The central role of the designer's appreciative system in socially situated design activity

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Copyright: Bacic, Monique
According to Dorst and Dijkhuis (1995) the two principal paradigms governing design activity discourse, are Simon's rational problem solving, and Schon's theory of design as a 'reflective conversation with the situation'. The rational problem solving view, that a fixed problem space structures design activity, has reduced the designer to a 'missing person' within design activity research (Dorst & Reymen 2004). This thesis aims to highlight the agency of the designer in structuring and motivating socially situated design activity. Dorst's (2006) framework of 'design paradoxes' suggests that design problems are evolving and unknowable. Design situations are determined through the designer's reinterpretation of the social discourses underpinning design situations, in a similar way to 'problem setting' within 'reflection-in-action' (Schon 1983). While Dorst suggests interpretation relies on intuition, problem setting relies on 'professional artistry' which is 'bounded' by the 'appreciative system' (personal knowledge, values and beliefs) and is essentially 'learnable' (Schon 1983). This thesis explores the correspondence between Schon's theory and contemporary frameworks including 'design paradoxes' (Dorst 2006), 'designerly ways of knowing' (Cross 1982), 'organising principles' (Rowe 1987), and 'creative problem construction' (Mumford et al 2004). It investigates the agency of the designer as evidenced in the use of the 'appreciative system'. This is elucidated using case study analysis of a novice designer, within a tertiary design degree. The case reveals the structured and motivated use of the designer's appreciative system. It indicates the deployment of 'appreciative goals' are fundamental to the 'linking behaviour of designers' (Dorst 2006), enabling design to begin in the absence of 'repertoire' or domain knowledge (Schon 1983), and the acquisition of new repertoire knowledge. These emergent findings offer new pedagogical perspectives both in terms of design expertise, which is normally associated with domain knowledge, and educating domain independent, multidisciplinary 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). An awareness and acknowledgement of the objective function of subjective personal and social knowledge is essential in order to locate the 'missing' designer and understand innovative design activity.
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Bacic, Monique
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