Posts Tagged 'p674'

On Studio H’s Design Vision and Process

One form of reflection we’d envision for the blog are design critiques and evaluations. This might be of products, learning environments, policies, what have you. The idea is just to look with a critical eye at something that somebody else made (ideally outside the class, so that we don’t have to worry about hurting feelings!). In this case, the reflection is actually on the design of a design intervention. Meta!


As one of our readings this week, we watched a TED talk about a design studio that became involved with a disadvantaged rural community, and, using design as a framework, worked to revitalize that community. I have to say that in general, from a design perspective, I was incredibly impressed.

The thing that I noticed most from a design perspective, and what I’ll focus on in this refection, is that they were designing according to a core set of principles. I think this is an incredibly important part of the design process, and they seemed to have nailed it. Here’s their list of principles:

  1. There is no design without (critical) action;
  2. We design WITH, not FOR;
  3. We document, share, and measure;
  4. We start locally and scale globally;
  5. We design systems, not stuff;
  6. We build.

So aside from nodding my head vigorously as I read each and every one of these, I would step back and just note the importance of having principles at all. For me, design is always undergirded by values and principles, even if these aren’t articulated. This is partly what I talk about when I talk about hacker literacies – how all technology is designed, and all designed things have politics, because all people have politics (whether they know it or not). To me, having a set of articulated design principles, even if we don’t always live up to them, is essential. It’s a sort of weathervane we can check against when we’re in the midst of the work, at the times when it’s hardest to keep perspective. It’s what makes sure we’re bringing action to our values, as opposed to just doing stuff.

The second piece that struck me in looking at the talk was just how well they seemed to have manifest their principles in the design process. All of the activities described seemed to be perfectly in line with that set of principles. Reflecting on it, I actually want to hear more about what the edges were, the kind of things that you usually don’t talk about in a TED talk. When was it hard to realize these principles? How did reality bump up against these values? To me that’s always the interesting part. And I totally acknowledge that that wasn’t the purpose of the talk, but I think from a design critique perspective that’s focusing in on this issue of having articulated design principles, I know that I’m really interested in hearing more as I reflect on the project.