Interior Design Methods

The role of design methods is to support design work, the aims of which can be varied, though they may include gaining key insights or unique essential truths resulting in more holistic solutions in order to achieve better experiences for users with products, services, environments and systems they rely upon. Insight, in this case, is clear and deep investigation of a situation through design methods, thereby grasping the inner nature of things intuitively. Design methods is a broad area that focuses on

  • Divergence– Exploring possibilities and constraints of inherited situations by applying critical thinking through qualitative and quantitative research methods to create new understanding (problem space) toward better design solutions
  • Transformation – Redefining specifications of design solutions which can lead to better guidelines for traditional and contemporary design activities (architecture, graphic, industrial, information, interaction, et al.) and/or multidisciplinary response
  • Convergence– Prototyping possible scenarios for better design solutions that incrementally or significantly improve the originally inherited situation
  • Sustainability– Managing the process of exploring, redefining and prototyping of design solutions continually over time.
  • Articulation- the visual relationship between the parts and the whole.

When process and method are discussed, they tend to be used interchangeably. However, while they are two sides to the same coin, they are different. Process (lat. processes–movement) is a naturally occurring or designed sequence of operations or events over time which produce desired outcomes. Process contains a series of actions, events, mechanisms, or steps, which contain methods. Method is a way of doing something, especially a systematic way through an orderly arrangement of specific techniques. Each method has a process.

From a pragmatic standpoint, design methods is concerned with the “how” and defining “when” things happen, and in what desired order.

Design Methods is challenging to implement since there are not enough agreed-upon tools, techniques and language for consistent knowledge transfer. While there are many conceptual models and frameworks, there needs to be more granularity of tools and techniques. There are also many variables that affect outcomes since logic and intuition interplay with one another. Two people can therefore use the same method and arrive at different outcomes.

  • Behaviorism interpreted Design Methods as a way to describehuman behavior in relation to the built environment. Its clinical approach tended to rely on human behavior processes (taxonomic activities).
  • Reductivism broke Design Methods down into small constituent parts. This scientific approach tended to rely on rationalism and objectified processes such as epistemological
  • Phenomenology approached design methods from an experiential approach (human experience and)

The Environmental Design and Research Association is one of the best-known entities that strive to integrate designers and social science professionals for better built environments. EDRA was founded by Henry Sanoff in 1969. Both John Chris Jones and Christopher Alexander interacted with EDRA and other camps; both seemed at a certain point to reject their interpretations. Jones and Christopher also questioned their original thesis about design methods.

The following is what design research is concerned with

  • The physical embodiment of man-made things, how these things perform their jobs, and how their users perceive and employ them
  • Construction as a human activity, how designers work, how they think, and how they carry out design activity, and how non-designers participate in the process
  • What is achieved at the end of a purposeful design activity, how an artificial thing appears, and what it means
  • Embodiment of configurations
  • Systematic search and acquisition of knowledge related to design and design activity

Significance of emergence of design research and design studies

Both research and design studies made design more visible and accountable. Research was recognized at the outset by design methods as a type of leg-work to

The eventual debate about design methods and whether design is an art or science is not a new. Partisans on both sides of the issue have framed it as a binary choice of something to lose or gain. However, this false argument was viewed by John Chris Jones, who recognized the “logical, systematic, behavioristic, operational aspects of new methods” (which could be viewed as science) might be seen as “anti-life” which treat people as “instruments.” On the other side, another group may define design with “animism, vitalism and naturalism” as a language (which could be viewed as art). Jones sought to bring both together and act as checks-and-balances for design methods.

Professional Design Practice

Conversations about design methods and a more systematic approach to design was not isolated to Europe. America was also a magnet for practicing design professionals to codify their successes in design practice and backing into larger theories about the dynamics of design methods.

American designers were much more pragmatic at articulating design methods and creating an underlying language about the practice of industrial and graphic design. They were tied to economic systems that supported design practice and therefore focused on the way design could be managed as an extension of business, rather than the European approach to design methods based on transforming engineering by design.

Industrial design was the first area that made inroads into systematizing knowledge through practice. Raymond Loewy was instrumental at elevating the visibility of industrial design through cult of personality (appearing three times on front cover of Time Magazine). Henry Dreyfuss had a profound impact on the practice of industrial design by developing a systematic process used to shape environments, transportation, products and packaging. His focus on the needs of the average consumer was most celebrated in his book designing for People, an extensive exploration of ergonomics.

Design management

An area of study and application that either raises the awareness of business professionals how to integrate and manage design, and/or the integration of business issues, systems and methods and managing their interdependency with design activities and outcomes that support the economic systems which benefit from a designers vision, skills and deliverables.

While this relationship has been identified, it has not been universally recognized or accepted by diverse design communities. Designers have strong connection not only to clients but also to end users who consume products and services. One of the strongest early advocates was Peter Gorb, former Director of London Business School’s Centre for Design Management.

Design as a function within corporations, or as independent consultancies, have not always collaborated well with business. Clients and the market have traditionally viewed design as an expressive and production function, rather than as a strategic asset. Designers have focused their skills and knowledge in creating designed artifacts, and indirectly addressed larger issues within this creative process. They have been uneasy about articulating their value to business in terms that business executives could understand.

There were moves to bridge this gap. In England, the British Design Council (now called the Design Council) was founded in 1944 by the British wartime government as the Council of Industrial Design with the objective “to promote by all practicable means the improvement of design in the products of British industry”. The Design Management Institute is an international nonprofit organization that seeks to heighten awareness of design as an essential part of business strategy. Founded in 1975, DMI has become the leading resource and international authority on design management.

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Computer Aided Design (CAD)

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