Designing is not problem solving

ordered question marks
Designing isn't problem-solving.

Lots of people will agree with the statement “Designing is a kind of problem-solving.”  But I disagree, especially in light of how we typically think of problems in everyday life.  Problems are human constructs – nature has no problems.  Psychologists may have a more sophisticated way of thinking about problem-solving, but, in my experience, most designers and the average “man on the street” are not up to their level.  In any case, my interest is in how designers treat problem-solving in their everyday activities.  In this post, I’ll explain why I think that designing should definitely not be thought of as problem-solving.

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The impact of balance in design

Balanced rocks
Designing is balancing.

I have written previously about balance. I proposed that one can model a situation as a set of forces (economic, technological, societal, etc.) that balance one another, and that if the current situation is not coincident with the balance point, then their difference represents a perceived need.

Design plays a pivotal role in this model as the means by which imbalances are addressed by trying to move the current situation toward the balance point. As such, I think of designing as more balance-seeking than problem-solving.

In this post, I want to examine some of the implications of this for design thinking and designing as a human activity.

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Learn to practise; practise to learn

thinking monkey
Hmmm. I learn, therefore I teach.... I think.

While in England in 2007, it took me several weeks to get used to looking the other way when crossing a street.  Exactly how that happened has led me to revise how I think students should be taught, how “teaching to the test” is bad, and how we might be able to help make our students think more deeply and creatively.

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