Design Symbolic Information Processing

Simon [26] viewed design as symbolic information processing and humans as goal-oriented information processors. He argues that design involves devising courses of action aimed at changing current situations into preferred ones. This broad view of design includes, as Simon states, “the core of all professional training.” Design is viewed as a process of generating and navigating through a state-space. He argues that people do not, and cannot, consider all possible conditions, alternatives, and constraints, and therefore cannot design an optimal course of action. This cognitive limitation he termed bounded rationality [26]. Rather than exhaustively considering design issues, people choose satisfactory solutions based on the information available.

The argumentation structure of DR is argued to provide a natural framework in which designers can reflect on decisions. This structure can help focus the search for design alternatives, making cognitive processing more effective. Although designers cannot consider all possible alternatives, if rationale is recorded, maintainers will better be able to identify which ideas were deliberated upon. Reviewers who are working on different projects may identify important issues that they would not have otherwise considered. And, students and researchers could assess the impact of design decisions based on the outcome of a design project.

However, it is often impossible to identify causal relationships in design because of the subtle factors that can influence the effectiveness of design projects. Recording DR creates the opportunity for people to perform a post hoc analysis of design decisions. Designers are constrained by the amount of information they can process. Because of this, they may be hesitant to record decisions that could later be scrutinized by people with more information at their disposal.


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