Showing posts from 2011

Interaction Design Philosophy &

One of the most ambitious sources of (open) scholarship in the field of HCI and interaction design is today found at This site is filled with content from some of the most distinguished researchers and designers in the field. I just got an email from about their newest addition to the encyclopedia. It is an article called Philosophy of Interaction and the Interactive User Experience. The article is written by Dag Svanaes and has substantial comments from Don Norman and Eva Hornecker. Svanaes is ambitious in his approach to reveal the philosophy of the field. This is highly recommendable even for those who might not agree with his analysis. We definitely need more texts like this in the field. Many more.

It is great that we do have as a source of quality materials that is also free to anyone interested. The site also includes a great calendar of conferences and deadlines and bibliographies of many researchers in the…

Book note: Donald Schön "Technology and Change"

In my quest to read (or re-read) all the books by Donald Schön I am at the moment re-reading his "Technology and Change--The New Heraclitus", published in 1967. I really liked this book when I first read it many years ago, but in a way I think it resonates even more with our present time. It is both possible and easy to read this book as a strong argument for what is today called "design thinking".

Schön builds the whole reasoning in the book around how humans relate to stability and change. Parmenides and Heraclitus are presented as advocates of two archetypal ways of understanding reality in relation to change. Parmenides represents the view where "stability was the only reality; being was continuous, changeless, one; change, in the form of creation or passing away, was inherently contradictory and therefore illusory". On the other hand, Heraclitus saw change as "the only reality" and to whom stability was illusory.

Schön makes the case that s…

Book note: "Design Research Through Practice-from the lab, field and showroom"

I often complain in  this blog about the lack of books in the field of design thinking and research. I know that many would not agree with me since they would argue that new books about design are published all the time. That might be true, but at the same time very few of these new books contribute to an overall understanding of design, even though they can be both interesting and useful on a more concrete and practical level.

A new book that tries to do both is the book "Design Research Through Practice-from the lab, field and showroom" by Ilpo Koskinen, John  Zimmerman, Thomas Binder, Johan Redström, and Stephan Wensveen.  The authors have taken on the task of putting together knowledge that take "a bird's eye perspective" on the growing academic design research field, while at the same time being useful in the practical teaching of design at a more advanced level, and to add some understanding about the scientific method in relation to design. This is a very…

The need for theoretical and philosophical books on design as a "big" thing and the passing of Kees Overbeeke and Steve Jobs

I have earlier written on this blog on topics similar to this post. The reason for writing about it again is my four latest blogposts. They are all about books that approach design as a "big" thing. These books examine design as something at the same level as science and art and of the same importance. There are of course many books out there about design and that has the word design in the title, but so many of them are about some specific approach, skill, competence, or tool. This is all good and well but in times when design is seen as the approach that will save business, a much deeper understanding is needed. And we do not have enough books at that level. We need many more. Write one.

When Steve jobs was asked about what design is and what his "obsession" about quality was all about, he answered something that supports the idea that we need more books that can provide a language and an understanding. Steve Jobs answered "“We don’t have good language to ta…

New MIT Press Book series on Design Thinking/Design Theory

For quite some time, my colleague and friend Ken Friedman and I have worked as Book Series Editors for a new book series with MIT Press. The book series is called Design Thinking/Design Theory. This is an exciting project. Ken and I have read many proposals and discussed many ideas for books from prospective authors. It has been fascinating to see what authors want to write about and how different the notion of design can be approached. Many are willing to propose a book, but few have what it takes to actually finish a manuscript.

So, today I got the first published book in the series in my mail. It is a highly interesting book by Thomas Binder, Giorgio De Michelis, Pelle Ehn, Giulio Jacucci, Per Linde and Ina Wagner. The title is Design Things.

More books in the series are on their way. If you have a book idea that would fit this series, let me know.

How to define design

I have mentioned here before that all signs are telling us that our reality is becoming more complex. While we humans spend more and more time making our reality into something that resembles or fulfills our dreams, it becomes more connected, more intertwined, more complex. The question is if this new reality, this complex mess, is easier to understand and to design for than the old "natural" and "simple" environment.

It is clear that complexity is quickly becoming the new research front in many disciplines. Complexity is the new challenge. It seems to emerge anywhere and all the time. There are of course also many ideas on how to approach complexity in a way that can "tame" it and make it manageable, maybe even possible to manipulate and work with (for a good discussion of the "nature" of complexity see Donald Norman "Living with complexity"). This is all good and well as long as the purpose is to study, describe, and maybe predict …

Book Note: Donald Schon "Beyond the Stable State"

In 1971 Donald Schon published his book "Beyond the Stable State". Schon has since then been recognized as an impressive thinker in many different disciplines. His fame and reputation are based on some amazing books that still are read and frequently referenced. However, the "Stable State" is usually not among them. Recently I had the pleasure of re-reading some parts of the it.

As often when you go back to something you read a long time ago, you are intrigued by other parts of the text, other ideas stand out. Ideas that you do not remember being in the book. I must admit that "Beyond the Stable State" is one of the books that has had the most influence on me over the years. To me, the message condensed in the title is enough, and is an example of a great idea. 

Anyway, in re-reading parts of the book I realized that the last chapter contains a description of a form of research methodology or learning strategy that is resonating with my own thinking. The …

Manuscript of 2nd Edition of the Design Way sent

Yesterday Harold Nelson and I sent the final manuscript of the 2nd Edition of "The Design Way" to MIT Press. The book has gone through quite a lot of changes. Every chapter is edited and refined. Two chapter are fully re-written. One chapter is gone and two new chapters have been added. Hopefully these changes have improved the book... Anyhow it feels good to have sent it. It was a lot of work. The book will not be out until sometime late next year, it is a long production process. It also feels great that this time the book will be published by a wonderful publisher, which will mean that the book will be available in a completely different way and also to much lower cost.

Studying Interaction Designers and their methods

A few days ago, Marty Siegel and I got the final message that our NSF proposal has been approved and that the 3 year project is good to go. The project is called "Design Methods--how they are understood, selected and used by practitioners".

The project is based on the assumption that any work devoted to the development and creation of new design methods (which we define in the broadest possible sense, everything from pen & paper to theories) has to be grounded in a deep understanding of design practice.

If you are doing research on design practice and the use of tools and methods, I would be happy to hear from you.

If you are a practitioner that has ideas, reflections, and thoughts about this topic, you can write to me.

More on this later...

Organizational Design Competence II

We are getting some great feedback on our Organizational Design Competence (ODC). We even get some nice comments on our ODC website which is still quite small, but it will soon grow. ODC is now on Facebook too, which might be a good way to keep in touch if you are interested.

If you have comments, questions, or want to inquire about collaborations about education or consulting, just let us know.

Organizational Design Competence

Today Harold Nelson and I announced ODC (Organizational Design Competence) which is our new business aimed at supporting individuals, teams, and organizations to develop their design competence.This is how we state who we are and what we do. "Our mission is to act as a catalyst in organizations becoming design competent. Our team of design consultants and educators consists of international leaders in the design field with many years of experience working with diverse types of organizations, including business and government, at nearly every scale of enterprise. Our approach is to first gain an understanding of an organization's strengths in design competence and blockages to being design competent. We assist in transforming existing organizations into design competent organizations by establishing a design culture among the leadership and staff of the organization and enhancing their ability to apply a comprehensive design approach, which includes design thinki…

Speculative Realism

Ok, I have decided to explore the philosophical movement that today is known as speculative realism. I have earlier read some works in that school of thought and was particularly fascinated by the writings of Graham Harman, especially in his book "The Prince of Networks". Harman is seen as one of the core figures in this new movements. So, on my desk are now

"Towards Speculative Realism--Essays and Lectures" by Graham Harman
"The Speculative Turn--Continental Materialism and Realism" edited by Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek and Graham Harman
"After Finitude" by Quentin Meillassoux

I am really looking forward to get into these books and especially to see how this new thinking resonates with design philosophy. I will hopefully be back with some reviews...

Since this philosophical movement has a clear relationship with Bruno Latour I have also a new book from him. It is "On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods". Quite intriguing title...

Scientists as designers...

IN an excellent post on the Advanced Design Institute blog, my colleague and friend Harold Nelson explains the relationship between design and science and how it is possible to see scientists today as 'design critiques'. This is an intriguing observation that deserves  some reflection. Another point in his blog is that we see a lot of cross-over today where scientists acts as designers without taking on the responsibility.

The Death of Design Thinking...

Lately there have been some writers arguing that "design thinking" is over, maybe even dead. For instance, Bruce Nussbaum recently wrote "The decade of Design Thinking is ending and I, for one, am moving on to another conceptual framework: Creative Intelligence, or CQ". Helen Walters discusses this position in her column and makes some interesting observations. As someone who has been dealing with design theory for about 30 years, it is both amusing and sad to see the way the question of the status of design thinking is being approached. The intellectual development around design as a special human approach to inquiry and action has been around much longer than the "last decade" and is a deep and  profound attempt to understand a particular kind of human activity that for a long time was not appropriately understood.

Looking back through history it is obvious that some human approaches, such as art and science, have attracted centuries of intellectual in…

Why email is not stealing time from real work.....

Lately there have been a lot of critique against email and also a lot of ideas on how to improve email. For instance, the idea from the company about a new form of really short emails. And the idea of an "email charter" by the famous internet thinker Chris Anderson, or "Work smart: conquering your email inbox" by Gina Trapani at Fastcompany.

The assumption, or fact, behind that all these attempts is that the number of emails are increasing and take up way too much of our working time. Email is seen as a "time-suck". The conclusion for most is that we need to reduce the number of emails, or make them shorter, or easier to work with, so we do not have to spend so much time with our emails.

Even though all this sounds rational and sound, I am not sure that the basic premise is correct. I agree that the number of emails have been increasing, but I am also quite sure that reading and answering emails today is not necessary time wasted or time tak…

BOOK COMMENT: NIgel Cross "Design Thinking"

Nigel Cross has for a long time been one of the most prominent researchers of design. He has a background as an architect and industrial designer but has mostly been doing research on and about design. His notion "designerly knowing" has had a great impact and influenced many design thinkers. He has also been instrumental in fostering international design research institutions, such as the DRS. He is also the Editor in Chief of the influential journal "Design Studies".

His new book "Design Thinking" is just out, ironically at the same time as Bruce Nussbaum has claimed that design thinking is dead. Over the last few years there has been an enormous interest in "design thinking" especially in some parts of the business and management community. Design thinking has been seen as an approach to innovation that can radically change business as usual and that can transform organizations to be able to act and respond quickly to new demands and challeng…

BOOK COMMENT: Richard J. Bernstein "The Pragmatic Turn"

The philosophical tradition that I have always found most appealing and suitable for the kind of work I do is pragmatism. This philosophical theme has been around for about 150 years and include famous thinkers as Charles S. Pierce, William James, John Dewey, and George H. Mead, on to present days representatives such as Richard Rorty and Hilary Putnam. Of these thinkers, Dewey and Rorty are the ones that has captured my attention over the years.

In a new book, Richard Bernstein goes through the history of pragmatism, how it emerged, who was involved, how pragmatism is related to more traditional schools of thought such as the analytical tradition and the continental. Bernstein is himself an important contributor to pragmatism and has influenced many, especially with his book "Beyond Objectivism and Relativism"(1983), a book that influenced me a lot when it was published. I read it with great interest and learned a lot.

The new book "The Pragmatic Turn" is interest…

CHI 2011, the field, development, grand challenge, and the need for more books

Back from this years CHI conference. This time in Vancouver. Bigger than ever before. Amazingly well organized for a conference of this size.

CHI is changing. It is not easy to really understand what the changes are when you are at the conference, but compared with just a few years ago it is easier to see that there is a difference.  The conference is broader, more diverse. I had the chance to go to several sessions and it is exciting to see that not only is the diversity growing but I also found the quality in general to be better than usual.

One clear change to me is a new interest in theory. I was very pleased to see a design theory session filling two large rooms, and so did the more theoretical design methods session. I hope that this is a sign that the field is getting more eager  to find ways to synthesize findings and results from all the studies, experiments, and designs projects.

A field of this size need people who can bring things together, who can conceptualize, theoriz…

Book review: "Smart things" by Mike Kuniavsky

It is obvious that we are entering an era when computation and interaction is becoming ubiquitous and pervasive. Anyone working in HCI, interaction design, user experience design, or whatever it is called, has to deal with challenges that is not only anymore about the layout on a screen. Even though this development is obvious it is still far from recognized and accepted in many corners of academia and industry. This creates a lot of problems since this development has serious consequences when it comes to what are necessary competencies and skill for someone working as a professional in the field.

Kuniavsky has written a book "Smart Things--ubiquitous computing user experience design" that is based on many years of practical experience that has led to insights and reflections that has great value to anyone thinking about interaction design. The book is based on a large number of examinations of particular designs. The creates a good overview of technologies, ideas, and desig…