Richard Buchanan, a professor of design, management, and information systems, wrote Wicked Problems as a means of sparking discussion on the importance of spatial qualities in regards to interaction design. He develops a main idea of how the design process is more than what it is made out to be by designers themselves; he believes that design is a liberal art. He goes along with the idea that design is a multifaceted process with a web of connections to all different areas of life. With this, it is important for designers to realize that they are shaping how people live their daily lives and the experiences that they have. Buchanan references many authors, including Herbert A. Simon, Horst W.J. Rittel and John Dewey to bring in other opinions on the subject of design. Buchanan uses Dewey’s ideas in a way to show how science and design are actually interconnected, making the case that design is a new liberal art. Dewey suggests technology is an, “art of experimental thinking” (pg. 8).
Behind all this experimental thinking is an art that is overlooked that can be used to create other types of products for people. Buchanan states that the main challenge with this is getting a deeper understanding of design thinking so there can be a better cohesion in those who apply design thinking and have different problems that they face. However, designers and scientists leave no room for discussion to apply their methods to other areas that relate to them, such as arts and sciences, industry marketing, and the general public. Buchanan is 100% correct when he states that, “without appropriate reflection to help clarify the basis of communication…there is little hope of understanding the foundations and value of design thinking” (pg. 8).
Horst Rittel came up with an approach to these so called wicked problems that designers encounter, dubbing it the linear model. Rittel divided this process into two parts, the problem definition (an analytic sequence) and the problem solution (synthetic sequence). With these two parts “various requirements are combined and balanced against each other, yielding a final plan” (pg. 15). Areas of design are places where progress should be shared between designers of all fields to create innovative solutions.
On an end note, Buchanan wraps up with how design is part of technology and the “systemic thinking” process that goes with technology. With this thinking, design does wind up classifying itself as a liberal art, which we completely agree with. “To possess [this] technology or discipline of thinking was to posses the liberal art, to be human, and to be free in seeking one’s place in the world” (pg. 19). Why not have men and women understand how design works to some extent? This common knowledge would greatly help the communication between not only designers and their clients but between other professions that share a connection to the world of design.
Photo By: Katerina Lomonosov