Prototyping as a resource to investigate future states of the system


Juan de la Rosa

Universidad Nacional de Colombia | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Karolina Kohler

Kaiser X Lab, Allianz DE

Stan Ruecker PhD.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Even though design as a human action could be defined as one of the oldest natural practices (Muratovski, 2015), we can argue that what really defines it is not the ability to transform the tangible reality, but, as established by Simon (1996), our capacity to envision an improved version of our reality in the future and plan what would be necessary to achieve it. This notion of an achievable preferred future state of the system might be one of the main advances in design theory because it centres the notion of design around the idea of a not-yet-existing reality that is possible to be produced.

While still subsists a widely-disseminated idea that design disciplines should be defined and differentiated based on the technical means of production that they rely on to solve the problems they faced (graphic, industrial, fashion) (Buchanan, 2001), we could also recognize that in recent years, common design practices have also recognized the value of design as being ‘solution oriented’. We could argue that one of the main benefits of this proposition is that it focuses on the existence of a diffuse problematic node that is produced by tension or displacement between what exists and what we really need or want (Ryan, 2014), and the existence of a possible, but the not-yet-existing reality that resolves that problem (Bødker, 1998). Being able to recognize the importance of the design process has led to produce complex models, like the ones presented by the Design Thinking1 community and to advance into more complex scenarios.

Nevertheless, despite the significant advances of design-oriented disciplines and the methods used in the design process, most design models still understand the actualization2 of tangible solutions into the real world to address current problems as their main goal. This shortened view of the role of design somehow disregards the main ideas presented by Simon (1969) and Banathy (1996), that those models should not be centred on the constructed reality but on the future transformations of the system that they could produce.

The main purpose of this paper is to support the previous ideas presented by de la Rosa (2016, 2017) regarding the understanding of the ways that design can create new knowledge and what would that type of knowledge be. This paper is intended as both, a conceptual addition to complement the model presented before, introducing to the discussion system-related notions like resolution, scale, complexity and uncertainty, and the use of practical cases of design research as case studies to explain and support the ideas presented; all with the expectation that those could help determine the issues presented by current design models and the possibility to use some experimental techniques based on prototyping to reconcile the view of a preferred future in the design process. We seek to provide a more systemic view of the model and a better understanding of how the model can be used on real case scenarios; from initial cases of innovation on the industry to ill-defined social problems that we haven’t been able to solve as a society.

Presentation & paper

Posted October 2017


RSD proceedings are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. This permits anyone to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or form according to the licence terms.

Suggested Citation Format (APA)

Author(s) (20XX). Article title. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSDX) Symposium.

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