Archive for July, 2008

The InfoDesign blog points to a great paper from last year’s Design Inquiries conference in Stockholm on the intersection of design disciplines: Interaction Design and Service Design: Expanding a Comparison of Design Disciplines [PDF 432K]. Author Stefan Holmlid looks at interaction design, industrial design and service design through several frameworks, one of which is Buchanan’s four orders of design.

Holmlid compares the following dimensions:

  • Production process [physical, virtual, ongoing]
  • Materiality [tangible, virtual]
  • Dimensionality [spatial, temporal, social]
  • Aesthetic focus [visual, experiential, active]
  • Scope of deliverable [product, use, performance]

Rather than focusing on the divisions between sub-disciplines, Holmlid’s approach explores the ways in which they overlap and relate; their areas of interest; their strengths and weaknesses. He sees service design and interaction design as integrating disciplines across the orders of design.

[via InfoDesign]

Wicked Problems

Yesterday’s post on prostitution reminded me of a New Yorker article by Malcolm Gladwell from a couple years ago on homelessness. He was writing about the difference between managing an intractable problem and solving it and how doing the latter sometimes flies in the face of logic.

The students at Köln acknowledge that they’re only managing the problem. You can’t fault them for that. It’s not easy to solve; even within the most liberal of societal frameworks. Prostitution is an example of what Horst Rittel called a wicked problem. It’s characterized by uncertainty and ambiguity and there’s no way to even see what the range of options are. These are the kinds of problems that defy an analytical approach.

Richard Buchanan wrote a paper on this subject called “Wicked Problems in Design Thinking” for Design Issues back in 1992. Here’s an excerpt [PDF 1.1MB] that’s worth taking a look at. (It’s also in The Idea of Design if you have it handy.)

I’m pleased to see designers taking a crack at this.

Earlier this spring the Köln International School of Design offered a three month service design course addressing the subject of prostitution. They chronicled their research and design progress though a weblog called On The Road.

Project brief from the city of Eindhoven: Finding Innovative Solutions for Street Prostitution [PDF 204K]

On November 1, 2003, the so-called “Tippelzone,” a specific working area with special care facilities for addicted street prostitutes was created in Eindhoven. A first objective of creating this zone was to stop the nuisance caused by addicted street prostitutes and their clients in the living area of Woensel West. A second objective was to improve the work and living conditions of the street prostitutes.

Four years later, the evaluation and expert meetings that were organized around this subject showed that the zone and other facilities did not solve the fundamental problem of street prostitution.

An alternative approach has been developed through various parallel initiatives. The municipality has decided to use a rather unorthodox method of “service design” or “social design.” The aim is to develop innovative services for street prostitutes to become more in control of their own lives.

Here’s a film of Köln’s presentation with an introduction by professor Birgit Mager. Their research is not for the faint of heart (and it’s probably not work-safe):

On The Road [CityTV.nl]

Their key research findings:

  • The Tippelzone is wanted
  • We can’t change the demand for street prostitution
  • The women need a stable contact person in their life
  • The women are dependent on their environment
  • Lack of motivation for detox
  • Lack of cooperation between the organizations

Based on their research they’ve designed a comprehensive service organization to address the situation. Their slides don’t seem to be online but I’ve reconstructed them from the presentation and posted them as a PDF [756K].

This is simply fantastic work.

[via DesignThinkers]

Kip Lee and Jamin Hegeman are recent graduates of the Masters program at the Carnegie Mellon School of Design. As part of a team of graduate students, they collaborated on a service design project for the neurosurgery clinic at UPMC in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

I interviewed Kip and Jamin at CMU on May 13th, 2008.

Read Interview