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Informed Designing

In 1998, I began to describe in talks at the ITEA Conference and elsewhere the notion of informed designing. Informed designing was opposed to the kind of "intuitive designing" that Christopher Alexander described as plaguing the field of architecture. Decisions were made based on instinct or "feel", rather than using such markers as guides that then get tested through analysis and reason.

The following are some key criteria for doing informed designing:

  • Do research and gather information on relevant concepts and cases
  • Employ key concepts and cases in design planning and use them to explain design thinking and decision-making
  • Use effective designer strategies, select the appropriate "next step" to take when designing (choosing from among multiple design process models)
  • Exhibit "professional vision" by focusing attention on critical performance areas (fault detection, troubleshooting, problem diagnosis
  • Work in teams effectively: sharing ideas, delegating roles and managing time
  • Investigate and balance intuitions about the artifact being designed with rational thinking of key principles cases
  • Take measured risks with ideas in creative ways
  • Conduct experiments and use data-based insights in next design iterations
  • Be self-reflective about design work and the work of others
Design decisions can be informed by the laws of science and engineering, or by making analogies to cases similar to the design of note. An informed designer should know something about the following fields to do an effective job: engineering science, product design, manufacturing, marketing, and an expertise on the targeted user [Crismond, 1997]. Informed designers tend to gather data related need to chose on set of criteria over another. The Wright Brothers were informed by how designing their airplane should be informed more by studying cases of birds -- and dealing with issues of balance during flight -- than designing an especially powerful engine, which their main competitor was trying to create in order to achieve self-powered flight.
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