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    Wicked Problems in Design ThinkingAuthor(s): Richard BuchananSource: Design Issues, Vol. 8, No. 2 (Spring, 1992), pp. 5-21Published by: The MIT PressStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1511637

    Accessed: 06/09/2009 16:26

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  • 8/11/2019 Buchanan DesignThinking

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    Richard

    Buchanan

    WickedProblems

    n

    Design

    Thinking

    This

    essay

    s based n

    a

    paper resented

    t

    Colloque

    Recherches

    ur

    le

    Design:

    Incitations,

    mplications,

    nteractions,

    he

    first French

    universitysymposium

    on

    design

    researchheld October

    1990 at

    l'Universite

    e

    Technologie

    e

    Compiegne,

    Compilgne,France.

    Introduction

    Despite

    effortsto discover

    he foundations

    of

    design

    thinking

    n

    the fine

    arts,

    he natural

    ciences,

    or most

    recently,

    he socialsci-

    ences,

    design

    eludesreduction

    and remains

    surprisingly

    lexible

    activity.

    No

    single

    definition of

    design,

    or

    branchesof

    profes-

    sionalizedpractice uchas industrial rgraphic esign,adequately

    covers he

    diversity

    of

    ideas

    andmethods

    gathered

    ogether

    under

    the label.

    Indeed,

    the

    variety

    of research

    eported

    n

    conference

    papers,

    ournal

    articles,

    and

    books

    suggests

    hat

    design

    continues

    to

    expand

    n

    its

    meanings

    and

    connections,

    evealingunexpected

    dimensions

    n

    practice

    as well as

    understanding.

    his follows the

    trend

    of

    design hinking

    n the

    twentieth

    entury,

    or

    we haveseen

    designgrow

    rom

    a trade

    activity

    o a

    segmentedprofession

    o

    afield

    for

    technical

    esearch

    nd

    to

    what

    now

    should be

    recognized

    as

    a

    new

    liberalart

    of technological

    ulture.

    It mayseemunusual o talk aboutdesignas a liberalart,par-

    ticularly

    when

    many people

    are accustomed o

    identifying

    the

    liberalarts

    with

    the traditional artsand

    sciences hat

    are

    insti-

    tutionalized

    n

    colleges

    and universities.

    But

    the

    liberalarts are

    undergoing

    a

    revolutionary

    ransformationn

    twentieth-century

    culture,

    and

    design

    is

    one

    of the

    areas

    n

    which this

    transformation

    is

    strikingly

    evident.

    To

    understand

    the

    change

    that is now

    underway,

    it

    is

    important

    to

    recognize

    that what

    are

    commonly

    regarded

    as

    the liberal arts

    today

    are

    not outside of

    history. They

    originated

    n

    the Renaissance

    and underwent

    prolonged development

    that

    culminated

    n

    the nine-

    teenth

    century

    as

    a vision of an

    encyclopedic

    educationof beaux

    arts,

    belles

    lettres,

    history,

    various

    natural

    ciences and

    mathematics,

    phi-

    losophy,

    and the

    fledgling

    social

    sciences.

    This circle of

    learning

    was divided

    into

    particular

    subject

    matters,

    each with

    a

    proper

    method or

    set

    of

    methods suitable to

    its

    exploration.

    At their

    peak

    as liberal

    arts,

    these

    subject

    matters

    provided

    an

    integrated

    under-

    standing

    of human

    experience

    and the

    array

    of

    available

    knowledge.

    By

    the end of

    the nineteenth

    century,

    however,

    existing

    subjects

    were

    explored

    with

    progressively

    more refined

    methods,

    and

    new

    subjects

    were

    added

    to

    accord with

    advances

    in

    knowledge.

    As a

    Design

    Issues:

    Vol.

    VIII,

    Number

    2

    Spring

    1992

    .

    5

  • 8/11/2019 Buchanan DesignThinking

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    1)

    From

    Richard

    McKeon,

    The

    Transformation

    of the Liberal

    Arts

    in

    the

    Renaissance,

    Developments

    in

    the

    Early

    Renaissance,

    ed.

    Bernard

    S.

    Levy

    (Albany:

    State

    University

    of

    New

    York

    Press,

    1972),

    168-69.

    2)

    Neo-positivism,

    pragmatism,

    and var-

    ious

    forms

    of

    phenomenology

    have

    strongly

    influenced

    design

    education

    and

    practice

    in

    the twentieth

    century.

    If

    design

    theory

    has

    often tended

    toward

    neo-positivism,

    design prac-

    tice

    has tended

    toward

    pragmatism

    and

    pluralism,

    with

    phenomenologists

    in both

    areas. Such

    philosophical

    dif-

    ferences

    are illustrated

    n the

    split

    that

    developed

    between

    the theoretical

    and

    studio courses

    at

    the

    Hochschule

    fur

    Gestaltung

    (HfG)

    Ulm before

    its clos-

    ing.

    The

    split

    between

    theory

    and

    practice

    n

    design

    is

    an echo

    of

    the dif-

    ference

    between

    the

    predominantly

    neo-positivist

    philosophy

    of science

    andthe exceptionally diverse philoso-

    phies

    of

    practicing

    scientists.

    Design

    history,

    theory,

    and criticism

    could

    benefit

    from closer

    attention

    to the

    pluralism

    of views

    that

    guide

    actual

    design

    practice.

    3)

    Walter

    Groupius

    was one of

    the

    first to

    recognize

    the

    beginnings

    of a

    new

    lib-

    eral

    art in

    design.

    In an

    essay

    written

    in

    1937,

    he reflected

    on the

    founding

    of

    the

    Bauhaus

    as an

    institution

    grounded

    on the

    idea of

    an architec-

    tonic

    art:

    Thus

    the

    Bauhaus

    was

    inaugurated

    in

    1919

    with

    the

    specific

    object

    of

    realizing

    a modern architec-

    tonic

    art,

    which

    like human

    nature

    was

    meant

    to

    be

    all-embracing

    n

    its

    scope.

    ...

    Our

    guiding

    principle

    was that

    design

    is neither

    an intellectual

    nor

    a

    material

    affair,

    but

    simply

    an

    integral

    part

    of the

    stuff

    of

    life,

    necessary

    for

    everyone

    in a civilized

    society. Scope

    of

    Total

    Architecture

    (New

    York:

    Collier

    Books,

    1970),

    19-20.

    The term

    architectonic,

    n

    this

    case,

    transcends

    the

    derivative

    term

    architecture

    as

    it is

    commonly

    used

    in

    the modern

    world.

    Throughout

    Western

    culture,

    the liberal arts have similarly been

    described

    as architectonic

    because

    of their

    integrative

    capacity.

    Groupius

    appeared

    to understand

    that

    architec-

    ture,

    regarded

    as

    a liberal

    art

    n its ow