Welcome to ADI

The Advanced Design Institute (ADi) works to facilitate a deeper and broader understanding of design as activity and culture. Design activity is the way individuals and organizations continuously create our world. Design culture provides the societal context that supports design activity. In a time of dramatic change and of increased complexity, design culture is more timely and crucial than ever. The purpose of ADi is to advance design culture through public education.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Two thoughts about science in relationship to design.

Two thoughts about the relationships between design and science. First, most scientist have essentially become design critics. Second, many scientists have become design consultants without acknowledging they have done so.

In reference to the first point, scientists have begun to refer to the present day era as the Anthropocene era < http://www.economist.com/node/18741749> —the age of man (sic). It seems that the earth is no longer predominantly natural. It is more and more a manifestation of the unforeseen consequences of human activity; an entanglement of intention and accident. Scientists describing and explaining the world are observing systems that have been effected by and changed through human agency—they are critiquing the effects of designs more than the consequences of natural processes. Understanding design behavior—intentional change—would seem to be something that needs to be put high on the priority list along with advancing science and improving technology.

The second point deals with the growing complaint that scientists and science have become politicized. Witness the recent acrimonious debates on global warming. The conflict arises because facts may be based on good science but description and explanation do not—cannot—prescribe action. Also prediction and promises of control (the domain of technology) do not justify action. Action and agency emerge from the domain that design occupies.

When scientist call for specific actions based on their clear and accurate scientific descriptions and explanations they have taken on the role of design consultants. Designers are by definition agents of change, responding to the needs and desires of clients and stakeholders. Designers are not considered inappropriately political when they prescribe certain courses of action based on the intentions and purposes expressed by those they serve. When scientists cross the line between science and design by advocating for specific actions, without acknowledging they have done so, they become the focus of criticism in part because, unlike designers, scientists do not contract with others to serve their (the clients et al) interests. Science is based on good, disciplined processes of observation and reasoning not on achieving good, desirable outcomes.

This does not mean that scientists cannot act as designers. It means they need to acknowledge when they have taken on the role of designer and left the role of objective observer and scientific expert behind. They then need to enter into service contracts with clients and stakeholders, as any professional designer is obliged to do.