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Design Thinking Readings: Going Deeper

Now and then I post a list of what I consider to be core readings in design theory. This time I decided to call the list Design Thinking Readings: Going Deeper. The reason for this new title is that I want to promote design thinking, but also push those who are engaged in design thinking as a movement or approach to go deeper.
Design thinking is a notion that has received a lot of interest during the last decade, which is a development that I see as extremely encouraging. However, as many others have pointed out, when something gets popular there is a danger that it also looses its core and depth and grounding. I have over the years on this blog commented on many books on design theory and design thinking. Often I try to be positive and supportive to these attempts of developing design thinking as an approach, even though it is not always easy. I truly believe that to move a field ahead, quantity is important, that is, to advance the field we do not necessary need the final book on des…

Book note: Design thinking supporting radically different purposes

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On my desk I have for a while had two books that both offer toolkits for design and design thinking. One is aimed at supporting "growths" in terms of business and revenue and one is aimed at developing products and services for communities in need in Africa, Asia and Latin America. With such different purposes, it is interesting to note that what they present as design thinking and the design process is so similar (at least on the surface).

The two books are "Designing for growth -- a design thinking tool kit for managers" by Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie, and "Human Centered Design Toolkit" by IDEO.

When looking at the table of content for the two books the similarities becomes even more obvious. For instance, it is maybe surprising to learn that the chapter "Develop a sustainable revenue model"is to be found in the IDEO book while "Journey Mapping" is found in the Liedtka & Ogilvie book. Several other topics can be found in both,…

Book micro note: Verbeek's "Moralizing technology"

After a long break with it, I just resumed my reading of Peter-Paul Verbeek's "Moralizing technology--understanding and designing the morality of things" and I realized even more than before how excellent the book is!. Today's observation from the readings is that, I think for the first time, I have read a treatment of Foucault's understanding of ethics that make sense to me. And not just that, for the first time I really  think I have to read some of Foucault. Another observation is that the way Verrbeek treats the notion of 'subject' is, to me, really useful and much richer and productive than most of the investigations I have seen before. The relation between a subject and technology is outlined in a way that makes sense and is highly convincing to me. Will review the book later!

Book note: "Design Thinking" edited by Thomas Lockwood

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During these last few years the notion of design thinking has evolved into a concept that is attracting enormous attention both in academia and business. However, some have argued that design thinking is only a hype, some that design thinking is already dead, and some have already moved on to the next big thing, whatever that is. However, while design has gotten some serious attention from design researchers (such as, Schon, Rittel, Cross, Krippendorff, Nelson & Stolterman), it has also received attention from the world of business and practice.

A recent book that brings together reflections with a focus on the business world is  "Design Thinking: Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience, and Brand Value" (2010) edited by Thomas Lockwood. Lockwood is the president of the Design Management Institute (DMI), which is an institute that is aimed at the advancement of design in management and business.

The book contains about 24 short essays by writers that are either resea…

Some notes on ACM Interactions and the CHI community

As some of you may know, together with Ron Wakkary, I have been the Editor-in-Chief now for the ACM Interactions magazine for more than two years. It has been a great experience in so many ways. We have tried to give newcomers to the field, from both academia and industry, an opportunity to share their experiences, knowledge and insights, while also bring in the most distinguished names in the field to share their expertise. ACM has also been instrumental in developing a new website for the magazine, that is now slowly becoming a core part of Interactions.

After having worked with Interactions for a while, it is clear to me that there is need for this form intermediary type of publication between research publications and trade journals. First of all, Interactions is not peer reviewed. This means we can publish new perspectives and ideas that would be almost impossible to get published in traditional conferences and journals. If you take a look at ACM Interactions over time, it is cle…

A note on a lost and found book: C. West Churchman "The Design of Inquiring Systems"

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One of the books that has had the most influence on me is "The Design of Inquiring Systems:  Basic Concepts of Systems and Organizations" by C. West Churchman. The book was published in 1971. I probably got my copy in the early 80s. The reason why I read the book at that time was not primarily because I wanted to, but because my teacher at that time, Kristo Ivanov, who would later become my PhD adviser was a big fan of Churchman.

My copy of the book has long been missing. I do not even remember when I last saw it, but it is many years ago. I have over the years tried to get a new copy, but the book is out of print and used copies are very expensive. But, just a few days ago, I was re-arranging some books in my office and suddenly the book was there! It looks great! It looks like a book that is used a lot. It is full of notes and comments (see image).

Thinking back on the time when I read the book and also met Churchman and heard him talk about his ideas, I am quite sure that…

CHI reviewing: Some reflections

Reviewing for a quality conference such as CHI is an excellent way to find out what is going on in the field. What is even more beneficial is that I have to read things I would never otherwise read.  I promised to review 8 papers this year since I felt bad being on several submitted papers. (We should all pay our dues by reviewing at least as many papers as we submit.)

Anyway, I have now reviewed all of them (well, working on the last one). One interesting aspect that I saw in many of the papers is a mismatch between the way theory is said to be used and how it is actually used.

The typical mistake looks like this. The authors start with an introduction, usually quite good. Then comes the "theory" part, also in many cases surprisingly good. Several papers have impressed me by taking on quite ambitious theoretical perspectives in relation to their research. In some cases I read excellent reviews of existing theory with quite interesting reflections on how it relates to the to…

Book Note: "Observing the user experience" by Goodman, Kuniavsky, and Moed

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There are many books that in one way or another describe how to do interaction design (broadly defined). In most cases I do not find these book very interesting for one simple reason. The reason is that they are neither inspiring when it comes to theory, or practical when it comes to guidance. Books like these, mainly labeled as textbooks, are what I see as "in-between" books, that is, they present ideas and theory in a way that is far from grounded and foundational, and they present guidance that is not based on real insights and knowledge about practice.

I just got a copy of the second edition of "Observing the user experience--a practitioner's guide to user research" by Elizabeth Goodman, Mike Kuniavsky and Andrea Moed (Morgan Kaufmann, 2012). To me, this is a book that is not in-between. It is "a practitioner's guide" written in a language and at a level that is very useful. Each aspect of user research is presented in a simple and clear way …

Pattern Language and HCI

For many years I have been intrigued by the notion of Pattern Language as developed by Christopher Alexander. It is obvious that I am not the only one in the field of HCI and design in general who has found this particular way of structuring knowledge about design and designs interesting. There are numerous attempts by researchers and practitioners to develop pattern languages for one or the other aspect of interaction design. Personally, I have not been involved in any serious work with pattern language development or use, so I do not have a lot of hands-on experience, but I have since the first time I read about the idea in the early 1980s constantly reflected upon its fundamental assumptions, philosophical claims, and practical promises.

I am therefore very happy that Yue Pan (a phd student in HCI in my department) approached me and suggested a study on the present status of pattern language in our field. We are at the moment interviewing a number of people who have developed patte…

How to stay competent in the field of interaction design

I am at the moment in Seattle for a few days doing interviews for our NSF project. The project is mainly focused on how professionals understand and use methods and tools. The study I am doing at the moment is aimed at the examination of professional competence and especially on what professionals do to stay competent over time. So far I have done four interviews with highly skilled and experienced UX professionals. They all have impressive experience and competence. It is fascinating with professionals at this level, they are confident, they know that they are competent, and they can explain why.  They also know how the industry works and what it takes to stay ahead and to survive in this competitive environment.

In my interviews, these professionals reveal their way of thinking about competence and what they do to stay competent in a rapidly developing field. Not staying ahead of the field, not knowing what is going on, not engaging with colleagues and networks to constantly learn, …

"The Design Way" 2nd Edition, MIT Press is now out!

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Today I got a package from MIT Press with copies of the 2nd Edition of mine and Harold Nelson's book "The Design Way". It looks very cook with a bright orange cover.

It is possible to order now from Amazon and other places. This is how it looks.

And below you can find the Table of Content and also the Preface to the Second Edition.



Table of Content & Preface
Preface to the Second Edition ix
Acknowledgments xiii

Prelude 1

I THE FIRST TRADITION 11

II FOUNDATIONS 25
1 The Ultimate Particular 27
2 Service 41
3 Systemics 57
4 The Whole 93

III FUNDAMENTALS 103
5 Desiderata 105
6 Interpretation and Measurement 119
7 Imagination and Communication 127
8 Judgment 139
9 Composing and Connecting 159
10 Craft and Material 173

IV METAPHYSICS 181
11 The Evil of Design 183
12 The Splendor of Design 191
13 The Guarantor-of-Design (g.o.d.) 201

V  A DRAWING TOGETHER 213
14 Becoming a Designer 215
15 Being a Designer 239

The Way Forward 261

References 265
Index 271



Preface to the Second Edition

It was with mixed…

Book note: "Mapping Design Research"

The book "Mapping Design Research" (2012) edited by Simon Grand & Wolfgang Jonas is a great new addition to the field of design philosophy and theory. The book contains 21 essays covering different aspects of design theory. It is a mix of older seminal writings from recognized design thinkers such as Herbert A. Simon, Christopher Frayling, Bruce Archer, and John Chris Jones. There are also some essays by authors who are not primarily seen as design thinkers, such as Bruno Latour, John Law, Michel Callon, and Friedrich Nietzsche. The book also contains some essays from contemporary design thinkers by among others Wolfgang Jones, Ken Friedman, and Anthony Dunne.

I have not yet had time to read all chapters but several of the chapters are texts I have encountered before. I am looking forward to read the ones that I am not familiar with. It seems to be a good collection and I congratulate Grand and Jonas for putting this anthology together!

We have now officially started!!

Today Intel officially made public a new research center for Social Computing. It is a fantastic project with several universities involved and the overlord is Paul Dourish at UC Irvine. Jeff Bardzell, Shaowen Bardzell and I consitute the Indiana University part of the center. It is a 5 year project and a lot of funding! This will be a major part of my research in the next years. It is very exciting. The people on the project are exceptional and the overall design of the project is quite grand.

Here is how the project is described:

"Social Computing is the study of information technologies and digital media as social and cultural phenomena.

Since its earliest days, computing has always been a social phenomenon, from people gathered around a screen to play Spacewar to the emergence of email as ARPANET’s “killer app.” As technologies have evolved, so too have the social and cultural issues with which they are entwined. The 21st century Internet is one of social media, socia…

Why "Just Enough Is More" is not Enough

In an article on FastCompany's site Co.Design, Tom Hobbs writes about the state of UI design. He argues that "the aesthetic of UIs has followed a dominant ideology that attempts to replicate the physical world". Hobbs is quite skeptical towards this form of "skeuomorphism". The basic argument that Hobbs make has been made before and is a reasonable one. At the same time when Hobbs argues against what he sees as a problematic, or even dogmatic, design philosophy he ends up advocating another philosophy, almost in a similarly dogmatic way.

I have no problem with Hobbs general statement "There’s a lot of making and thoughtful critical analysis to be done of the solutions we create before we evolve approaches and philosophies that are truly unique to the discipline of UI design." This is all good and well. But when he continues and writes that "To do this, we need to design UIs that are stripped down as much as they can be. This means avoiding superf…

Reading my old PhD dissertation

After six years in Indiana, I just got all my books shipped to me from Sweden. Among the books, I found a few copies of my PhD dissertation from 1991. The title is in Swedish "Designarbetets dolda rationalitet" [in English "The Hidden Rationality of Design Work "]. It was written in Swedish. Only one chapter is translated to English. Anyway, today I read parts of it and realized two things. First, I think the text is still quite good, which is kind of a surprise. I have not read or looked at it in more than ten years, maybe more. Secondly, I realized that almost all my scholarly work I do today can be traced back to my dissertation. This is not so much of a surprise, since I know other who have the same experience. You only do research on a very small set of ideas during your lifetime.

Anyway, even though the text was published in 1991, I am thinking about translating parts of it, or maybe more correct, translate and re-write parts of the text. It might finally bec…

Book note: "In Praise of Reason" by Michael P. Lynch

One of the most mundane activities that humans engage in is reasoning. We do it all the time. We try to find reasons for our own actions and for others (strange) behavior. At the same time, reasoning can be seen as the most advanced activity that humans engage in.

Reasons are the intellectual tools we use to convince others about our own perspective or solution. According the Michael P. Lynch, our society is facing a serious problem related to this daily human activity of reasoning. He argues that we have entered an era when many individuals and large groups do not accept the reasons of others as valid. There is a decrease in the trust of what he sees as the "common currency of reason", that is, there is less acceptance of the idea that we all, despite opinions and beliefs, are using the same fundamental set of rules and principles upon which we can constructively reason around a particular topic in a productive way. Instead, he argues that we see more people and groups expr…

CHI 2012

I am home after having spent almost a week at CHI 2012 in Austin, Texas. First two days I was chairing the doctoral consortium. The consortium is a way of looking into the future! The students are some of the best in the field and their work is what will be seen in CHI in a few years. I can not really say that there was a clear trend except that the diversity within HCI will grow even more.

The CHI conference itself was great. The last few years we have seen serious changes in the content of CHI. It is more diverse, more including of perspectives and approaches to HCI research. There were many papers that would never have been presented at CHI just a few years ago. Personally I am of course happy to see some more theoretically oriented papers and more design oriented papers. It was also exciting to see the interactivity exhibition, that is, all the new designs, artifacts and systems that manifest research in a more concrete way.

And then finally, all the people. Since I basically onl…

Book series on Design

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The MIT Press book series labeled "Design thinking, design theory"with me and Ken Friedman as Series Editors has now published three books! We are delighted about this and we of course expect to be able to publish more in the years to come. The three already published are:

"Design Things" by A. Telier (aka, Thomas Binder, Pelle Ehn, Giorgio de Mechelis, Guilio Jacucci, Per Linde, and Ina Wagner), 2011.
"Adversarial Design" by Carld DiSalvo, 2012

"China's Design Revolution" by Lorraine Justice, 2012.

I hope you will enjoy these books and coming ones too. And maybe you also will be inspired to write your own book. If so, get in touch with me.

Can designers train their intuition?

We are entering a time of complexity that is recognized everywhere, especially in design circles. Don Norman's latest book "Living with complexity" is a sign of this. But the fact that the world is getting more complex is not a new insight. Christopher Alexander wrote in 1964 in his book "Notes on the synthesis of form" that "more and more design problems are reaching insoluble levels of complexity" (p 3). He argues in his book that due to the increasing complexity, design can no longer be an activity that is done by people who has an innate ability to make good judgments. He argues that good intuition is not enough. Design is in need of more systematic approaches. Out of this idea grew his proposal for the use of pattern language in design.

Even though Alexander argued that intuition is not enough, the notion of intuition has always and will probably continue to be a core concept when it comes to describing what is needed from a designer. Intuition i…

Some ongoing readings

On my desk at the moment I have some book that I slowly are trying to get through. The problem is as usual that they are good which makes the reading slower at the same time as rewarding.

These are the books I am reading right now:

Christoffer Alexander "Notes on the Synthesis of Form", (1964). 
This is a re-read. I read this book in 1983 and I was really inspired and excited. Now, after only have read a few pages, I am equally excited and realize that many of the ideas I think are my own are probably from this book.

Bruno Latour, "Reassembling the Social", (2005)
Together with some PhD students and some colleagues we are reading one chapter every other week. Then we meet for an hour to discuss that chapter. It takes time but it is really worth it. This is a challenging book in which Latour redefines sociology in a way that is consistent with his earlier work while highly critical of traditional sociology. Is is fascinating to read someone who takes on such a huge ta…

Book cover "The Design Way" Second Edition

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This is the book cover for the second edition of "The Design Way". Hopefully it will be published this coming summer. The publisher is MIT Press.

Understanding Interaction Design Practice

The research project on design methods that we started in September (funded by NSF) is coming along. We are now in the middle of a first interview study where we focus on a range of aspects related to design practice and particularly the use of design methods ("methods" in its broadest possible meaning).

As always when you interview professionals they impress you with the competence they express and their understanding of design and the design process. These practitioners stress aspects of the design process that in many ways are opposite to what non-designers or students believe, for instance that process is more important than outcome,  and that judgment is more important than method. They are constantly unwilling to make clear statements about "what works best", "what method is best", "what are crucial skills", etc. Instead they always bring the discussion back to the particular, the particular situation, particular user, particular client, p…