“Problems with Problems: Reconsidering the Frame of Designing as Problem-Solving” with Hugh DubberlyAs a first approximation, many designers describe what they do as “problem-solving.” This frame arose in the context of the industrial revolution, in early days of professional design. “Problem-solving” casts designers as objective experts, delivering the right answer.However, reality is messy; many answers might suffice — or none. “Problems” are not separate and clearly bounded; rather, they are deeply intertwined. As the information revolution increases scale and shifts the focus of designing to complex adaptive systems,problem-solving increasingly misses the mark; design needs a new frame.
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Since 2000, Hugh Dubberly has been a partner in Dubberly Design Office, a San Francisco design firm specializing in software, services, and systems. Much of the practice is focused on complex adaptive systems that support health and well-being, for clients such as Alere, Amgen, Johnson & Johnson, Lilly, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. At Apple Computer in the late 1980s, Dubberly managed graphic design and corporate identity and created the technology-forecast film Knowledge Navigator, presaging the Internet and interaction via mobile devices. At Netscape, he became Vice President of Design with responsibility for Netscape’s web presence. He has taught courses at San Jose State, Art Center, Carnegie-Mellon, Stanford, and IIT/ID; currently, he is “Professor of Practice” and teaches Design Theory at Northeastern’s MFA for Information Design and Visualization (IDV) program and Systems Design in CCA’s Interaction Design (IxD) MDes program. For several years, he edited a column “On Modeling” for the Association of Computing Machinery’s journal, ACM Interactions. In 2012, he was elected to the ACM CHI Academy. In 2018, he was made an AIGA Fellow.
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