The Central Role of the Designers ‘Appreciative System' in Socially Situated Design Activity

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According to Dorst and Dijkhuis (1995) the two main paradigms governing design discourse are Simon’s rational problem solving and Schön’s theory of design as a ‘reflective conversation with the situation’. Rational problem solving has dominated design theory, and focused on design activity determined by a fixed problem space, reducing the designer to a ‘missing person’ within design research (Dorst & Reymen 2004). The aim of this paper is to locate the ‘missing’ designer within socially situated design activity. Dorst’s (2006) framework of ‘design paradoxes’ questions the dominance of the design problem in determining design activity suggesting design problems are unknowable, and determined by the designer’s re-interpretation of the accepted discourses underpinning the design situation. Dorst’s concept of design, as socially situated activity, corresponds with Schön’s ‘problem setting’ which is ‘bounded’ by the appreciative system (personal knowledge, values and beliefs) (Schön 1983). This paper identifies the correspondence between Schön’s theory and contemporary frameworks including ‘design paradoxes’. It investigates the agency of the designer as evidenced in the use of the ‘appreciative system’ in the genesis and evaluation of ‘frames’ within problem setting. This is elucidated using case study analysis of novice designers within an Australian tertiary design degree. The case reveals the structured and motivated use of the designer’s appreciative system to commence designing in the absence of ‘repertoire’ or domain knowledge (Schön 1983), and to structure the acquisition of new repertoire knowledge. These findings offer new pedagogical perspectives both in terms of design expertise, and educating domain independent, multi-disciplinary designers. Frames or similar organising principles operate in most design fields, and create a ‘principle of relevance’ for knowledge from multiple domains and disciplines (Buchanan 1992). Educating designers requires the acknowledgement and understanding of the objective function of subjective and social knowledge within design thinking, thereby locating the ‘missing’ designer within innovative design activity
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Bacic, Monique
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