What I Discovered in a Design School That Many in Computing Don't Know -- and Some May Not Accept

Speaker:  Gilbert Cockton – Sunderland, United Kingdom
Topic(s):  Human Computer Interaction


I have taught Interaction Design for almost four decades at bachelors, masters, and doctorate level, with courses to practitioners and professionals, mostly in computing contexts. I began to draw on the mainstream design research literature from 1995 onwards. Some of what I’d read stuck and underpinned all future design teaching (e.g., critique, close reading, reflection). Some had no traction because it was too far from software engineering practice (e.g., co-evolution of problem and solution, wicked problems). Much still hadn’t been read at all.

In 2004 I was awarded a UK NESTA fellowship on Value-Centred Design. Through reading, collaboration, shadowing, and mentoring, I steadily filled many of the gaps in my understanding of creative design. A year after the end of this fellowship in 2009, after 26 years in academic computing, I moved to Northumbria University’s School of Design, where Jonathan Ive and Tim Brown (amongst others) studied. Once I was immersed in a design research centre and co-teaching studio-based design courses, I discovered and filled more gaps in my knowledge of design research and parallel literatures on Innovation in business and engineering. I continued to learn over a decade of teaching, research, and academic leadership, first in design, and then also in media.

During this time, many of the foundations of creative practice have been overlooked in agile approaches to software development, despite drawing on insights from innovation management (where Scrum as a term originates). Most agile approaches remain wedded to an idealised engineering design mindset that obscures some important insights about creative design work and innovation practices. Unquestioned and mostly tacit requirements for systematic, rational and rigorous project management are incompatible with the realities of creative innovation practices. In human-centred design, such requirements can also obstruct effective exploitation of insights from user research and evaluation.

In this talk I will present fundamentals of creative studio practice from a half century of empirical design research, discuss their implications for software development, and propose a range of practical responses. These fundamentals include ideation, creative direction, balance, integration, generosity, problem-solution co evolution, primary generators, and reflective conversation with the materials of a design situation. I contrast these with enduring software engineering practices that claim to promote systematic rigour but instead obstruct software quality and cause waste. I then show how conservative software development practices, including agile approaches, can be adapted to benefit from creative studio practices and product innovation strategies in ways that increase the effectiveness of human focused design activities such as user research and user experience evaluation. These adaptations and extensions include: purpose-led product-service strategy; concurrent engineering from project inception onwards; explicit connections between different arenas of design work; systematic tracking and critical creative reflection.

About this Lecture

Number of Slides:  35-40
Duration:  45 minutes
Languages Available:  English
Last Updated: 

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