On Frame Innovation

Framed (Photo: Darrel Burkett)
Framed (Photo: Darrel Birkett)

Kees Dorst’s Frame Innovation (2015) centres around a methodology and model for framing problems.

The most compelling part of this book were the varied case studies, which grounded the methods and principles underlying the model in concrete examples. Also, Dorst bases his method and model in empirical studies of expert designers and how they address problem situations.

Frame Innovation will interest service designers working in the public sector or with government because many of the problems that Dorst explores in frame innovation address problem situations in public spaces or in local government interactions with the public. For example, one example that surfaces multiple times in the text is the case of King’s Cross in Sydney, Australia, and how, through the project, the participants were able to reframe the situation from an entertainment district as a centre of crime to an entertainment district AS a music festival.

Watch Dorst explain this example in more detail:

Dorst shies away from prescribing processes. In fact, he devotes an entire chapter to a critique of rationality particularly in relation to problem-solving methodologies, and  like Thomas Wendt and Dan Hill challenges rational-technical design thinking. The brainiac that I am, I loved Dorst’s detours into philosophy and into the difference between beginners and experts.

My takeaways from reading this book will be the nine-step model Dorst proposes, the particular propositional approach he suggest for describing paradoxes at the heart of complex design situations and potential frames. I am reminded of transformative learning theory (Mezirow et. al). If one successfully innovates the frame through which we or others experience a situation, how we see the situation may be radically transformed.

Note: Thanks to Thomas Wendt for recommending this book on Twitter.


Escaping disciplinary tunnel vision

Don Norman and Scott Klemmer’s commentary State of Design: How Design Education Must Change challenges the design field to embrace theory and integrative educational approaches. It compliments the Carnegie Foundation’s recent report on the future of business education, which calls on business schools to integrate elements of liberal education into undergraduate business curricula.

These thinkers challenge their fields and disciplines to escape disciplinary tunnel vision and embrace marginalized  or new practices.

If integrative learning is the future of adult and higher education, not only must fields change, but also institutions, and higher education systems.

My hunch is that we need to find ways to move beyond binary thinking. Theory—Practice, Quantitative—Qualitative, Skills—Knowledge, Art—Science — Such spectra limit our ability to progress. So do linear metaphors like tunnels.