Francesca Ostuzzi, Walter Dejonghe, and Jan Detand
A case study of teaching cybernetics and system thinking to industrial design students
Design can be seen as the process of creating what is not there and what ought to be. One of the main problems of this complex process is the gap that is created between the design ideal space and the real contexts (of production, of use, of end-life, etc.). To cover this gap, a constant conversation is needed between all possible stakeholders of the design process itself. Thanks to this conversation, which can be seen as second-order cybernetics, the actors learn about what conserves and what changes in the designed solution thanks to the context/environment, which can also be seen as the manifestation of what we defined as the re-appropriation process, a process of change and adaptation of the product which is driven by highly context-dependent and often tacit knowledge. Because of its context-dependency, the conversation can occur only in time and in the real contexts of production, use, etc.
To facilitate the conditions for this conversation to happen, which is ultimately a design act done by others, meant as non-designers, including non-human actors, a second-order design is advocated. The definition by Dubberly et al. of second-order design closely resembles the definition of open-ended design, “[The signage system] is never completely finished, never completely specified, never completely imagined. It is forever open.” Further defined as the outcome of the design process that is “able to change, according to the changing context.
KEYWORDS: open-ended design, cybernetics, second-order design, industrial design, education