How Designers Learn


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The Design Society

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Designers rely on their skills of problem-reframing and concept exploration to solve complex problems. However, more than before they need to learn rapidly in order to understand the complexity of the problems they work on. This learning often happens through tacit knowledge transfer in collaborative teams. This article focuses on the design practitioner’s facilitation of knowledge transfer on the boundaries of communities of practice. As design problems are becoming more complex and problem aspects unpredictable from project to project, the designer’s competence is shifting towards facilitation of analytical design processes in teams. The article strives to study the tools for this facilitation through pedagogical constructivism. The case study about interfaces for knowledge transfer and problem solving is presented and contains interviews and observations of the workshop. Two groups of students were studied while using different media to solve the same problem in context of service design. The analyses of the case study shows how the visual objects of representation they use influences the approach to the problem as well as the emergence of solutions, but also the type of information that comes into focus for the groups. The media used for participative design activities is analysed through the constructivist pedagogical concept of the objects of representation, and their influence on the dynamics of the negotiation of the participants. The analyses also shows how usage of objects of representation and their tangible qualities can deepen understanding and creation of tacit knowledge. Finally, the implications are discussed through the prism of interdisciplinary collaboration and application in design projects. Designers do not only need a formalized role within the team for knowledge transfer, but also the skill for its facilitation. This skill should fit design practitioners’ regime of competence, which is collecting knowledge in teams through visual means, rather than only generating evidence to use in the design practice. Moreover, this skill may be found in ability to manipulate creative teams’ focus, through the utilization of a constructivist approach to learning by using vectors of the objects of representation. The formulation of the tasks around the objects of representation, their order and character can be used to shift the focus of learning.




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