How Do You Design?

Courtesy of Hugh Dubberly.

Courtesy of Hugh Dubberly.


Hugh Dubberly’s “How Do You Design?”


After exploring Dubberly’s “How Do You Design?” examples of processes, I have recently touched on one such process during Project A. Koberg and Bagnall’s reference to Analysis and Synthesis is indeed a direct reference to Horst Rittel. Rittel is the originator of this very model, having introduced design thinking and the analysis-synthesis formula for solving simple problems at the University of California Berkeley in the early 60s (as noted in Dubberly’s “Why Horst WJ Rittel Matters,” in partnership with Chanpory Rith).

However, it’s the concept of analyzing a simple problem and concurring with a solution that is ideal for an individual designer. When the analysis-synthesis formula is framed within a group, it’s not always easy to agree on a final solution – the very reason that I decided to investigate “wicked problems” in this regard. With respect to Koberg and Bagnall, what I’ve learned by examining their other models of the analysis-synthesis concept, was the importance of evaluating a design once it has entered the culture. Here, we begin to exercise third and fourth-order design, evaluating the design in social aspects within cultural system.

Looking at other examples of process models, I found the “Diverge / Converge vs. Narrow / Expand” process very interesting. Often, what I’m finding through research of processes is that there’s typically similar patterns that emerge which are thereby labeled something different from the last model that I “discovered.” Perhaps, there’s a process just for this realization! Anyway, the idea of breaking the problem into sub-problems reminded me of my own process of creating a word list. Instead, I focus on which combination of words accurately define a direction toward a solution, rather than dissecting the sub problems in order to formulate a definite solution for the overall problem at hand. I could very well see how I might want to try the “decomposing” and “recombining” technique within my ideation process. Bela Banathy and Nigel Cross’ contemporary models of divergence and convergence also seemed to resonate with me – Cross’ schematic is much easier for me to follow than Banathy’s, yet the concept of a design “ebb and flow” within design thinking, is really the gist of formulating our own methodology dependent on the type of project (large scope vs. small scope).

Nathan Felde’s (case study) of Clement Mok and Keith Yamashita’s AIGA 12-step process was a clever way to narrate each step, based on the Iraq war. He further rewrites the process to include a rather slice-of-life view as a working designer during a contractual obligation. This is an aspect within my own methodology that at times resurfaces when I need to revisit the freelance method versus an in-house method, which is much less complicated (since there are people dedicated to billing, scheduling, filing, filtering client issues, tracking progress and managing deadlines for you).