Design Perspectives and Rationale Explanation

DR systems are intended to support people in the design process by allowing designers to share, structure, and record their thought processes that drive the tangible actions of design. In order to understand how DR can aid in the design process, it is important to understand current perspectives in design theory. There is no universally accepted definition of design within the broader design community [2] so the following paragraphs will briefly describe some of the diverse views.

Wicked Problems

Rittel and Weber [21] dissented from Simon’s notion that design could be represented as a state-space, stating that planning problems are “wicked problems.” They list several reasons why planning problems are wicked problems, including the lack of a definitive formulation, stopping rules, or definitive measures of success. They also argue that each problem is essen-tially unique in certain aspects, and state there is not an enumerable set of potential solutions. Moreover, discrepancies in wicked problems can be explained in many ways, and the choice of explanation determines the nature of the resolution. In other words, different people will look at a single problem in different ways, and the way the problem is represented determines how the solution will be derived. For this reason, design can be viewed as an argumentative process aimed at coming to collective under-standing of how to explain a problem.

Issue-based information system (IBIS) was developed by Rittel as a means to structure this argumentation. In this sense, DR is intended to support collaborative design that involves designers with differing goals and perspectives. The structure afforded by DR provides a mechanism for designers to communicate their diverse thoughts with other designers working on the same task.

The primary benefit of DR from this perspective is that it can act as a collaborative communication tool. In fact, the unique nature of planning problems would present a potential barrier to the reuse of DR by students of designers and persons working on other projects. Still, the DR record could be used as a communication tool between initial designers and later designers or maintainers, who may have different views than the initial designers.


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