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.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

schema for improving design education

 Reviewing Don Norman’s most recent blog on design thinking on Core 77’s site, I was drawn to an earlier post by Norman on the need for design education to change. I agree that design education needs to change but for other reasons than posted in Norman’s piece. I don’t think design should be scientized or that designers need to become design scientists. I believe that good science is important to the work of designers and that designers need to work with competent scientists, and know how to recognize good science when they see it. It is ideal to have good scientists focused on researching design related issues. For example, sociologists and anthropologists can contribute descriptions and explanations of human behavior to the processes of design inquiry and action, thus assuring better outcomes in the end.

Design is not just a form of science anymore than it is just a form of art. It is disciplined and rational but it has its own fundamental postulates which include, but are not limited to, those underlying science. Design education therefore needs to be changed to reflect these fundamentals. Design education takes place in informal as well as formal settings. Norman’s challenge in his post focuses on the shortcomings of formal design education. I believe he sees so much bad science from design students and practitioners because of undergraduate and graduate program designs. These academic educational designs—intended for the education of scientists—are unfortunately adopted by evolving design programs.

Following Norman’s advice to make designers better by making them better scientists would not improve design education nor design practice. As Russell Ackoff said in reference to the need to change the systems movement, “the righter you do the wrong thing, the wronger you get” , which is apropos to redesigning design education.

An example of a design education schema—reflecting the hierarchy of significance associated with design learning outcomes—shows that learning outcomes based on scientific inquiry are positioned at the first order of learning outcomes, while practice based education tops out at the third order of learning outcomes(too often skipping the second level).

hierarchy of significance of design learning outcomes

Improving design education in response to this hierarchy of learning outcomes would require that design students be assisted in learning how to create design schema—the fourth order—and to engage in a life-long learning quest to understand the nature of ‘purpose’ in design—the fifth order—and ‘direction’ in design—the sixth order. The priority in changing design education should be to focus on developing competencies used in schema development and use. Without that competency in place the fifth and sixth orders would remain out of reach as learning outcomes in design education.

This is just one schema reflecting the unique nature of design and thus the unique challenge of design education. There are many others waiting to be developed and applied.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

MIT discount offer

Books published by the MIT Press are known for their distinguished authors, cutting-edge content, groundbreaking scholarship, and striking design.
Through 11:59pm, June 3rd, we are sharing our accumulated knowledge across the known universe, offering every reader within the sound of the Internet 50% off every book purchased through the MIT Press website.
Buy the beautiful art book that you’ve always wanted. Buy the scholarly monograph that is redefining a field. Buy the classic title that shaped a discipline. Fill your shopping cart with the brainy, the nerdy, the quirky. Do it now, before the sales ends June 3rd at 11:59pm!
And tell your friends. Send them the discount code SHARE50--tweet it, Tumblr it, Facebook it, e-mail it, link it on your personal website, post a video on YouTube, or write it on the back of an envelope--to share the knowledge even further. 
Browse Our Website
• 50% off any book purchased through the MIT Press website
 One week only: May 28th to June 3rd at 11:59pm
• Discount does not apply to e-books or journals
 Enter discount code SHARE50 at checkout

Hint: The Design Way is published by MIT Press

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

SAP book review

Book Review: The Design Way

By Gerd Waloszek, Design & Front Line Apps, SAP AG – May 21, 2013
"This review takes a personal look at Harold G. Nelson's and Erik Stolterman's book The Design Way – Intentional Change in an Unpredictable World (2nd Ed.). Not having read the first edition, I will base my review solely on the second edition and also will not discuss any changes from the first to the second edition."

Monday, May 13, 2013

Reminder: Symposium abstract deadline

Reminder that May 15 is the deadline for abstracts for the Systemic Design symposium:

Relating Systems Thinking & Design 2013

Monday, April 29, 2013

systems thinking & design symposium deadline expanded

Relating Systems Thinking & Design 2013
Emerging Contexts for Systemic Design
Symposium Deadline is expanded

The Deadline for abstract submission to the RSTD2 symposium is expanded to 15th May
We are looking forward to your contributions!
Please visit the Symposium website on www.systemic-design.net 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Evil of Design

Even though I (Erik Stolterman) am happy to see the wonderful push for design thinking and a designerly approach today in academia and in business, it is also a bit disturbing to see the lack of critical thinking about design. Design as an approach is today by many seen as the silver bullet to almost any kind of problem. A design approach is considered to be able to deal with any kind of situation. I do agree that design as an approach is powerful, maybe more so than many believe even among those who advocate it. I do agree that many issues today should be approached in a designerly way. But it is also crucial to remember that design as an approach is not inherently good.

Almost all things that scare us and make our lives difficult and dangerous are designed. Some of the most wonderful examples of great design are also considered to be manifestations of evil. Humans design wars, genoside, weapons of destruction, and maybe even more extraordinary but less obvious designs aimed at suppressing people (such as political, governing or business structures), sometimes even in combination with wonderful 'user' experiences that makes people appreciate being oppressed (what a great design!).

In this new emerging era of design thinking and designerly approaches it is important to remember that design is only an approach--it is a process. It is a powerful approach, but there is no guarantor that the outcome will be good design and there is no guarantee that the design process will not lead to evil designs. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the character of the designer. Values and beliefs guides and shapes the judgements made by the designer. Developing design competence therefore means developing once personal character as well as once design thinking ability. 

Anyone engaging in design in a serious way therefore has to be constantly aware of and reflect on the 'nature' of design and also be highly critical of any simple versions of design that promises processes that will lead to good results in some 'automatic' prescriptive guaranteed way. Critical thinking is as important in design as in science.

[In the book "The Design Way" these issues are discussed in the chapters "The Evil of Design" and "The Guarantor-of-Design (g.o.d.)"]

Saturday, March 16, 2013

systemic design call for abstracts

Emerging Contexts for Systemic Design
AHO – Oslo School of Architecture & Design                   Oslo, Norway                   9th-11th October 2013
Relating Systems Thinking and Design is a free and open symposium over two days with a preceeding full day with diverse workshops and a subsequent special issue in FORMakademisk. We encourage you to submit your abstracts and to concider joining the workshops. We are interrested in both work in progress and more developed contributions.
9th October: Workshops
1oth – 11th October: Symposium

Call for abstracts
The emerging renaissance of systems thinking in design responds to the increasing complexity in all challenges faced by designers and transdisciplinary innovators. Our worlds have become too complex for linear and goal-driven management, resulting in hopelessly complicated social, economic, and political systems. The global demand for sustainability, democratic economies, and the emerging social arrangements for better education, employment, and development have become too complex for conventional thinking.
The interrelationship between systems thinking and design action was the theme of last years RSD seminar at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design. In re-examining the relationship of systems thinking to design we believe it possible for systems thinking and design praxis to develop the foundations for new, interrelated practices. This synergistic relationship will launch a new generation of systems-oriented thinkers empowered with the creativity and perspectives of design thinking. As educators and researchers, we also seek better theoretical foundations and rigor in design thinking.
We areare interested in proposals that draw from recent case studies from fieldwork, design inquiry and research, and mixed methods in systems-oriented design.
Sociotechnical, service, and activity systems are characterized by highly complex and emergent human-system relationships, and benefit from nonlinear and creative design practices and engaged research perspectives. Design practices found effective in fields such as healthcare, governance, environmental stewardship, organizational management and social change, are of particular interest for cases and discussion in the conference.
Systemic Design has been suggested as a term for this emerging movement in design with its multiple expressions including e.g. Systems Oriented Design, Whole Systems Design, and is closely related to Dialogic Design. What binds systems related theories and practices together with design approaches may be the desire to reintroduce systems approaches with design toward a more effective integrated praxis, becoming more useful to designers (and stakeholders and clients) than evidenced by past performance. This implies the reshaping and design of systems approaches and the related practices so that they are better integrated into design processes.
We invite you to submit an abstract of maximum 1000 words within the following themes:
  • ¥ New systemic practices in design
  • ¥ Rethinking systems approaches from a design perspective
  • ¥ Relating Design Praxis and Systems Thinking
  • ¥ The role of systemic design when developing design practices in new areas
  • ¥ Teaching (systemic design or), systems thinking in design. (or design in systems approaches)
  • ¥ Relating systems and design theories, conceptually and pragmatically

Deadline for abstracts is 1st May
Accepted abstracts will be asked to submit a presentation.

The best presentations will after the symposium be invited by the program committee to submit a full paper to be published in a planned special issue in the Norwegian bilingual scientific design research journal FORMakademisk. These papers will go through a blind peer review evaluation process as normal for this journal. See the journal website for details.
Email questions to:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Design education – IDEO and Apple

There has been a lot of criticism of academic programs recently—probably deserved—accompanied by the growth of cult followers of university dropouts who have become millionaires and billionaires in business.  This feeds into the generally accepted belief that Americans are anti-intellectual and pragmatic. Too often degrees are merely pursued for credentialing purposes  and not the development of expertise and competence. Russell Ackoff—a past Emeritus Professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania—claimed that the vaunted MBA program at Wharton was valuable primarily for professional networking and not for learning how to manage organizational systems.

The design of good formal learning experiences and the preparation of people to remain life long learners during their working lives remains an ongoing challenge. The design of degree programs at universities—from a systemic perspective —needs some serous designerly attention.

This is particularly true for degree programs focused on preparing practitioners in the various formally defined design fields. These programs—despite their titles—are not design ‘process’ focused but design ‘solution’ focused fields. The assumed solutions are: architecture, products, graphics, software etc. etc. The process of getting to such solutions in response to well formed design questions is not addressed.

Learning is too often treated as a shopping experience. Students are offered a shopping cart full of individualized elements in the same way that a shopper would load up on cans, packages and bottles of foodstuff at the grocery store. However, in order for all these groceries to be turned into prepared meals and culinary experiences the individual items need to be proportioned, mixed, blended and transformed into integrated and emergent wholes—and not merely added to summative pile of stuff.

Learning is, or should be, a similar integrative process. It is not just a process of collecting a variety of learning experiences. It is a process of selecting, composing and connecting parts into wholes. It would seem natural that design academics would see that the fundamental nature of a learning process is the same as a design process. Too often, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

For example in a recent interview by Charlie Rose of David Kelley of IDEO fame and the Stanford D School, Kelley explained that the D School did not give any degrees in design because Steve Jobs of Apple Inc. fame—an unsurpassed champion of elegant industrial design but not a designer or an educator himself—told Kelley he did not want to deal with any graduates with ‘flaky’ degrees from Stanford. He wanted people from traditional academic programs—e.g. business, science etc.—with design training. Stanford’s Design degree—an aggregation of a fine arts degree and an engineering degree—is their example of how to avoid a ‘flaky’ design degree.

Interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary degrees—that are inclusive of training in design—are not sufficient for good professional preparation for the practice of design in today’s complex, interconnected and fast paced world. However, they carry credibility in academic and professional networks focused on credentials rather than competence, which is why they will remain marketable.

Traditional models of academic degrees are not good models for formal preparation for design practice. First of all because design is not a discipline in the traditional academic sense and secondly, design learning is not an aggregative process as found in the traditional academic degree processes. What is sorely needed—and will probably not happen in traditional academic institutions—is a serious design approach to recreating formal design learning processes that provides solid preparation for more sustainable and systemic design praxis in the future.

It will help when decision makers and stakeholders sincerely stop asking for ‘innovation’ while remaining hostile to ‘flaky’ ideas—i.e. ideas that look unfamiliar to them rather than familiar.