Notes on "Wicked Problems in Design Thinking" by Richard Buchanan

The concept of capital-D Design is amorphous and continues to expand in scope, from specialized trades (Graphic Design, Industrial Design), to a generalized “liberal art of technological culture” (page 5).

The author describes this strange journey from silos of specialization to a generalized approach of research in the 20th century.

To quote John Dewey (The Quest for Certainty) :

The key takeaway from the Dewey’s block quotes seems to suggest that Science, art, and technology’s interactions in the 20th century transformed from a method for gaining knowledge through proscribed process, to one of gradual expansion of knowledge through incremental, evolutionary precision. This is achieved by planned set of linear operations. But what remains poorly understood is the relationships between art, technology, and science as a set of specialized knowledge. Science is a product of a process, and is easily mistaken for truth, rather than the outcome of process.

There is too much reverence for this process, and when this “recipe” is applied to technology, we run the hazard of advancing (through technology) inferior solutions to human problems (e.g., making a better mousetrap is given precedent over improving our understanding of rodents and what attracts them). Dewey describes this “circular relationship (page 7) between arts of production and science.”

“Instead of meaning knowledge of how to make and use artifacts or the artifacts themselves, technology for Dewey is an art of experimental thinking” The author suggestions (page 8) that technology can be produced through science, but that art (liberal art context), “lies behind and provides the basis for creating other types of products.”

Observations:

From last week’s reading, the author described Edison’s experimentation through iteration is slow and sloppy. It does not follow the same set of steps typically found in the scientific method. But it is another approach to development of technology.

In the syllabus, Jonathan Chapman described design as, “the process of turning existing situations into preferred ones.” This is a quote by Herbert Simon. Herbert Simon is mentioned (On page 9), and his text is quoted from The Science of the Artificial.

The proper study of mankind is the science of design, not only as the professional component of a technical education but as a core discipline for every liberally educated man.”

Design as a multidisciplinary practice can be categorized in four different ways (page 9):

  • Symbolic and visual communication (graphic design)

  • Material objects (product/industrial design)

  • Activities and organized services (Interaction Design/UX)

  • Complex systems or environments for living, working, playing (urban/city planning, architecture, sustainability, etc.)

The author then explains how these discrete categories could not remain compartmentalized, and quickly expanded, overlapped, and evolved into other fields (architecture is a good example).

The author suggests that this pattern grew beyond categories, and into a set of placements.

Placements are constrained, but can exist within different circumstances (contexts).

Categories lock the ways we think about problems, and limit us to thinking in those older (and possibly outdated) paradigms. Placement allows for novel approaches to existing problems, outside of their original contexts.

The author assert (on page 13), that placements are primary, and categories are secondary. Scientists and designers often struggle to communicate within a meaningful framework, because designers rarely work within the boundaries of any one discipline - scientists are typically specialized to specific fields (page 14).

From page 15: it is tempting to divide design thinking into two steps: problem definition, problem solution. This suggests a linear process (which is clearly not true). The author also makes their first mention of “wicked problems.” And on page 16 the author suggests that designers often are confronted with “wicked problems” because design is a universal field, related to all human experience.




Why putting on the brakes is not enough

Pittsburgh Public.jpeg

Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, knows his platform allows for bad craziness to spread like cancer, but fuck it! He’s still getting rich. Who cares if his platform amplified the worst voices in this country, and did so at the shared expense of everyone else? Right? Anyone who still works for Twitter should seriously reconsider what they are doing with their lives. Imagine getting paid to provide Nazis a global megaphone. How do you sleep at night, @Jack?

Thoughts on Ruined by Design, by Mike Monteiro:


I’ve finished reading Mike Monteiro’s book, Ruined By Design, and his message is clear: “as designers, we need to think of ourselves as gatekeepers.” This means we must refuse to put harmful designs (in any form) into the world. He uses the analogy of the Hippocratic Oath, and a doctor’s pledge to “first, do no harm,” and argues for designers to adopt a code of ethics.

I can hardly disagree with the notion that designers, like many other professions, ought to operate under a set of values. But is this enough? No. It is not enough to *not* do unethical design. It’s a good start, but it is not enough. For every harmful act, for every data breach, for every easily preventable hack, for every racist and hateful Tweet, for every man-made environmental catastrophe, and for every preventable tragedy brought upon us in the name of “innovative technology” and “disruption,” there is another mile we all travel on this dark highway. Refusing to do something harmful is a neutral act, and ought to be perceived as part of a neutral position. If you are someone who remains “neutral” on climate change, staggering wealth inequality, or the very real threats of fascism and white nationalism, then you’re not really part of the solution - you’re just a speed bump.

We need to reverse this, and Mike Monteiro is passionately calling for us to start by putting on the brakes. It’s not enough, but it is an essential first step. What we desperately need is positive change. We are going down this road at the speed of internal, infernal combustion. We are going faster than hot chrome and sweaty sex. Running in the red.

Almost everyone (aside from a handful of oligarchs and their Fox News sycophants) agrees that we should (at the very least) slow down. And if you suggest we stop, do you know how you will be labeled? You will be called a “far-left radical.” As if wanting every hard working family in this country to live with some basic level of dignity is a communist plot! As if wanting Twitter and the rest of Silicon Valley to actually be held responsible for what they put out into the world is “too liberal” or “too PC.” Well, call me liberal, but I cannot see the value in letting racist assholes have a platform to make terroristic threats against hospitals. Seriously: Fuck you, Jack Dorsey.

Why are these matters controversial at all? Maybe it is because the only thing more grotesque than this horrify status quo is: ourselves. We have been ignoring hard truths for such a long time that we often fail to see how far off we have wandered. It’s after midnight. The road is dark. The engine is running in the red. Why? From wealth inequality, to endless wars, to climate change, we live in a world where crisis is the status quo. Why?

(?)

What the author correctly identified is that this is because it is designed that way. We can’t fix this by simply refusing to go further down this road; we need to actively work against the designs that lead to ruin. We need to take the wheel. And if we crash, we need to pile up the debris and preserve only that which functions as a warning sign: to tell future generations not to go down that same path ever again. I’ll let Mike have the last word on this.

If we want positive search results, we should do positive things. If we want to reassure the users of our products that they can trust us, we should do positive things. There’s a reason I wrote these last three chapters in this order. Community breeds standards; standards breed accountability; accountability breeds trust; licensure validates that trust. It’s a journey. It may be a long journey, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth taking.

Do positive things.

Monteiro, Mike. Ruined by Design: How Designers Destroyed the World, and What We Can Do to Fix It (p. 206). Mule Books.

Gummi Bears

I’m spread pretty thin between projects, but wanted to post some new renderings. One of the benefits of Fusion 360 is the materials customization built into their rendering pipeline. And I think this project does a good job of highlighting this feature.

I’m kicking myself for not rendering at a higher resolution, but this lighting test did a fantastic job of demonstrating refraction with a slightly rough surface.

I’m kicking myself for not rendering at a higher resolution, but this lighting test did a fantastic job of demonstrating refraction with a slightly rough surface.

While the angle and lighting are more traditional (i.e., less creative) for a rendering shot, I’m including it because of the shadows and light transmittance between materials. This is the kind of thing that only looks convincing with ray tracing. Raster engines cannot accurately simulate light passing and reflecting off of materials like this.

While the angle and lighting are more traditional (i.e., less creative) for a rendering shot, I’m including it because of the shadows and light transmittance between materials. This is the kind of thing that only looks convincing with ray tracing. Raster engines cannot accurately simulate light passing and reflecting off of materials like this.

I have a render running in the cloud right now for a scene with roughly 250 of these gummies piled on top of one another. With so many surfaces and ray transformations and generations coming from such a complex model, I cannot render it to useable resolutions locally. You can see the rest of my renderings and download the models for yourself on GrabCad.

A Robot Took Your Job

Last week I returned from my trip to Memphis (thanks, Andy! Hope Meara’s potty training is going well!) and I’ve been playing catchup ever since. I’m getting back into Fusion 360 with some more challenging projects. This week we covered how to use joints in assemblies. This is pretty wild stuff. You can download models from GrabCAD.com and upload them Fusion 360. It auto-magically converts models to work natively (with mixed results) in the work space. From there, you can define joints and move parts in real time! We did this in class using an industrial robot model. Of course, this meant the robots needed to fight…

Four robots go in, four robots come out. Because they are metal, and very strong, and even knives won’t kill them!!

Four robots go in, four robots come out. Because they are metal, and very strong, and even knives won’t kill them!!

This wasn’t the actual assignment. Instead we needed to create a render scene involving an earlier model from this class being assembled by robots. I was grinding away at this all day yesterday, and finally got around to rendering it. Because of the complexity of the scene, it’s taking quite some time to bake in all of those rays at HD+ resolution. Here’s the object being assembled for reference:

This is based on an existing design from a vinyl shelf I bought to keep my Laserdisc collection in prime display condition. I fantasized about having an actual product made for Laserdisc, and what that might look like. You gotta with red trim right? Because LASERS!!

This is based on an existing design from a vinyl shelf I bought to keep my Laserdisc collection in prime display condition. I fantasized about having an actual product made for Laserdisc, and what that might look like. You gotta with red trim right? Because LASERS!!

Here’s a technical drawing, if you want to build your own. This will probably hold about 250 titles, based on my experience with my current shelf ( tweaked the dimensions to give it a bit more depth and room to breathe between stacks.

Here’s a technical drawing, if you want to build your own. This will probably hold about 250 titles, based on my experience with my current shelf ( tweaked the dimensions to give it a bit more depth and room to breathe between stacks.

i’ve been taking this class as an opportunity to not only learn the software, but also to push the limits of what the software can do. For me, this practice is like cartography. I’m mapping the borders by extending to the edge in all things. With this project, I wanted to not only torture test the rendering pipeline, but also test the limits of my beefy Hackintosh. As noted previously, my CPU appears to be the main bottleneck. But I wanted to see what it takes to exceed memory requirements. For this design and ray tracing session I’m utilizing ~25 GB of memory, and cooking my poor little quad-core Haswell® chip.

Nothing cooks like CAD! Note that the temperatures reflect a system with AIO liquid cooled CPU, and nine total fans, packed into an old PowerMac G4 case. Even when protein folding on both GPU and CPU, the system usually has a CPU core temperature ceiling of about 70˚ C.

Nothing cooks like CAD! Note that the temperatures reflect a system with AIO liquid cooled CPU, and nine total fans, packed into an old PowerMac G4 case. Even when protein folding on both GPU and CPU, the system usually has a CPU core temperature ceiling of about 70˚ C.

It’s been over four hours as of writing this, and the rendering has not yet reached “final” quality. Scene complexity is a huge factor in rendering time.

Autodesk Fusion 360

Just dived into this software and I’m already excited by what it can do! I didn’t get a chance to play around much with CAD when I was getting my BA. I’ve always wanted to learn, and finally have a chance after all - thanks, PCC!

Fusion 360 has a pretty nifty ray-tracing render mode. It pushes the CPU/GPU pretty hard, but looks glorious

Fusion 360 has a pretty nifty ray-tracing render mode. It pushes the CPU/GPU pretty hard, but looks glorious

It will probably take some time before I take on any meaningful projects, but so far I’m enjoying myself! :-D

XOXOFest 2018!

I had suuuuch a blast at my first XOXOFest! Swag was great - tokens for drinks at an extraterrestrial speakeasy, interactive installations, projects for future selves, morning fun runs, VR and AR demos at Mozilla, Adobe Creative Jam, FANTASTIC SPEAKERS (Cameron Esposito, Monica Dinculescu, Natalie Wynn, John Hodgman, Jean Grae, and more!), Indie Games Arcade and tabletop games blew my mind!

Don’t hate me for my swag, hate me for my awesome Ziggy Stardust shirt!

Don’t hate me for my swag, hate me for my awesome Ziggy Stardust shirt!

Taking seats before the opening

Taking seats before the opening

Those user agreements (we don’t read), and how they stack up

Those user agreements (we don’t read), and how they stack up

One of the proudest moments… Nude Burt Reynolds projected onto a huge screen

One of the proudest moments… Nude Burt Reynolds projected onto a huge screen

Sometimes it just has to be said

Sometimes it just has to be said

Adam Conover talks about why we should Preach to the Choir

Adam Conover talks about why we should Preach to the Choir

Augmented

Augmented

The best win state I have ever seen in a game - a tasty cocktail

The best win state I have ever seen in a game - a tasty cocktail

New Content!

I've added new work under the Sculpture section of my Art + Design page. It was a bittersweet experience to work at the metal shop in Neuberger Hall. We were the final Jewelry/Metalsmithing class for the foreseeable future. These facilities are now closed, and will soon be torn down. Big shout-out to everyone in the class: so many awesome pieces were made, and I was truly humbled by the innovation and creativity these folks applied to every project. Specific mention: Professor Gunnar Adamovics, who was always there for help, advice, tools, materials, general assistance, tutorials, and more. Also, kudos to the fine folks at Free Geek Portland, they provided me with extra cheap silicon (Core2Duo® CPUs for FIVE FRICKIN' DOLLARS!!!!!!? WHAAAT?). I went with a humble Pentium 4® in the end.

PROJECT 1: TYPOGRAPHIC PORTRAIT

Our first project in Digital Media / Time Design is a “Typographic Portrait.” What is a typographic portrait? It’s a combination of visual communication through stylization, combining graphical and textual elements. Here is the professor’s example:

Image by Carl Diehl, art119.  wordpress.com

Image by Carl Diehl, art119.wordpress.com

As you can see from the above example, the name represents visual elements implying both “land” and “water”. The earth-tone brown is combined with wavy aquamarine/teal. Since amphibians are able to live both underwater and on dry land, this graphical representation is appropriate.

Our first step is to select from six options and perform a similar stylization on our own name:

Hello my name is Matt … I’m a magician

I’m accident-prone

I’m losing my temper

I’m visiting Portland

I’m afraid of the dark

Hello my name is _________ (fill in the blank)

Each image has some advantage. I tend to think that it is better to make work that is provocative than safe. The “ransom note” lettering is fun, but includes a dark humor component, the “magician” is playful but a bit on the nose, the “marksman” is very literal, but exists within the context of America’s gun violence epidemic (a controversial subject, to say the least), and the “Portland” is a bit more esoteric, and depends on a person’s familiarity with the sketch comedy of Portlandia‘s “Put a bird on it”. We’ll see what the professor has to say during today’s lab.