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Design as a process Substantial disagreement exists concerning how designers in many fields, whether amateur or professional, alone or in teams, produce designs. Dorst and Dijkhuis argued that "there are many ways of describing design processes" and discussed "two basic and fundamentally different ways",<ref>Dorst and Dijkhuis 1995, p. 261</ref> both of which have several names. The prevailing view has been called "The Rational Model",<ref name="Brooks">Brooks 2010</ref> "Technical Problem Solving"<ref name="Schön 1983">Schön 1983</ref> and "The Reason-Centric Perspective".<ref name="Ralph 2010">Ralph 2010</ref> The alternative view has been called "Reflection-in-Action",<ref name="Schön 1983"/> "Evolutionary Design",<ref name="design theory"/> "co-evolution"<ref>Dorst and Cross 2001</ref> and "The Action-Centric Perspective".<ref name="Ralph 2010"/>

The Rational Model

The Rational Model was independently developed by Simon<ref>Newell and Simon 1972; Simon 1969</ref> and Pahl and Beitz.<ref>Pahl and Beitz 1996</ref> It posits that:

  1. designers attempt to optimize a design candidate for known constraints and objectives,
  2. the design process is plan-driven,
  3. the design process is understood in terms of a discrete sequence of stages.

The Rational Model is based on a rationalist philosophy<ref name="Brooks" /> and underlies the waterfall model,<ref>Royce 1970</ref> systems development life cycle<ref>Bourque and Dupuis 2004</ref> and much of the engineering design literature.<ref>Pahl et al. 2007</ref> According to the rationalist philosophy, design is informed by research and knowledge in a predictable and controlled manner. Technical rationality is at the center of the process.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }}

Example sequence of stages

Typical stages consistent with The Rational Model include the following.

  • Pre-production design
    • Design brief or Parti pris – an early (often the beginning) statement of design goals
    • Analysis – analysis of current design goals
    • Research – investigating similar design solutions in the field or related topics
    • Specification – specifying requirements of a design solution for a product (product design specification)<ref>Cross, N., 2006. T211 Design and Designing: Block 2, p. 99. Milton Keynes: The Open University.</ref> or service.
    • Problem solving – conceptualizing and documenting design solutions
    • Presentation – presenting design solutions
  • Design during production
    • Development – continuation and improvement of a designed solution
    • Testing – in situ testing a designed solution
  • Post-production design feedback for future designs
  • Redesign – any or all stages in the design process repeated (with corrections made) at any time before, during, or after production.

Each stage has many associated best practices.<ref>Ullman, David G. (2009) The Mechanical Design Process, Mc Graw Hill, 4th edition ISBN 0-07-297574-1</ref>

Criticism of the Rational Model

The Rational Model has been widely criticized on two primary grounds

  1. Designers do not work this way – extensive empirical evidence has demonstrated that designers do not act as the rational model suggests.<ref name="Cross 1983">Cross et al. 1992; Ralph 2010; Schön 1983</ref>
  2. Unrealistic assumptions – goals are often unknown when a design project begins, and the requirements and constraints continue to change.<ref>Brooks 2010; McCracken and Jackson 1982</ref>

The Action-Centric Model

The Action-Centric Perspective is a label given to a collection of interrelated concepts, which are antithetical to The Rational Model.<ref name="Ralph 2010"/> It posits that:

  1. designers use creativity and emotion to generate design candidates,
  2. the design process is improvised,
  3. no universal sequence of stages is apparent – analysis, design and implementation are contemporary and inextricably linked<ref name="Ralph 2010"/>

The Action-Centric Perspective is based on an empiricist philosophy and broadly consistent with the Agile approach<ref>Beck et al. 2001</ref> and amethodical development.<ref>Truex et al. 2000</ref> Substantial empirical evidence supports the veracity of this perspective in describing the actions of real designers.<ref name="Cross 1983"/> Like the Rational Model, the Action-Centric model sees design as informed by research and knowledge. However, research and knowledge are brought into the design process through the judgment and common sense of designers – by designers "thinking on their feet" – more than through the predictable and controlled process stipulated by the Rational Model. Designers' context-dependent experience and professional judgment take center stage more than technical rationality.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }}

Descriptions of design activities

At least two views of design activity are consistent with the Action-Centric Perspective. Both involve three basic activities.

In the Reflection-in-Action paradigm, designers alternate between "framing", "making moves", and "evaluate moves." "Framing" refers to conceptualizing the problem, i.e., defining goals and objectives. A "move" is a tentative design decision. The evaluation process may lead to further moves in the design.<ref name="Schön 1983"/>

In the Sensemaking-Coevolution-Implementation Framework, designers alternate between its three titular activities. Sensemaking includes both framing and evaluating moves. Implementation is the process of constructing the design object. Coevolution is "the process where the design agent simultaneously refines its mental picture of the design object based on its mental picture of the context, and vice versa."<ref>Ralph 2010, p. 67</ref>

The concept of the Design Cycle describes the reflective and repetitive structure of design processes, assuming that this structure is underlying all such processes.<ref>Christian Gänshirt (2007): Tools for Ideas. An Introduction to Architectural Design, translated by Michael Robinson, Basel, Boston, Berlin: Birkhäuser, ISBN 978-3-7643-7577-5, pp. 78-80</ref> The Design Cycle is understood as a circular time structure,<ref>Thomas Fischer: Design Enigma. A typographical metaphor for enigmatic processes, including designing, in: T. Fischer, K. De Biswas, J.J. Ham, R. Naka, W.X. Huang, Beyond Codes and Pixels: Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Computer-Aided Architectural Design Research in Asia, p. 686</ref> which may start with the thinking of an idea, then expressing it by the use of visual and/or verbal means of communication (design tools), the sharing and perceiving of the expressed idea, and finally starting a new cycle with the critical rethinking of the perceived idea. Anderson points out that this concept emphasizes the importance of the means of expression, which at the same time are means of perception of any design ideas.<ref>Jane Anderson: Architectural Design, Basics Architecture 03, Lausanne, AVA academia, 2011, ISBN 978-2-940411-26-9, p. 40</ref>

Criticism of the action-centric perspective

As this perspective is relatively new, it has not yet encountered much criticism. One possible criticism is that it is less intuitive than the Rational Model.


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