Designing Conversations

So, Greg asks me, what do you mean by “design” and “designing” here?

In the first chapter of their book Understanding Computers and Cognition: A New Foundation for Design, Terry Winograd and Fernando Flores bring the question of design.

… the interaction between understanding and creation. In speaking here of
design, we are not restricting our concern to the methodology of conscious
design. we address the broader question of how a society engenders inventions whose existence in turn alters that society.

We have a concern similar to those of Flores and Winograd. In what ways can we set out to construct practices that will have the effect of shaping the kinds of conversations we have with each other? And, of course, the kinds of conversations we will be most interested in are reflexive: conversations that affect our interpretations of ourselves and the way that we construct our worlds.

The name of the blog, Designing Conversations, is a pun. How do we affect each other and our worlds? Through conversations. What do our conversations do? They design (shape) our interpretations of ourselves, each other, and our worlds. Those interpretations in turn shape the actions we take.

The world brings us many kinds of designing already: graphic, industrial, architectural, engineering, electronic, scientific, consumer, advertising, and on and on. The possibility of design in the sense that I am most interested is just emerging: designing the space in which we human beings encounter ourselves and our experiences, and take action to take care of things that matter to us – our concerns.

We know that the design of artifacts – say automobiles, disposable razors, software programs, or packaging and transportation systems – have powerful effects on the possibilities and shape the behaviors of the human beings whose worlds they arrive in. The attention of our best designers, however, has only just begun to turn to the design of most artifacts and structures in a way that is explicitly guided by the role those artifacts have in our world of human experience. (Can you name worlds of design where the attention of the designers is more directly aimed at producing particular experiences and interpretations of being human?)

In the worlds of commerce and services, the people of IDEO, for example, are leading the charge in defining “experiences” as design objectives. Darrel Rhea and his cohorts at Cheskin are spelling out design methodologies in which Making Meaning is a context for understanding what designers do.

© Copyright 2006, Chauncey Bell and BABDI, LLC. All rights reserved worldwide.

3 thoughts on “Designing Conversations

  1. Robert Wilson

    This sense of design is very hard to see in our industrial organizations. Somehow we’ve just dummied it down to a collection of “requirements” that get bantered about and then handed over to the developers. The design conversation I’m referring to is the one where we build new systems for people to get the right work done for our companies. The sense that there is design going on really doesn’t exist – it gets dummied down to a simple set of “tasks”: gathering requirements, building, testing and deploying the solution. The skills of listening and designing to address the concerns is really not there from what I can see.

  2. Pingback: An Invitation from Fernando Flores « Chauncey Bell Blog

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