Embracing uncertainty in the design process

Situational Methods in (Graphic) Design

Participants will practice and discuss two critique methods that introduce improvisation as a means of embracing uncertainty in the design process.

In A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating Imagination for a World of Constant Change, Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown liken culture to the matter that scientists grow in petri dishes under controlled conditions. Unlike the view of culture that seeks stability and adapts to change when forced, this perspective sees culture responding to its surroundings organically. It does not adapt. In other words, culture thrives on change, and integrates change “as one of its environmental variables,” which creates further change. Preparing students of design to actively participate in constantly changing circumstances, and to positively contribute to them, calls for changes in pedagogical approaches.

In our experience writing design curriculum we have implemented practices that foster acceptance of change and comfort with uncertainty in both student and instructor. Improvisation, ad hoc practices, creative use (and misuse) of theory, are ways of cultivating flexibility, responsiveness, emergent, and divergent thinking and making.

This workshop and forum invites educators and practitioners 1) who have found that arranging post-it notes is not the only means of understanding and breaking down complex issues, and 2) who themselves experiment with innovative, relational methods that expand upon naturalized, design-oriented skills in problem solving.

Denise Gonzales Crisp, North Carolina State University College of Design
Nida Abdullah, Michigan State University