The Collaborative Designer May 23, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in Ambiguity, architect types, books, change, collaboration, problem solving, questions.
Tags: co-creation, collaboration, Conceptual Age, Conceptual Economy, David Holston, Design Economy, empathic design, HOW books, HOW design, participatory design, Shawn M McKinney, The Strategic Designer
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Summary: You don’t need to be a designer to benefit from the best practices espoused in this magnificent new book. A must-have for designers, but also for those in project management and anyone who works with designers.
Based on over 100 interviews with designers, researchers and educators, The_Strategic_Designer by David Holston provides an overview of the design process and best practices.
The Strategic Designer: Tools and techniques for managing the design process, published by F+W Media and HOW Design, is billed as a Strategic Graphic Design Thinking book.
Despite this categorization, the subject matter transcends graphic design and can be universally applied to any of the design trades and professions including product and environmental design.
The book description will sound familiar to anyone working in architecture and related design professions:
As designers look for ways to stay competitive in the conceptual economy and address the increasing complexity of design problems, they are seeing that they must not only be experts in form, but must also have the ability to collaborate, to design in context and be accountable through measurement.
By adopting a process that considers collaboration, context and accountability, designers move from makers of things to strategists.
The book focuses on the designer’s workflow, ideation techniques, client relationships and methods for measuring the success of their projects.
An excellent foreward by Shawn M McKinney gets things off to a fast start – which, alone, is worth the investment in the book.
Each chapter covers a specific design phase emphasis, providing a practical step-by-step approach, complete with tools and techniques.
Overview of the Design Process – a process rife with opportunities for misinformation, dead ends, and divergent tracks, as well as amazing outcomes
The Value of Process – the benefits of having a well-defined design process
The Collaborative Designer – emphasizing co-creation, communication, mutual benefit, respect and trust in a strong client-designer relationship. This is a particularly rich chapter, addressing and answering such questions as: What makes a Good designer? What Makes a Good Client? and Clients to Avoid. There’s a wonderful sidebar on: Seven Principles for Managing Creative Tension.
Empathic Design – explaining how research provides a path and imperative for moving forward
Understanding the Business – includes a breakdown of basic strategy techniques and an explanation of the purpose of business analysis as understanding and defining goals of the client
Designing with the End User in Mind – with an emphasis on facilitating and moderating participatory and collaborative work sessions. The Designing for People chapter focuses on research as a valuable tool for gaining insight into the organizational needs of clients and their prospective audiences.
Managing Ideas – especially when ideating with others in a participatory or collaborative setting, relying heavily on the experiences and knowledge of people involved.
Making Strategy Visible – how the designer takes an empathic approach to design that connects business goals with user needs.
Design Accountability – asking: Why is design hard to measure? And answering by sharing significant research findings and metrics. Salient quote: “The price for a seat at the decision-making table is accountability.”
Planning in a Turbulent Environment – the days of using a linear design process are over. Strategic designers face increasingly wicked problems. A helpful framework offered by project management.
Refining Your Process – so it can provide a common understanding for “how things get done” mitigating wasted efforts while creating value for the client and user alike.
The author places the book and subject squarely in Dan Pink’s Conceptual Economy, a term describing the contribution of creativity, innovation, and design skills to economic competitiveness, especially in the global context.
Later in The Strategic Designer, Rotman School of Management dean Roger Martin says that the world is moving from the Information Economy to a Design Economy. A small distinction, but one that unnecessarily complicates matters. I would look to a book such as this to clarify the playing field, at the very least to acknowledge that the labeling of epochs and phraseology are still a work-in-progress.
The book’s strength is not in creating new knowledge – but in repackaging what is largely already known, experientially by every designer – in an easy to carry tome.
Readers, for example, who have perused Wikipedia articles on various topics related to design strategy will recognize the source of several of the author’s summaries.
In this sense, the book is not a product of the Conceptual Age, but instead is a well-designed, convenient and accessible agglomeration, aggregating both explicit and, perhaps the greater achievement here, tacit knowledge on the subject. The book is no less of an achievement for doing so.
The design world is a much better place for having this book at its disposal.
Conclusion: The Strategic Designer is a must-have book for designers, those who manage design projects and those who work with designers in a collaborative setting.
Addenda: How can this book not have a single review?
HOW books makes books on high quality paper, books that feel good in the hand, and themselves serve as exemplary reminders that ebooks should not be our only option. The Strategic Designer is no exception.
Design in the Open December 4, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in architect, collaboration, identity, IPD, questions.
Tags: co-creation, co-creative, collaboration, cooperation, crowdsourcing, participatory design
With little interest in giving a dog and pony show, I want the meeting to be a working session.
To give them a taste of how we – as a team – are to work with.
And to make good use of everybody’s time.
Get some real value out of our brief time together, whatever the results.
We’re not going to pretend we have all the answers.
So we’ll ask a lot of questions.
And answer some of their questions with questions of our own.
Not to be difficult.
But to engage the client in a dialogue.
An Identity Problem
Participatory design is a design approach that seeks to actively involve all stakeholders (employees, partners, customers, citizens, end users) in the design process to help assure that what is designed meets their needs and functions well for all.
It involves cooperation and collaboration, and the attitudes and mindset necessary to allow these practices to flower.
Prior to its popularity in the 60’s and 70’s, participatory design was known as Cooperative Design.
Now we have Crowdsourcing and Integrated Design.
And would you know it, Co-Creation, too.
In The Power of Co-Creation: Build It with Them to Boost Growth, Productivity, and Profits, authors Venkat Ramaswamy and Francis Gouillart explain how to tap into ideas, design and build products and services by engaging directly with employees, stakeholders, clients and suppliers.
Even with competitors.
The applications to, and implications for, Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) – especially in terms of how co-creation can help to lower risks and costs – are readily apparent.
“Participatory design always works.”
And like IPD it involves a democratization and decentralization of value creation among other benefits.
Participatory design is a far more democratic approach to design than most architects today would be comfortable with.
And that’s too bad.
It’s one that requires relinquishing control of the very design process that the architect struggles with to lead.
The American architect Charles Moore – a successful proponent of participatory design – had flippantly said that, in his own case, his oversized ego allowed him to relinquish his reigns on design.
This is an accurate statement in that Moore alone among architects at the time (1980’s) had the self-awareness and self-belief – the confidence – that he could take any form the masses came up with and turn it into an exceptional work of architecture.
And he was almost always right.
Charles Moore, an incredibly intelligent and creative architect and entrepreneur, late in his career said that the only architectural truth that he discovered was that “participatory design always works.”
Plain Modern: The Architecture of Brian Mackay-Lyons presents the work of Charles Moore’s internationally acclaimed, California-based firm Moore Ruble Yudell, whose unique expertise in community involvement and participatory design has profoundly influenced the course of contemporary architecture.
Moore’s advocacy of user participation in the design process influenced a whole generation of designers.
One of these was Brian MacKay-Lyons of MacKay-Lyons, whose mentor was Charles Moore.
A Design Process by any Other Name
But in changing names of this powerful design process over the years have we inadvertently thrown the baby out with the bath water?
Today we may talk about building social ecosystems, designing engagement platforms and expanding scope and scale of network interactions, but what we really mean when we say transforming enterprise operations through co-creation is…participatory design.
Whatever name you give it, participatory design is fast replacing traditional thinking that viewed design innovation as a proprietary activity.
Changing names on such a regular basis has led to books such as the unlikely (and awkwardly) titled “Crowdsourcing: Neologism, Independent contractor, Outsourcing, Crowd, Participatory design, Human-based computation, Citizen science, Web 2.0, … intelligence, Distributed computing.”
Architectural collaborator Dave Premi reflects on participatory design as a highly creative and evolving process when he looks back on his experience collaborating:
“I have been involved with MacKay-Lyons’ participatory design process on a number of buildings. Each time we created a new process, since every client has its own requirements. You have to mold the process each time to suit the requirements. It’s not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ method.”
Other take-aways from Charles Moore and his protégé MacKay-Lyons’ on participatory design:
- To succeed, the architect can’t have his mind made up before working with the public on the design
- No preconceived ideas
- The secret to making it work: don’t get defensive
- Have the conviction that you can make a nice building out of anything anyone comes up with
- In the participatory design process, “the public define the shapes, we refine them.”
- Refining building form is up to the architect; their sole domain
- Participatory design is somewhat similar to advocacy planning of the 1960s where architects acted as midwives for lay people’s visions
Design in the Open
Architects, upon being asked a design or building question, can no longer say let me go back to the office and study it.
Because it’s all integrated and participatory from here on out.
It’s all open source.
Today we have science in the open, theater in the open, “out in the open” with CNN’s Rick Sanchez.
But design in the open?
To succeed, get buy-in and move projects forward, architects and other design professionals will need to design in the open.
Learning from Participatory Design
Take this exchange from a recent interview in the Huffington Post between Guy Horton and Witold Rybczynski:
Guy Horton: In your opinion, can architects reclaim more of a public role? This is something that is discussed in professional circles. There is the perception that they are more insular and out of the loop and have ceded much of their power to developers. What can architects do to elevate the visibility of their role?
Witold Rybczynski: I just watched an interview with Charles Moore on YouTube. He was talking about how architects should listen to the public, rather than dictate to it. It was quite compelling. That was in the 1980s, and neither postmodernism nor Moore’s vision of participatory design caught on. Not many architects had Moore’s confidence to share design decisions with their clients. Moreover, architects tend to be persuaders rather than listeners. Success in the architectural profession–realizing one’s vision in something as large and complex as a building–requires a strong ego and a single-minded, almost obsessive, attention to detail. These qualities can easily turn to arrogance. It is, as the French say, a déformation professionelle.
If the result is an increase in participatory design, here’s to a déformation professionelle in 2011.
Watch the interview.
And read this book: one of the best books ever written on the subject for those who want to encourage full participation in their own work, universally esteemed and revered,the Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making by Sam Kaner et al. Highly recommended.