My thesis paper explores the thinking aspect of design to understand what it is designers actually do so that we can understand our value and communicate it to others. To this end, I read several books, including The Design Way, The Reflective Practitioner, How Designers Think, and Thoughtful Interaction Design. In addition, I reference The Sciences of the Artificial, Designerly Ways of Knowing, and Design Methods.

Advisor: Jodi Forlizzi


What designers do—the thinking behind design—is not fully understood. Design is still often viewed as a black art rather than a rigorous discipline. Designers themselves have difficulty explaining how they make the connections that lead to the final solution and why those judgments are valid. While good design work can be done without understanding these forces, it is my hypothesis that the more designers know about the forces involved in design thinking and process, the better they will become as designers and the better they will be able to communicate design to others. This paper examines design as an approach to solving problems and what makes it different from other approaches. It examines design thinking as desire for a particular outcome, a philosophic viewpoint, a conversation, imagination, reason, judgment, wisdom, and a skill. And it explores the nonlinear, dialectical, and unique nature of the design process. Finally, it suggests that designers can view the development of understanding and ability as a design endeavor itself, and that it is possible to design oneself as a designer. Though the audience and focus is on designers, it is my belief that a better understanding of design along with increased ability to communicate design’s rigor and value will ultimately benefit and advance the discipline as a whole.

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