Skip navigation

Design and Design Theory

Design and Design Theory

  • Page 5 of 6
Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century

This book provides a long-overdue vision for a new automobile era.

The cars we drive today follow the same underlying design principles as the Model Ts of a hundred years ago and the tail-finned sedans of fifty years ago. In the twenty-first century, cars are still made for twentieth-century purposes. They’re well suited for conveying multiple passengers over long distances at high speeds, but inefficient for providing personal mobility within cities—where most of the world’s people now live. In this pathbreaking book, William Mitchell and two industry experts reimagine the automobile, describing vehicles of the near future that are green, smart, connected, and fun to drive. They roll out four big ideas that will make this both feasible and timely.

First, we must transform the DNA of the automobile, basing it on electric-drive and wireless communication rather than on petroleum, the internal combustion engine, and stand-alone operation. This allows vehicles to become lighter, cleaner, and “smart” enough to avoid crashes and traffic jams. Second, automobiles will be linked by a Mobility Internet that allows them to collect and share data on traffic conditions, intelligently coordinates their movements, and keeps drivers connected to their social networks. Third, automobiles must be recharged through a convenient, cost-effective infrastructure that is integrated with smart electric grids and makes increasing use of renewable energy sources. Finally, dynamically priced markets for electricity, road space, parking space, and shared-use vehicles must be introduced to provide optimum management of urban mobility and energy systems.

The fundamental reinvention of the automobile won’t be easy, but it is an urgent necessity—to make urban mobility more convenient and sustainable, to make cities more livable, and to help bring the automobile industry out of crisis.

Four Big Ideas That Could Transform the Automobile• Base the underlying design principles on electric-drive and wireless communications rather than the internal combustion engine and stand-alone operation• Develop the Mobility Internet for sharing traffic and travel data• Integrate electric-drive vehicles with smart electric grids that use clean, renewable energy sources• Establish dynamically priced markets for electricity, road space, parking space, and shared-use vehicles

Principles of Interaction Programming

Interactive systems and devices, from mobile phones to office copiers, do not fulfill their potential for a wide variety of reasons—not all of them technical. Press On shows that we can design better interactive systems and devices if we draw on sound computer science principles. It uses state machines and graph theory as a powerful and insightful way to analyze and design better interfaces and examines specific designs and creative solutions to design problems. Programmers—who have the technical knowledge that designers and users often lack—can be more creative and more central to interaction design than we might think. Sound programming concepts improve device design.

Press On provides the insights, concepts and programming tools to improve usability. Knowing the computer science is fundamental, but Press On also shows how essential it is to have the right approaches to manage the design of systems that people use. Particularly for complex systems, the social, psychological and ethical concerns—the wider design issues—are crucial, and these are covered in depth.

Press On highlights key principles throughout the text and provides cross-topic linkages between chapters and suggestions for further reading. Additional material, including all the program code used in the book, is available on an interactive web site. Press On is an essential textbook and reference for computer science students, programmers, and anyone interested in the design of interactive technologies.

Activity Theory and Interaction Design

Activity theory holds that the human mind is the product of our interaction with people and artifacts in the context of everyday activity. Acting with Technology makes the case for activity theory as a basis for understanding our relationship with technology. Victor Kaptelinin and Bonnie Nardi describe activity theory's principles, history, relationship to other theoretical approaches, and application to the analysis and design of technologies. The book provides the first systematic entry-level introduction to the major principles of activity theory. It describes the accumulating body of work in interaction design informed by activity theory, drawing on work from an international community of scholars and designers. Kaptelinin and Nardi examine the notion of the object of activity, describe its use in an empirical study, and discuss key debates in the development of activity theory. Finally, they outline current and future issues in activity theory, providing a comparative analysis of the theory and its leading theoretical competitors within interaction design: distributed cognition, actor-network theory, and phenomenologically inspired approaches.

Emblematic of modernity, the grid gives form to everything from skyscrapers and office cubicles to Mondrian paintings and bits of computer code. And yet, as Hannah Higgins makes clear in this wide-ranging and revelatory book, the grid has a history that long predates modernity; it is the most prominent visual structure in Western culture. In The Grid Book, Higgins examines the history of ten grids that changed the world: the brick, the tablet, the gridiron city plan, the map, musical notation, the ledger, the screen, moveable type, the manufactured box, and the net. Charting the evolution of each grid, from the Paleolithic brick of ancient Mesopotamia through the virtual connections of the Internet, Higgins demonstrates that once a grid is invented, it may bend, crumble, or shatter, but its organizing principle never disappears.

The appearance of each grid was a watershed event. Brick, tablet, and city gridiron made possible sturdy housing, the standardization of language, and urban development. Maps, musical notation, financial ledgers, and moveable type promoted the organization of space, music, and time, international trade, and mass literacy. The screen of perspective painting heralded the science of the modern period, classical mechanics, and the screen arts, while the standardization of space made possible by the manufactured box suggested the purified box forms of industrial architecture and visual art. The net, the most ancient grid, made its first appearance in Stone Age Finland; today, the loose but clearly articulated networks of the World Wide Web suggest that we are witnessing the emergence of a grid of unprecedented proportions—one so powerful that it is reshaping the world, as grids do, in its image.

Designing for Business and Workplace Realities

The goal of participatory IT design is to set sensible, general, and workable guidelines for the introduction of new information technology systems into an organization. Reflecting the latest systems-development research, this book encourages a business-oriented and socially sensitive approach that takes into consideration the specific organizational context as well as first-hand knowledge of users' work practices and allows all stakeholders—users, management, and staff—to participate in the process. Participatory IT Design is a guide to the theory and practice of this process that can be used as a reference work by IT professionals and as a textbook for classes in information technology at introductory through advanced levels. Drawing on the work of a ten-year research program in which the authors worked with Danish and American companies, the book offers a framework for carrying out IT design projects as well as case studies that stand as examples of the process.

The method presented in Participatory IT Design—known as the MUST method, after a Danish acronym for theories and methods of initial analysis and design activities—was developed and tested in thirteen industrial design projects for companies and organizations that included an American airline, a multinational pharmaceutical company, a national broadcasting corporation, a multinational software house, and American and Danish universities. The first part of the book introduces the concepts and guidelines on which the method is based, while the second and third parts are designed as a practical toolbox for utilizing the MUST method. Part II describes the four phases of a design project—initiation, in-line analysis, in-depth analysis, and innovation. Part III explains the method's sixteen techniques and related representation tools, offering first an overview and then specific descriptions of each in separate sections.

An Ethnography of Design and Innovation
Edited by Dominique Vinck

Everyday Engineering was written to help future engineers understand what they are going to be doing in their everyday working lives, so that they can do their work more effectively and with a broader social vision. It will also give sociologists deeper insights into the sociotechnical world of engineering. The book consists of ethnographic studies in which the authors, all trained in both engineering and sociology, go into the field as participant-observers. The sites and types of engineering explored include mechanical design in manufacturing industries, instrument design, software debugging, environmental management within companies, and the implementation of a system for separating household waste.The book is organized in three parts. The first part introduces the complexity of technical practices. The second part enters the social and cultural worlds of designers to grasp their practices and motivations. The third part examines the role of writing practices and graphical representation. The epilogue uses the case studies to raise a series of questions about how objects can be taken into account in sociological analyses of human organizations.

Electronic Products, Aesthetic Experience, and Critical Design

As our everyday social and cultural experiences are increasingly mediated by electronic products—from "intelligent" toasters to iPods—it is the design of these products that shapes our experience of the "electrosphere" in which we live. Designers of electronic products, writes Anthony Dunne in Hertzian Tales, must begin to think more broadly about the aesthetic role of electronic products in everyday life. Industrial design has the potential to enrich our daily lives—to improve the quality of our relationship to the artificial environment of technology, and even, argues Dunne, to be subverted for socially beneficial ends.

The cultural speculations and conceptual design proposals in Hertzian Tales are not utopian visions or blueprints; instead, they embody a critique of present-day practices, "mixing criticism with optimism." Six essays explore design approaches for developing the aesthetic potential of electronic products outside a commercial context—considering such topics as the post-optimal object and the aesthetics of user-unfriendliness—and five proposals offer commentary in the form of objects, videos, and images. These include "Electroclimates," animations on an LCD screen that register changes in radio frequency; "When Objects Dream...," consumer products that "dream" in electromagnetic waves; "Thief of Affection," which steals radio signals from cardiac pacemakers; "Tuneable Cities," which uses the car as it drives through overlapping radio environments as an interface of hertzian and physical space; and the "Faraday Chair: Negative Radio," enclosed in a transparent but radio-opaque shield.

Very little has changed in the world of design since Hertzian Tales was first published by the Royal College of Art in 1999, writes Dunne in his preface to this MIT Press edition: "Design is not engaging with the social, cultural, and ethical implications of the technologies it makes so sexy and consumable." His project and proposals challenge it to do so.

The Socialist Objects of Russian Constructivism

In Imagine No Possessions, Christina Kiaer investigates the Russian Constructivist conception of objects as being more than commodities. "Our things in our hands must be equals, comrades," wrote Aleksandr Rodchenko in 1925. Kiaer analyzes this Constructivist counterproposal to capitalism's commodity fetish by examining objects produced by Constructivist artists between 1923 and 1925: Vladimir Tatlin's prototype designs for pots and pans and other everyday objects, Liubov' Popova's and Varvara Stepanova's fashion designs and textiles, Rodchenko's packaging and advertisements for state-owned businesses (made in collaboration with revolutionary poet Vladimir Mayakovsky), and Rodchenko's famous design for the interior of a workers' club. These artists, heeding the call of Constructivist manifestos to abandon the nonobjective painting and sculpture of the early Russian avant-garde and enter into Soviet industrial production, aimed to work as "artist-engineers" to produce useful objects for everyday life in the new socialist collective.

Kiaer shows how these artists elaborated on the theory of the socialist object-as-comrade in the practice of their art. They broke with the traditional model of the autonomous avant-garde, Kiaer argues, in order to participate more fully in the political project of the Soviet state. She analyzes Constructivism's attempt to develop modernist forms to forge a new comradely relationship between human subjects and the mass-produced objects of modernity; Constructivists could "imagine no possessions" (as John Lennon's song puts it) not by eliminating material objects but by eliminating the possessive relation to them. Considering such Constructivist objects as flapper dresses and cookie advertisements, Kiaer creates a dialogue between the more famous avant-garde works of these artists and their quirkier, less appreciated utilitarian objects. Working in the still semicapitalist Russia of the New Economic Policy, these artists were imagining, by creating their comradely objects, a socialist culture that had not yet arrived.

Talking about Seeing and Doing

In Shape, George Stiny argues that seeing shapes—with all their changeability and ambiguity—is an inexhaustible source of creative ideas. Understanding shapes, he says, is a useful way to understand what is possible in design.

Shapes are devices for visual expression just as symbols are devices for verbal expression. Stiny develops a unified scheme that includes both visual expression with shapes and verbal expression with signs. The relationships—and equivalencies—between the two kinds of expressive devices make design comparable to other professional practices that rely more on verbal than visual expression. Design uses shapes while business, engineering, law, mathematics, and philosophy turn mainly to symbols, but the difference, says Stiny, isn't categorical. Designing is a way of thinking. Designing, Stiny argues, is calculating with shapes, calculating without equations and numbers but still according to rules. Stiny shows that the mechanical process of calculation is actually a creative process when you calculate with shapes—when you can reason with your eyes, when you learn to see instead of count.

The book takes the idea of design as calculation from mere heuristic or metaphor to a rigorous relationship in which design and calculation each inform and enhance the other. Stiny first demonstrates how seeing and counting differ when you use rules—that is, what it means to calculate with your eyes—then shows how to calculate with shapes, providing formal details. He gives practical applications in design with specific visual examples. The book is extraordinarily visual, with many drawings throughout—drawings punctuated with words. You have to see this book in order to read it.

Design and Dissent on the Internet

The network economy presents itself in the transactions of electronic commerce, finance, business, and communications. The network economy is also a social condition of discontinuity, indefinite limits, and in-between spaces. In Cornucopia Limited, Richard Coyne uses the liminality of design -- its uneasy position between creativity and commerce -- to explore the network economy. He argues that design, with its open-ended and transgressive explorations, provides a new way to think about the world of commerce; design’s inter-territorial precinct, its in-between condition, offers a way to frame the problems of the Internet economy -- for profit vs. for free, private vs. public, security vs. open access, defense vs. permeability.Design, says Coyne, has a natural affinity with the edge condition and the position between polar opposites. Edgy design starts with an idea, brings to mind its opposite, and then works with what emerges from the friction between the two. The designer of a Web portal, for example, might take on the problem of security by focusing on the limits of permeability. Design is edgy, and risky, argues Coyne, in the same way that breaches in network security are risky. In Cornucopia Limited he examines the threshold between conditions exemplified by the boundary between design and commerce. Coyne uses five metaphors of design to develop his argument: the household (in economics, historically opposed to the market), with its relationship to the street mediated by various portals; the machine, rampant and glitchy; the game, competitive but simulated; the gift, precursor to commerce; and the threshold. The threshold condition, Coyne says, is the site of edgy design and a portal into the new. The threshold, he argues, provides the most potent metaphor for understanding the liminal dwellers of the network economy.

  • Page 5 of 6