On Design

by Augusto Cuginotti

Looking around the topic we can see many ways of engaging to design. In systems design, sometimes different types of involvement are needed and I’ve been exploring the different approaches.

I’ve noticed that in the studies of strategy there is a design school, and according to this, does not really represent the multiple ways we can look at design today. The school of design in management talks about a small group of experts designing the future and running to implement it. It may work for some simple systems, but surely doesn’t work for complex ones, organizations included.

From what I’ve seen (and your input is welcome, I haven’t gone too far on this), design can be a user design or a user-centered design.

In the first the users of the system design the change themselves, they create the system they want to live in – a style that relates to the more complex systems that need to be designed, such as the school and health system of a community, for example. Banathy would probably be a supporter of this kind of design.

The second group of design relates more to the user’s consultation where changes are proposed and feedbacks are given to a groups of specialists in charge of design. This group seems to fit into the world of architecture or product design, for example, and can be divided into empathic design, where the developer puts himself on the user’s shoes, or participatory design, where the users play developer for a while, leaving to the experts to take over afterwards.

User DesignUser-Center Design
change themselvespropose changes
creation of the systemfeedback loops to improve the system
principle conservationchange management
what we want to conservewhat we want to change

User-Center Design

  • Empathic Design: developer into the world of end-user
  • Participatory Design: end-user into the world of developer

I add to the soup the reflection: a user-center design is related to processes of change management, where we look at things we want to change or create anew and act on those to close the gap between wrong and right, working or not-working, or even existent and non-existent.

The user design stands for identifying the principles that should be held and things that should continue to exist, so everything else can change accordingly.

If the latter really relates to a more complex system than the former, that could be an argument to support the use of principles when working to design complex systems.

Hear a little bit of Ackoff on education and design.

Read about Design Thinking and Human-centered design.