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Title: A phenomenological inquiry into the experience of "having a design concept"
Authors: Ma, Jin
Degree: Ph.D.
Issue Date: 2013
Abstract: Designers are immersed in experience and live all sorts of phenomena about design activities, among which having a design concept is at the heart of design. Central to the overwhelming diversity of descriptions of this phenomenon is a tension found in the ambiguous notion of design concept: on the one hand design concepts tend to be regarded as outcomes independent from the process where they emerge, designers who make them, and the things to be produced; on the other hand design concepts are reported as all-inclusively relational, actively generative, and evolutionarily dynamic. Inspired by this tension, I explore distinct perspectives employed by researchers and designers to describe the phenomenon of having a design concept. The dominant perspectives are external perspectives outside designer's experience, focusing on substantive elements. They tend to reduce this phenomenon into either an object-oriented process or an ineffable intuitive moment, and thus can barely account for the tension in design concept. In contrast, the growing body of research on design experience and designers' descriptions in practice indicate that this phenomenon could be understood from inside the designer's experience of it, and that an internal perspective will provide a more coherent basis to describe this phenomenon and to understand the notion of design concept.
In this dissertation, I investigate the experience of having a design concept through an internal perspective, in order to facilitate designers to articulate more about their experiences. The underlying structure of such an experience has been identified: including its ingredients (basic formal relations and areas of subject matters); the basic process that begins in wonder presenting surprisingly related things in juxtaposition to the designer; and the relational facets characterized by a dynamic and unified whole. This structure is a theoretical conception of the experience of having a design concept. Inspired by phenomenology, it provides an original way of understanding the experience by focusing on the relations and the change of the relations. Based on this conception, I argue that the conventional notion of design concept and meaning converge in the context of experience. Designers adopt the term design concept to make sense of their activities when residing in external perspectives. Meaning, instead, is a dimension of presentation of the experience of having a design concept. It holds a fundamental relation between the expressed world and the expressing designer. Therefore, meanings permeate the examined experience, revealing both particular aspects of the world and the designer's judgments, feelings, attitudes, actions, and understandings from the very experience. A framework of meanings is also proposed, consisting of several emergent themes that are distinct but correlated places for people to interpret and articulate experiences through exercising the underlying structure and to present them as meanings. While continuously compared with relevant theories and conceptions in the literature, both frameworks emerge from 12 design projects in the context of design education. The two frameworks are applied to describe experiences in two selected cases, as a demonstration. This inquiry provides a basis to more coherently understand the experience of having a design concept. It resolves the tension in the notion of design concept and elicits an alternative understanding of this notion. This study contributes to design education and practice by providing the ground for designers to articulate more about the known, and thus to know more of the design experience in a unified way.
Subjects: Design -- Philosophy.
Design -- Methodology.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Pages: xvi, 277 p. : ill. ; 30 cm.
Appears in Collections:Thesis

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