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Design methods is a broad area that focuses on:
• Divergence – Exploring possibilities and constraints of inherited situations by applying critical thinking through qualitative and quantitative research methods to create new understanding (problem space) toward better design solutions
• Transformation – Redefining specifications of design solutions which can lead to better guidelines for traditional and contemporary design activities (architecture, graphic, industrial, information, interaction, et al.) and/or multidisciplinary response
• Convergence – Prototyping possible scenarios for better design solutions that incrementally or significantly improve the originally inherited situation
• Sustainability – Managing the process of exploring, redefining and prototyping of design solutions continually over time
• Articulation - the visual relationship between the parts and the whole.
The role of design methods is to support design work, the aims of which can be varied, though they may include gaining key insights or unique essential truths resulting in more holistic solutions in order to achieve better experiences for users with products, services, environments and systems they rely upon. Insight, in this case, is clear and deep investigation of a situation through design methods, thereby grasping the inner nature of things intuitively.
Expansion of design methods
Different groups took John Chris Jones's book Design Methods, with its alternative message of using design as a framework for exploration and improvement, in different directions.
Emergence of design research and design studies
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, graduates of the Ulm School of Design in Germany
(Hochschule für Gestaltung - HfG Ulm: 1953–1968). began to spread Horst Rittel's approach of design methodology across Europe and the United States in context of their professional work and teaching what became known as the 'Ulm Model'.
Likewise, after the 1962 conference in England, many of the participants began to publish and to define an area of research that focused on design. Three "camps" seemed to emerge to integrate the initial work in Design Methods:
• Behaviorism interpreted Design Methods as a way to describe human behavior in relation to the built environment. Its clinical approach tended to rely on human behavior processes (taxonomic activities).
• Reductivism broke Design Methods down into small constituent parts. This scientific approach tended to rely on rationalism and objectified processes such as epistemological activities.
• Phenomenology approached design methods from an experiential approach (human experience and perception.)
The following is what design research is concerned with:
• The physical embodiment of man-made things, how these things perform their jobs, and how their users perceive and employ them
• Construction as a human activity, how designers work, how they think, and how they carry out design activity, and how non-designers participate in the process
• What is achieved at the end of a purposeful design activity, how an artificial thing appears, and what it means
• Embodiment of configurations
• Systematic search and acquisition of knowledge related to design and design activity
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