June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Educational Research and Methods
13.273.1 - 13.273.21
Can Design Be A Common Ground Among Disciplines?
The act of designing is a complex activity with many facets, including multiple degrees of freedom, context, constraints, and an open-ended and ill-defined nature. Design has often been uniquely associated with fields within engineering, however several design scholars have highlighted that design is central to many fields outside of engineering as well. The artifacts resulting from design tasks may differ significantly from discipline to discipline, but the cognitive activities associated with the task, processes utilized, and negotiation of the design space have been shown to have fundamental similarities. As the global push for interdisciplinary interactions increases, design can be a bridging link for fields traditionally seen as unconnected. The discovery of common ground between disciplines can support cross-disciplinary collaboration and communication and provide an opportunity to improve design education by collaborative research and practice. In an investigation of design experiences of professional designers, common aspects of the experiences were identified as building blocks to establishing common ground. Emerging from qualitative accounts of design experiences by professional designers in engineering, visual and performing arts, architecture, and science were six key themes about the experience of designing. These themes, which were discussed in the experiences of all ten participants in this study, included getting starting on a design, collaboration as a key aspect, the importance of a strong content base, the ever-changing nature of the design space, the role of context, and the challenge and satisfaction of seeing a design task from beginning to end.
Design tasks have been classified as specific types of problems, 1, 2 and the design approach has been labeled as a specialized way to view and complete a problem3. Design has often been associated with fields within engineering, however a number of authors have highlighted that design is something many people do and central to many fields outside of engineering 4-6. The artifacts resulting from design tasks may differ significantly from discipline to discipline, but the cognitive activities associated with the task and the processes utilized have been shown to have fundamental similarities.2, 7-9 These similarities have supported arguments to call design a domain unto itself.4, 10 A domain-independent theory of design has been called an “attractive possibility” as it could provide a common framework for different disciplines, impacting research, teaching, and design practices.10 While design in each discipline has unique aspects, the goal of this study was to identify the common threads of design between disciplines as a starting point to establish common ground.
The nature of the goals of many engineering projects, both nationally and globally, and within industry and academia, are continually evolving and increasing in complexity. As a result, expertise in a variety of knowledge domains or disciplines becomes imperative. Increased attention has recently been devoted to interdisciplinary interactions and efforts, evidenced by university goals, research studies,11, 12 and federal funding of
ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2008 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015