"It's Just A Method!" A Pedagogical Experiment in Interdisciplinary Design


What does a student need to know to be a designer? Beyond a list of separate skills, what mindset does a student need to develop for designerly action now and into the future? In the excitement of the cognitive revolution, Simon proposed a way of thinking about design that promised to make it more manageable and cognitive: to think of design as a planning problem. Yet, as Suchman argued long ago, planning accounts may be applied to problems that are not at base accomplished by planning, to the detriment of design vision. This paper reports on a pedagogy that takes Suchman’s criticism to heart and avoids dressing up design methods as more systematic and predictive than they in fact are. The idea is to teach design through expo-sure to not just one, but rather, many methods—that is, sets of rules or behaviors that produce artifacts for further reflec-tion and development. By introducing a large number of design methods, decoupled from theories, models or frame-works, we teach (a) important cross-methodological regu-larities in competence as a designer, (b) that the practice of design can itself be designed and (c) that method choice affects design outcomes. This provides a rich and produc-tive notion of design particularly necessary for the world of pervasive and ubiquitous computing.