In Designerly Ways of Knowing Professor of Design Studies at The Open University,UK, Nigel Cross puts forth his research that Design has a legitimate place alongside the other two major areas of education of the humanities and the sciences. For Professor Cross, Design brings intrinsic value to education: first, it develops a different approach to problem-solving; second, it supports constructive thinking, or abduction, rather than deductive or inductive reasoning; it addresses a cognitive mode not used in other disciplines such as nonverbal modes. For example, Design depends on visual methods such as drawings, diagrams and sketches as not only aids to internal thinking but also for communicating ideas and instructions to others. It is worth noting that the strongest point Cross makes is that a designer’s approach is solution-based rather than problem-based. To this reader, that indicates a major shift from looking at something that has worked in the past and instead looking to the possibility of designing for the future.
I recommend reading Designerly Ways of Knowing with these two caveats: first, though published in 2006, the section on neuroscience is not up to date. Cross adheres to the left-right hemisphere split of rational on the left, and creative on the right whereas recent studies show activity across different areas of the brain depending on the complexity of tasks being performed. As Jessy Dorn cites in her paper on Betty Edwards’ book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain Kandel, Schwartz and Jessel argue in their 1995 textbook Essentials of Neural Science and Behavior, one can only extrapolate so much from this finding:
It is sometimes said that our brain consists of a left hemisphere that excels in intellectual, rational, verbal, and analytical thinking and a right hemisphere that excels in sensory discrimination and in emotional, nonverbal, and intuitive thinking. However, in the normal brain, with extensive commissural interconnections, the interaction of the two hemispheres is such that we cannot dissociate clearly their specialized functions.
Also in defining why Design can take its place as a stand-alone area of education, Cross states the reason that it systematizes concepts that were for the most part “intuitive” in programs such as that of the Bauhaus in Weimar Germany in the 1920’s and 1930’s and was one of the birthplaces he Modern Movement in architecture and design. Not only were its concepts clearly logical but also they had to have aesthetic relevance to the culture. Still Cross’ work is important as the concept of designer thinking and seeing is coming to the forefront and being adapted to Business School programs as an integral part of its curriculum. Also Columbia University is including Cross’ work in seminars on innovative teaching in education.
The Bauhaus http://bit.ly/13qrAI
Jessy Dorn http://bit.ly/p8JpP
Edwards, Betty. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Tarcher/Putnam,1999.
Kandel, Schwartz, and Jessel. Essentials of Neural Science and Behavior. Appleton & Lange, 1995.