Making Connections

In recent years, design theorists have coined the term “designerly ways of knowing” in an attempt to define what distinguishes designers and makes them successful. They argue that intuition and subjective experience acquired in the process of designing, is what empowers designers to create fitting designs.

However this is not a useful line of thought—more important to designers is the ability to draw connections between seemingly disparate elements or pieces of information, and to understand context objectively (or at least as objectively as humanly possible). This is for several reasons.

Firstly, it is through literacy in multiple fields rather than introspection that designers can be creative and better able to understand design across various contexts. Secondly, explicitly searching out and understanding the language of external precedents rather than reflecting on personal precedents can provide a better base for a good design to be built on.

The rapidly-advancing technological landscape also means that not only are we as people are getting overloaded with information, but we are also being faced with more wide-ranging design problems. However, there is a positive conse- quence in that we are also getting more exposed to unfamiliar and/or new ways of thinking about problems. Adapting to these new ways of thinking can lead to superior methods of solving design problems; however, this relies on us as designers being able to externalise these problems and think analytically.

Finally, “designerly ways of knowing” as a model for thinking about design is flawed, in that it fails to take into the contributions of different modes of thought, ignores the history and changing circumstances of technology and human civilisation, and hinders progress and the design process by needlessly sequestering design skills as unique and tacit, when it is more practical and constructive for them to be open and externalised.

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