Design school frameworks

Below is based upon a reply I made to the ixda list re: design school frameworks…

Two personal anecdotes from design school:

1) My first graphic design class, I remember trying to get the hang of compositional space and laying out letters and image with the grid, etc. And I was trying too hard to be artsy. Prof came over, moved the elements around trying different arrangements (this is all paper pieces with hand-drawn letters, btw). I was blown away. I asked her what was she thinking about as she was organizing elements. And she walked me through a “framework” of person/space/word/image (i forget the actual words, but similar) which I found fascinating…That there’s a basic framework that guided her design actions in an intuitive manner because it had become her habit and evolved with her many years of experience, operating sub-consciously.

At that moment I realized that there is something specific and capable of being articulated that really separated communicative design from expressive art, which I found very powerful.

2) Dick Buchanan’s graduate design seminar, he wrote out the steps of a typical UCD process on the whiteboard, going on about the major steps, etc. When he concluded, I raised my hand and asked, “So if someone just walked in right now and memorized and did those steps, is that person then a designer?” And Dick just smiled sneakily, hinting something about the personal and the “noumenal”… hmmm!

I share these to show that designing actually balances both “frameworks” and “ingenuity” or “talent” (for lack of a better word) in a kind of back-and-forth dialogue, left/right brain if you will (a dialectical method). What we must avoid is heavy handed bureaucracy and stifling of creativity by forcing designers to march lockstep step after step, all mandatory, all documented and codified, etc. Else it becomes a crutch and kills inventive spirit, imho…

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