The observations made during the studio contribute to the discussion on changing design practices, which support more than redesign, suggesting context-sensitive design approaches that rather promote design and innovation.

Keywords: Human-centered design, context-sensitive approaches, reflective learning

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