Thoughts on the Future of Design, Archives of Design Research

After spending September and October as visiting lecturer at KAIST in South Korea, (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology), I was invited to write an article for the Archives of Design Research. The journal is published by the Korean Society of Design Science. The issue has just been published (and I’m happy to see that my entry, Thoughts on the Future of Design, is the opening article.

In the article I reference Richard Buchanan’s 2001 article that identified three “levels” of design research. Clinical research (arguably the most prevalent) is conducted for a specific project. Applied research looks further, applicable to a number of projects in a specific category. Basic research is designed to acquire fundamental knowledge in design, with wide application.

A problem with understanding design is that Basic research is a rare event. Or maybe I should say it’s a huge opportunity. There’s a lot left to know about design and how it can or should impact our lives.

Journal of Health Design podcast, Melbourne

Improving health through design: The podcast recorded last week with Moyez Jiwa, Editor in Chief of the Journal of Health Design in Melbourne, Australia, is now online. At just over 5 minutes, topics include design and behavior, and the need for better design in healthcare for both patients and healthcare providers. Thanks to Moyez for inviting me.

The Journal of Health Design‘s podcast can be heard here on SoundCloud.

My 2012 TEDx talk a Drexel, on math and music (everyone calm down.)

I was surprised last week (an understatement) to see that my 2012 talk at Drexel University, on the visual communication of math and music, has received more than 250,000 views – or at least partial views. Many of them, I think, are recent.

That may sound like a good thing, but there’s a major problem. People are watching it out of context. And some of them are really angry. If you came to the video without any background, here are some things that may calm you down.

  • This is a talk to 75 or 100 designers, mostly undergraduate design students, about visual communication and low literacy in math and music – which starts at an early age. It’s a day-long TEDx event about design, with a “Why Not Admit” theme. I’m proposing math and music education to the students as a design problem.
  • In the video segment that some people are up-in-arms about, I am NOT giving a music lesson. I am discussing things about notation that are confusing. To explain it, as I do in the earlier discussion about learning math, I’m speaking from my grammar school experience – speaking in first person, present tense. Which, seen out of context, may sound to some like a music lesson.
  • Reading flats and sharps, visually mapping the music scale to a piano keyboard, and understanding the difference between E# and F, were difficult. (I personally understand it, years later, which is why I chose music as a topic that day.)
  • I am not presenting the Nashville number system as a replacement (not sure why some people think I’m saying that.) I’m only showing it to the students as an alternative that some musicians have found useful.

If people came to the video expecting a solution, that wasn’t the purpose. I’m discussing the impact of visual communication on our ability to learn.

The like/dislike ratio for the talk is around 3:1, which is pretty good. And I have been receiving email messages from adults who are saying “thanks, I thought it was just me” and are going back to give music notation another try. But some of the hostile, mob-like reactions I’m seeing, made without any understanding of the context, and feeding off of each other’s misinterpretations, are making me feel like I’m in politics.

(I’m trying to get the TEDx organizers to update the YouTube description of the video. I may also add more to this post later.)


Rethinking Time: Ergonomics in Design Journal

Rethinking Time, a commentary I wrote on our attitudes toward time, has been published in Ergonomics in Design Volume 26 Issue 2, April 2018. Discussing things such as why I set my microwave to 33 seconds instead of 30, the consequences of applying an education-instilled factory-based mindset to virtually everything we do, and why we downplay the fact that our best ideas come to us while taking a shower.

Rethinking Time, Ergonomics In Design, April 2018