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Seeing the Wood and the Trees: Exploring methodologies for extending a new designerly way of knowing

Format: Papers, RSD12, Topic: Mapping & Modelling, Topic: Methods & Methodology

Chris Moore

Design is a dialogue between the designer and the materials of their design, and the “designerly way of knowing” (Cross, N., 1982) evolves through the process of making; the designer engages in reflective conversations within design worlds in which “seeing-moving-seeing” is the simplest unit of design experimentation (Sćhon, 1992). However, design methods concerned with the intervention in complex systems are less about making in the traditional sense. Instead, design becomes an entanglement in a conversation, often highly conceptual, between designers and actors within a system. In this context, we might question what is being made. What becomes of the designer-material conversation? Where design becomes an act of collaboration, and the designer’s role is one of facilitation towards shared understanding and meaning, has the group conversation metaphorically become the material? Does the designer then need to develop their conversation with the conversation? In a new, designerly way of knowing? This is not just about seeing-moving-seeing, but sensing-asking-sensing.

In such conversational entanglements, metaphor plays a key role, consciously or otherwise. Both terms can be understood through the physical phenomenon described andthrough their conceptual meaning in the context of complexity, systems thinking and design–we understand and experience one thing in terms of another (Lakoff G, Johnson, M, 1983). If design is about intent and change (Simon, 1968; Whal, 2016), then the designer must be intent in their use of metaphor to frame a design problem. Mary Catherine Bateson (1994)  urges us to consider it a “matter of mental hygiene” to be responsible for the metaphors we use and “see how meanings slide from one to another.”

The research described here focuses on an experimental design project in which a design team intentionally used the forest metaphor to explore possible futures for a professional services organisation. The design research question asks how the designer might pay attention to the slipping and sliding of meaning and understand their biases and influences in the conversation. Through the reflective development of a methodology, we attempt to reveal the web of meaning and tensions between the designer, participants, and their entanglement in metaphoric conversation.

KEYWORDS: systemic design, service design, metaphor, designerly ways of knowing, conversation analysis

RSD TOPIC: Mapping & Modelling, Methods & Methodology

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Citation Data

Author(s): Chris Moore
Year: 2023
Title: Seeing the Wood and the Trees: Exploring methodologies for extending a new designerly way of knowing
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD12
Article No.: pre-release
URL: https://rsdsymposium.org/metaphoric-conversation-systems-change
Host: Georgetown University
Location: Washington DC, USA
Symposium Dates: October 6–20, 2023
First published: 30 September 2023
Last update: no update
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404
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