Category Archives: Teaching

The (mythical) design funnel

I wrote a small bit of slideware on the topic for my lessons. I often refer to the “funnel” talking about process and methods but I lacked a handy reference. In terms of analytic clarity, I think the best representation is in Buxton, Sketching User Experiences, p. 144, that is based on Laseau, Graphic Thinking for Architects and Designers. Buxton discusses the topic also in relation to sketches vs. prototypes and other point of views. In my slides below you just have the combination between “divergent” and “convergent” phases. The classic scheme from J.C. Jones is still the underlying essential reference, although his specific terminology for the different phases has not achieved common usage.

One question that I can’t answer: who has been the first in talking about the “design funnel”? Who has been the first in using the “funnel” metaphor to express and represent the design process? (Yes, I checked on Wikipedia, maybe too quickly).

PS: yep the post title is a play on the Mythical Man-Month

Italian translation of “40 years of Design Research” by Nigel Cross”

“40 years of Design Research” is a short but very informative piece by Nigel Cross (currently president of the DRS-Design Research Society, professor at the Open University, author of many books and articles). Originally written as a 2006 conference address, it has been then published in the Design Research Quarterly (the DRS official publication), where I found it some months ago. I thought that this was very well suited for my Design Methodology module on “Philosophy of Design” at NABA Media Design, and I completed the Italian translation before Christmas. Nigel has kindly given his permission for using it in teaching; he also made me smile as he replied to my final thanks commenting “how much more elegant it seems in Italian!” 😉

NABA multidisciplinary team wins Nokia NUP-Nokia University program recognition

Fabio Mattia, Rossella Scicolone and Lara Gianotti, students respectively in the Media, Fashion and Graphic Design program at NABA, have won the 3rd placement in the 2008 edition of NUP-Nokia University Program, an annual challenge sponsored by Nokia Italy and addressed usually to Economics and Engineering faculties. Thanks to Alberto D’Ottavi, the NABA Media Design school was invited to join this edition, which in itself has been an achievement, since it has been the first and only design school selected.

Fabio (Media Design) put together a multidisciplinary team inviting two other students from different domains (Rossella from Fashion and Lara from Graphic Design). Alberto and myself have supervised the work. To me it has been especially interesting for the double reason that Fabio was in my Design Methodology / Philosophy of Design class and that the topic of the challenge (“How the Internet device of the future will look like?”) was very much in line with the work done over the last few years on beyond 3G / ubicomp application and services (the service side was also stressed by the reference to OVI in the brief).

The main objective was to develop a concept and articulate it with service ideas and an early business perspective. As obvious, the differences among the various participants were quite evident. Most of the presentations from Economics and Engineering programs were pretty much centred about one or another technology idea, expanded into a bigger marketing picture (some provided even TV spot snippets and campaign budgets), even though others put a considerable effort also in physical mock-ups and benefit analysis. NABA students were drawn instead on a design perspective in which service scenarios and device sketches were perhaps more tied together.

From the educational point of view, I really enjoyed having a chance to practice with the students some of the key issues that I try to teach in my class: design as a team-based, distributed, multidisciplinary work in which intangible, service aspects are related in many ways to physical ones, from the functional, social and esthetical point of views. Furthermore, as the final day was hosted in Roma at Roma Tre University (namely by professor Carlo Alberto Pratesi), Nokia kindly invited the team to bring there some classmates. At the end we were almost 25 people, travelling from Milano to Roma and back to Milano in one day; 9 hours on the high speed train, but it looks like that everyone had a good time… (Friends might wish to check the Facebook photo album).

New Media Art Education & Research workshop

Set up by the M-Node of Planetary Collegium and NABA Media Design program to discuss the perspectives of new media art educational and research work, with special regard to the forthcoming fine arts academies reform (in Italy).

I have been invited to present the paper on my Design Methodology course accepted at HCIed 2008 and co-chair the sessions with Francesco Monico, event curator.

The worshop took place at Centro Forma (Milano exhibition centre devoted to photography). Richard Avedon pictures made a fascinating (and disquieting) background.

Paper on Design Methodology course & panel discussion at HCIed 2008 in Roma

HCIEd 2008 logo
HCIEd 2008 logo – slightly scary isn’t it? 😉

Presented a short paper at HCIed 2008 about my undergraduate course on Design Methodology and Philosophy of Design, now running for the fourth year at NABA. HCIed is the annual international conference of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) educators.

The paper title is “Unfreezing thoughts. Philosophy, design studies and role playing games in a foundational undergraduate course” (download from publications page). Then, the conference organizers invited me to join a panel called to discuss the paper contributed by Russell Beale (University of Birmingham, BCS), “Architects or builders; scaffholding or duck tape?”, regarding the role of HCI education in University level courses (I proposed to educate “builders with a conscience” — download). Since Russell could not make it to Roma, the panel was chaired by the conference keynote speaker, Harold Timbleby (Swansea University; his fifth book, “Press on”, has received an important award); panelists included Tatjana Leblanc (University of Montreal) and Lars Oestreicher (Uppsala University); both of them presented at the conference interesting contributions on HCI, design, complexity and education implications.

Among others, I had very nice talks with Carlo Giovannella (Università di Roma Tor Vergata-Scuola IaD, event hoster), Tatjana Leblanc, William Wong (organizing committee) and Toni Granollers (Universitat de Lleida).
HCIed 2008 has been held at the central premises of CNR in Roma (the building facade is quite an example of the 30s Italy official architectural taste, to say so… The building has been inaugurated in 1937).

CNR premises in Rome
CNR premises in Rome – it looks like Italian 20s-30s architecture…

Design Methodoology / Philosophy of Design course, 4th year

Started the course on Design Methodology / Philosophy of Design for the undergraduate Media Design program at NABA, fine arts academy in Milano. This is the fourth time; it began back in 2003, when the issue of methodology in design to me was the point where some very practical professional concerns (I was a middle manager in a then 300 people Web design and digital marketing agency) met the discovery of J.C. Jones seminal books.

This is also the year in which I managed to write a short paper about the course and get it through in a scientific conference (HCIed 2008; see the publications page for download).

I copied below some text from an early version of my contribution, dropped out in the revision process. The studies director mentioned at the beginning is Francesco Monico.

“Four years ago the studies director of the undergraduate media design program at NABA-Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti, a design school and fine arts academy in Milano, Italy, questioned around the possible shape of a foundational course on design methodology. The need was to propose something different and beyond the specific methodologies already covered by other foundational courses in various design disciplines. As the media have largely overcome their traditional boundaries to spread over a vast range of contexts and industries, with design challenges that cut across the domains of creative production, science and technology, it seemed sensible trying to nurture the ability to think about the possible ways to structure the act and process of designing, in broad and radical terms.

The immediate and slightly provocative reaction of the author was to urge whoever was put in charge to go straight back to the very heart of the word and the concept of method, starting perhaps with some pages of a classic like Descartes Discourse on Method, and ending maybe with the harsh but sophisticate criticism of any methodology in often cited (but lesser known) Paul K. Feyerabend Against Method. To the author initial surprise, the provocation was not turned over; for three years on (and with the fourth coming soon), students have been engaged in a detour from early modern philosophy to contemporary epistemology, to be followed then by a proper investigation of the design process along the lines of a standard book on design methodology, John C. Jones Design Methods. The insisted questioning on the meaning and nature of method is also played out in two practical ways: one is role playing and collaborative dynamics in group games, the other is nonfictional writing”