Design Thinking









What is the Nature and Intended Use of Design Methods?  

Colin M. Gray 

Purdue University

Keywords: design methods; design practice; research/practice divide


Interest in the codification and application of design methods is rapidly growing as businesses increasingly utilize “design thinking” approaches. However, in this uptake of design methods that encourage designerly action, the ontological status of design methods is often diffuse, with contradictory messages from practitioners and academics about the purpose and desired use of methods within a designer’s process. In this paper, I explore the paradoxical nature of design methods, arguing for a nuanced view that includes the (often) conflicting qualities of prescription and performance. A prescriptive view of methods is drawn from the specification of methods and their “proper” use in the academic literature, while a performative view focuses on in situ use in practice, describing how practitioners use methods to support their everyday work. The ontological characteristics and practical outcomes of each view of design methods are considered, concluding with productive tensions that juxtapose academia and practice. 

This paper is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence.

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Cite this paper: Gray, C. (2016). What is the Nature and Intended Use of Design Methods?  Proceedings of DRS 2016, Design Research Society 50th Anniversary Conference. Brighton, UK, 27–30 June 2016.

This paper will be presented at DRS2016, find it in the conference programme

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