Design, Develop, Create

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Essence of Design: some notes

What is the essence of Design?
Competing on the eight dimensions of quality D. A. Garvin Harvard Business Review 65 101-109 (1997)
In Garvin's influential essay on the dimensions of quality (1987) he relegates aesthetics and perceived quality as the most subjective aspects of product design, the facets most open to interpretation and therefore least manageable and thus relegated to mere footnotes in the product management literature. The implication of this it would seem, is that "whole product experience" is perhaps relegated to footnote, that the essence of design, is essentially unmanageable, and yet...

Expressing Experiences in Design B. Moggridge Interactions 6 17-25 (1999)
In contrast, Moggridge argues that the essence of design should in fact be the central focus of product design. The term he uses is 'Design Expression', the expression of the design. Design expression suggests the particular manifestation of a design. It is a holistic concept. The notion of 'expression' draws on and supports the language of design, design values such as: tradition, simplicity, elegance, complication, playfulness, youth, childhood, age, skill, strength, transparency etc.

According to Moggridge, design should satisfy many senses, not merely the eyes. Another way of putting this; design can harness many senses to better fulfil the designer's intent.

Since the Moggridge's article, the then rather unconventional examples, have, largely become mainstream products or features. The following products amplify some of these ideas:

Montage of tabletop interface props used in Hawaii Five 0 series (search link)
Usability Evaluation Considered Harmful (Some of the Time) S. Greenberg and B. Buxton 111-120 (2008)
All well and good then, but what is the essence of design? A finished product? No. Greenberg & Buxton (2008) contend that design is processual, a process that should remain rather open-ended as long as possible to explore, learn from and respond to that learning. Sketching is a crucial stage in HCI (human computer interface) designing. But they caution against making design appear too polished, that there is value in presenting it in rough form, as contingent and open ended, in order to facilitate learning (from the field, from users, etc). They caution against using high fidelity prototypes too soon.
The problem is that these working interactive sketches – especially when their representation conveys a degree of refinement beyond their intended purpose – are often mistaken for prototypes, i.e., an approximation of a finished product. Indeed, the HCI literature rarely talks about working systems as a sketch, and instead elevates them to low / medium / high fidelity prototyping status, which people perceive as increasingly suggestive of the finished product. Yet this perception may be inappropriate, for prototypes are very different in purpose from a sketch.