Essay 3-Man Chau Chau(Eric)


Be a term that can change the world, design cannot disappear. In my life of design, I always thought about design is a difficult task. Design one thing takes many times to prepare and develop the idea. The creation of the design also can make me want to give up. But design is an interesting thing to learn and to work with. I can say if my life without design, I will be going crazy. Continue reading ‘Essay 3-Man Chau Chau(Eric)’




The BLOG was interesting for me because I had no experience, need or interest in visiting or creating one before.

I support Jon’s views that it provided a good forum to collaborate with class members.  I enjoyed the keen and capable participation of BLOG-friendly members like Pete.  I liked being able to look at other student’s comments and submissions and receive their views on mine.

Was a BLOG (as opposed to say a website, electronic game or another design practice) quite confined by electronic parameters that did not allow more innovative design options to emerge? While I appreciated the appearance and functionality of the site being controlled by others (because of my own ineptitude), I think it would have been fun to see what emerged with more input (experienced or not).  Mistakes teach us things as well.

I share Jon’s views about info being split between the Google site and the BLOG. In all we had three sites to visit and/or manage.

I am concerned that a BLOG did allow more engaged practice of the ‘designerly acts’. I am not familiar enough with the practice of blogging to know whether this could be resolved with other software, manipulation, etc. We had a broad range of professional and cultural experience and some interesting things could have emerged.



Sleep again!

“Let me sleep on it: Creative problem solving enhanced by REM sleep

June 8th, 2009



Research led by a leading expert on the positive benefits of napping at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine suggests that Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep enhances creative problem-solving. The findings may have important implications for how sleep, specifically REM sleep, fosters the formation of associative networks in the brain…”

Read more at http://www.physorg.com/news163700544.html


Comments on the BLOG

At the conclusion of IDEA 9106 for the semester, it might be worth seeking comments from all class participants on the role of the BLOG and opportunities for further development.

This is my personal SWOT analysis for what it is worth …



  • provides a forum for collaboration
  • utilises the skill sets and experiences of the class group
  • provides a new experience for most of the class who have never actively participated in a BLOG before
  • allows the opportunity for ongoing interaction and feedback with Paul and the class group on many varied design topics outside of the limited class time
  • everyone has the ability view each others submissions and benefit from other opinions and points of view on the designerly acts
  • feedback comments on postings were well considered and beneficial to improving future submissions



  • the appearance and functionality of the site was controlled by relatively few administrators. I appreciate you doing it New Pete don’t get me wrong, but I think an opportunity was missed to incorporate individually developed BLOGs into the course – see below
  • little opportunity for individuality or personal design considerations to reinforce the intent of postings
  • organisation of the BLOG was typically long lineal streams of text based information which feels at times somewhat 2 dimensional and self-referencing
  • navigation through the information not always intuitive
  • split of information between the Google Groups site and Word Press site



  • I am a firm believer that information received is made much more pertinent and is better retained if it can be put into practice at the time of receiving it. The BLOG process could have been an opportunity to put all thirteen Designerly Acts into immediate practice, with the act of creating a BLOG recorded and analysed in terms of the Designerly Acts. What better way to consider ‘researching’, ‘exploring’, ‘modelling’, ‘discovering’, ‘presenting’ etc than actually enacting them and consciously evaluating how you personally approached this task against the theory from class.
  • to enable this, one central web portal point would be required, which could be the current Google Groups site, from which multiple individual BLOG sites could be formed and cross-linked. This would then allow each class participant to research available options and tools, model their proposal in which ever format they think relevant, explore the potentials of the medium, discuss their findings in class and eventually present and celebrate their final BLOG creation.



  • I don’t perceive any threats in the use of the BLOG. It has proven to be a powerful communication tool which I believe has enhanced everyone’s learning from the Design Thinking course in a way that traditional printed hard copies delivered down the level 4 “death chute” could not have achieved


What are everyone else’s comments on the BLOG???


Design Thinking – Roisin Kelly

Design Thinking – Roisin Kelly (200239096)

Kees Dorst questions, in his article Design Research: A Revolution Waiting to Happen (2008), how someone would start a new scientific discipline aimed at studying a complex area of human activity like design. First, he says, we would probably observe the activity, and then describe it (“which in itself involves a degree of interpretation”). Then we would seek to create models to explain the phenomena as observed. This explanatory framework could then be used to prescribe ways for improving practice and developing methods and tools.

 Dorst (2008) says that this has not happened in the field of design research. He says the field emerged from practitioners developing ways of working to help them cope with problems they faced, that these prescriptive statements were put into words and published as formal tools and methods.

 Dorst (2008) says that studying the process of design would include four components – the object of the activity (the design problem and emerging solution), the actor (the designer or design team), the context in which the activity takes place and the structure and dynamics of the activities (‘the design process’).

 He says however that three of these four aspects are often ignored. He says the overwhelming majority of descriptive and prescriptive work in design research focuses entirely on the design process and, as a result, design methods and tools being developed inevitably focus on enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of the process. He suggests that an overriding focus on design processes holds us back from a deeper understanding of the design activity.

 I think that IDEA9106 and design thinking has challenged Dorst’s point. And while ‘designerly acts’ are part of the design process, I think that significant aspects of the other components emerged in a more rich and subtle way than they may have if we blatantly identified them and tackled them.

For example, I was curious and intrigued about the relationship between cognitions and the design process and how intricately linked they are. The class discussions around knowing, discovering and interpreting allowed these issues to emerge organically, as a consequence of the designerly acts.       

Let’s look at interpretation for example. Gabriela Goldschmidt (1988) says that interpretation is the hinge on which the entire design process is pivoted. Consider how uniquely individual and misconstrued interpretations can be and ask whether looking this aspect of the design process can really exclude emotion or passions. I can vividly picture members of a design team departing a brief or brainstorming session in frustration because no-one cared about or understood their interpretations. 

Goldschmidt says that interpretation can be the central process within the wider activity of designing. She refers to ‘knowledge’ which includes information, norms, beliefs, requirements, wishes or stylistic preferences that a designer is aware of, and ‘design moves’ which are actions on the knowledge – adding or subtracting from the knowledge, changing the relationship among items. Priorities, for example, can emerge from design moves. The possibilities of ‘knowledge’ alone are vast and, often, emotional or even irrational. 

And what about discovery? Goldschmidt says that the opportunity for discoveries is wide open when designers experiment with their material intensively enough to see issues and problems in new ways. So if a designers ‘material’ includes their knowledge we are asking them to challenge and experiment with their beliefs, requirements or preferences. I ask whether looking at this part of the design process could ever exclude emotions or attitudes.  

And what about reflection? Personal or collective reflection in a professional context can inevitably result in personal challenges that raise emotions.

Consider Schon’s (1983) chapter about the limits to reflection in action in town planning. 

He talks about his (and Argyis’) models I and II of theory in action. Model I is typical of my experience with how statutory planners behave. Values in this model include (among others) achieving the task as I define it, try to win and control the task unilaterally. I have heard planners return from meetings with applicants and claim to have “won”.

Schon says that in applying this model negotiations will be imbued with “mystery and mastery” because each side protects themselves and hides information that could, if revealed, facilitate negotiations and achieve and a better outcome. 

The model II theory in action, alternatively, proposes creating conditions for open and informed communication and exchanging directly observable information from which valid assumptions can be made thereby creating conditions where parties play an intrinsically satisfying role, rather than one based on loss or gain, and where commitment to decisions may be stronger. (I suspect that many professions could benefit from this model and I am certain that statutory planning could. I am curious to know whether I would derive such certainty if the chapter was written from the perspective of another profession).          

When I consider Schon’s (1983) detailed assessment of reflection I again question Dorst’s (2008) comments that while the study of design has focussed on process this means it has ignored the design problem, the actors and the context because I believe that reflection in all its frustration and revelation cannot be reasonably considered without including at least some emotion, other actors or the context.

Consider, for example, a professional discussion of Schon’s two models. How is model I applied? When is model II applied? How useful have practitioners have found them in different circumstances? Are there benefits or drawbacks? Have there been gains or losses as a result of a certain approach? What may have occurred had the alternative model been applied? This debate, if nothing else, might allow practitioners to see and acknowledge their behaviour and surely this is the beginning of reflection.     

The issues that would inevitably arise as a result of this professional discussion, whether personal or collective, would necessarily include feelings, other team members, the context and the actual design problem. Some would say “I felt angry, impatient, ignored…”. Others would say “The engineers/administrators would not allow it…” or “That is not suitable for this situation…”.  

So while Dorst thinks that almost three-quarters of the aspects of designing have generally been overlooked by focussing on process I think that design thinking allows deeper understanding of the design activity. 

Some further ideas for IDEA 9106.

Design has wide application in many professions. Furniture – from elite items in Milan to basic household or office furniture. Websites – from functional to funky. Games –board games, computer games, children’s playground equipment. Clothes – from catwalk to utilitarian. Machinery – household to industrial, useful to useless. Print media – catalogues, magazines, industry journals and bill boards. Packaging and advertising in their many shapes and forms. Vehicles – from skateboards to helicopters. Does drafting policy and legislation feature design? Does systems planning or business analysis use design principles? I think that many professions could and sometimes do apply some or many of the ‘designerly acts’. 

IDEA 9106 could benefit from drawing on different examples of how and where design is applied.

 I think that a class of people: younger and older, from all over the world, with different beliefs, knowledge and professional backgrounds will apply the ‘designerly acts’ individually with unique and possibly interesting results. Imagine for instance if in Week 4-6 students were asked to use the acts studied so far to design something – some would sketch, some would use computers, some may build it. Some might refine an existing example or come up with something entirely new. Some would focus on appearance and others may focus on function. Some would target marketability while others may aim for individuality. Some would mimic and others would innovate. There would be good, great and preposterous.

And what about other ‘designerly acts’? For example Goldschmidt (1988) refers to ‘play’. Apparently the word ‘play’, as a noun and verb, is often used in discussion of architecture and designing. One famous example in architecture is Le Corbusier’s definition: ‘Architecture is the skilful, correct and magnificent play of volumes assembled in light’. Likewise Donald Schon talks about ‘design worlds’, virtual in nature, within which design activities take place. 

I raise play because speculative sketching or testing seemed to be a relatively common effort in the design process. And while play could be captured in other ‘designerly acts’ like exploring or modelling, I think that play allows or even encourages, less rigid or defined engagement with the brief whereby team members can test or sample fanciful ideas.

I think that IDEA 9106 allowed speculation,  experimentation and engagement and also filled a gap identifed by Dorst.  



Crilly, Nathan; Good, David; Matravers, Derek; Clarkson, P John 2008 Design as communication: exploring the validity and utility of relating intention to interpretation Design Studies, Volume 29, Issue 5, September 2008, Pages 425-457

Cross, Cross 2007 Forty years of design research Design Studies, Volume 28, Issue 1, January 2007, Pages 1-4

Dorst, Kees 2008 Design research: a revolution-waiting-to-happen Design Studies, Volume 29, Issue 1, January 2008, Pages 4-11

Goldschmidt, Gabriela 1988 Interpretation: its role in architectural designing
Design Studies, Volume 9, Issue 4, October 1988, Pages 235-245

Schon, Donald 1983 The Reflective Practitioner Ashgate Publishing Ltd


jono – short survey response

1 How would you describe your design philosophy?   Clarity and integrity dominate throughout all aspects of my design, including structural systems, materiality, circulation, modulation and detail
2 How would you describe different ways of going about designing you have seen?   Reductive – starting with a solid ‘block’ and then reducing it for imposed reasons such as Council controls, solar access, sightlines etc resulting in an envelope which becomes the building.
Additive – imposing a strong design idea on the site and developing it to fit within required controls or constraints
3 Could you describe any differences in your way of designing, compared with other designers in your experience?   Generally more structured, with a central conceptual idea against which everything subsequent is tested against
4 Perhaps you have observed that some designers progress fairly steadily through projects, while others fluctuate, apparently getting nowhere for a time and then suddenly progressing    
a Which of these patterns is closer to your own experience?


b What would you say are the main reasons why this happens?   Fluctuating progress is not by choice, but unfortunately a reality. Due to the time demands on my day I rarely get to spend continuous uninterrupted time on any one project
5 Can you describe anything that you associate with your creative work?   Being away from interruptions such as the phone and email. Solitude. Background music, yellow trace, thick 6B pencil
6 If you get stuck or find you can’t resolve tricky design problem, how do you deal with it?   Have a cup of tea and keep on sketching. Persistence usually pays off
7 Can you briefly describe any examples of needing a breakthrough, during conceptual design, and coming up with one?   Designing a support structure for the Sydney 2000 Olympic cauldron post games was difficult. Eventually the game of ‘pick-up-sticks’ provided the stimulus to allow for both an artistic support structure and a direct path for multiple service conduits to the cauldron
8 How often do you find design ideas come to you unexpectedly at times when you are not designing?   Occasionally come as I wake up in the early morning, with my sub-conscious obviously having worked through the night
9 How did these compare, with discoveries you make while working?   These discoveries are usually more considered and resolved, whereas ideas from the conscious mind need to be tested and further developed
10 Is there anything else that is emotionally important, or important in any other way, to your designing, or which helps to reveal ‘how you tick’?   Stay true to your beliefs and design principles, despite impositions and hinderances from clients and authorities

Jono – Reflecting on Design Thinking

This BLOG entry is a personal reflection on my education and ongoing development as an architect and exploring how my personal experiences to date have influenced and guided my individual process of DESIGN THINKING.

I was attending secondary school in Newcastle, contemplating my career options, when the Newcastle University medical department announced that it was completely re-assessing its approach to the selection of students into the graduate course and the form that the education would be delivered once admitted. No longer would students be admitted based solely on impressive quantitative HSC marks, they also were required to pass a qualitative assessment of their aptitude to conduct themselves as a doctor following their education. Learning the theory of medicine was no longer considered adequate for the practice of medicine and a more relevant selection process and form of education was required.

The curricula devised by the Dean of Medicine was based around ‘problem-based learning’ principles. The basis of this style of learning is to present the students with a problem to solve, rather than the traditional series of unrelated lectures or assignments, which by the end of the degree should provide all of the knowledge required. The learning process becomes ‘active’ in the sense that the students need to discover the content which is relevant to the problem, rather than being handed the content in predetermined doses, typically at periods when the information could not be implemented and remained purely theoretical.

Aspects of problem-based learning include:

• Lecturers and tutors take on the role of facilitators rather than a source for solutions, allowing the students to ‘learn to learn’ and make their learning relevant to their own educational needs

• Retention of knowledge is increased by the activation of prior knowledge to construct explanatory models, which subsequently facilitate the processing and comprehension of new information

• New information is better comprehended when provided at the time of need and when students can apply it and elaborate on it further

• Learning in context is considered to make information more accessible for later use because situational clues activate the knowledge stored within the same cognitive structures

• Integration of basic concepts and knowledge from different domains and disciplines is necessary to address problems

• Students tend to see gaps in their own knowledge base and learn to regulate their own skill development

The Dean of the Architecture faculty at Newcastle University at the time, Professor Barry Maitland observed the changes implemented by medicine and recognised that the problem-based form of learning would be just as relevant for architects as doctors, in that competence is fostered not primarily by teaching to deliver knowledge, but through teaching to engender specific kinds of cognitive activity.

Changes happening across the world at the time – such as rapid advances in technology, changes in community demographics, environmental factors and lifestyle expectations required a revision of the traditional system of education for architects. The intent for the new form of architecture degrees was to train students on how to deal with problems in the future, preparing us to become active, independent learners and problem solvers through an inquisitive style of learning.

Problems proposed were very much along the lines of ‘wicked problems’ as suggested by [Rittel & Webber 1984] and ‘ill-structured problems’ as proposed by [Simon] – unique with no definite formulation. Interpreting these required explorative and abductive thinking, re-interpretation of the problem and ultimately necessitating innovative and creative design solutions based on a first principles analysis of the problem.

Being students at the time we did not possess expert knowledge, so we were expected to gather information and learn new concepts, principles and skills to engage with the nature of Knowing. This included utilising what we already know from previous experiences and recognising what strengths and capabilities each member of the team had. Each problem was approached with a constructive mode of thinking within a broad systematic approach. After nearly 20 years of practice as a chartered architect many of these design problems have already been encountered and knowledge from previous solutions assisting in a more efficient and effective resolution second time around, though I still maintain a first principles approach to all design thinking.

The nature of these ill-defined problems posed at Uni developed self-confidence in our abilities to define and re-define the problem, negotiate a path between solution and problem to better inform both aspects. Generally I approached the Practicing of design through the use of a ‘primary generator’ as proposed by [Darke 1979], using this as a benchmark to assess further development and make value judgements. This is still how I work today, though my toolbox of guiding principles have been developed and refined over the years, allowing quicker and more accurate assessment of new ideas against the primary generator for a specific project. The delight of being a designer was obvious to us during our education and is a constant reward of being an architect, being able to transform cognitive ideas into a physical reality for the world to see and experience.

Researching the knowledge and data to support our proposed solutions was always critical and remains so. Precedent studies of historical and contemporary projects, technical information on existing and emerging materials and processes are essential to developing as an architect, though it is often tempting to “just do it the same as last time …”.

My tertiary studies occurred just at the time when computers were transforming from main frames housed in a hidden central campus building with punch cards and incomprehensible streams of data to personal computing, run by a beige box sitting on your desk. These improved the presentation techniques available and assisted in the calculations of structural solutions, however when it came to the Modelling of our ideas hand drawn sketches, hand made models and hand crafted images were the only realistic option. This has led to a lifelong joy of sketching, as a record of events and travel, as a relaxation, but more importantly as a communication technique with clients where a picture is truly worth a thousand words – especially when it is created in front of a clients eyes for their specific need. I firmly believe in the cognitive scientific research that has identified the intrinsic 2-way connection between the brain and the hand, where each is better informed by the operation of the other. To watch a new graduate head straight for the computer to develop an idea pains me. I am sure that there are some who have learnt this technique successfully, but typically I see a result which is limited by the constraints of the CAD package and the practicalities of setting out lines than ideas. Textures, shading are all mechanical considerations rather than an intuitive element of the design and representation of ideas. Line weight and connection take precedent over building plane and form.

Curiosity and a search for something new and innovative often lead me to Exploring new untested ideas. Travel is an important aspect of this exploration – not merely looking at carefully crafted and cropped images in glossy books, but actually Experiencing buildings and the built environment first hand. Many of my cohort took the year off between our two degrees and travelled and worked overseas. Studies of Andrea Palladio, Modernism, Ephesus, Louis Kahn and the Barcelona Pavilion took on a new meaning when standing within their physical walls, using all five senses to their limit.

Overall, this study of Design Thinking has led me to conclude that designing is not just a process, but it is intrinsic with our individual interpretation and personal experiences gained throughout life. My personal approach to designing has been significantly influenced by the style of teaching adopted by Newcastle Uni, resulting in my wholistic and intuitive design approach.


Norman GR, Schmidt HG, (1992) The psychological basis of problem-based learning: a review of the evidence

Rittel, H.W.J. and Webber, M.W. (1984) Planning problems are wicked problems, in N. Cross (Ed.), Developments in Design Methodology

Darke, J. (1979). The primary generator and the design process. In Design Studies

May 2018
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