Types of design values

18 Oct 2007 - 2:14pm
7 years ago
16 replies
405 reads
DrWex
2006

I'd like to toss out a sentence for list members' comments:

"[D]esign methodologies such as value-based design, reflective design,
and critical design emphasize the value of explicitly questioning the
underlying values, habits, and assumptions that drive both users and
designers."

(the sentence comes from an as-yet-unpublished paper, not written by
me, so I can't give a formal source, sorry.)

In thinking about this assertion I find myself wondering how one
constructs and values usability within a practice that foregrounds
explicit questioning and presumably induces some kind of discomfort
due to that questioning.

I'd appreciate hearing others' thoughts about this.

--
--Alan Wexelblat

Comments

18 Oct 2007 - 2:39pm
Dante Murphy
2006

Sounds to me like the Socratic method...question everything, but do so
*respectfully*.

I'm down with it. We all need to be able to stand in the light and
answer the hard questions, that's the reality check that refines design
to excellence.

Dante Murphy | Director of Information Architecture | D I G I T A S H E
A L T H
229 South 18th Street, 2nd Floor | Rittenhouse Square | Philadelphia, PA
19103
Email: dmurphy at digitashealth.com | www.digitashealth.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Alan Wexelblat

I'd like to toss out a sentence for list members' comments:

"[D]esign methodologies such as value-based design, reflective design,
and critical design emphasize the value of explicitly questioning the
underlying values, habits, and assumptions that drive both users and
designers."

(the sentence comes from an as-yet-unpublished paper, not written by
me, so I can't give a formal source, sorry.)

In thinking about this assertion I find myself wondering how one
constructs and values usability within a practice that foregrounds
explicit questioning and presumably induces some kind of discomfort
due to that questioning.

18 Oct 2007 - 3:09pm
Christopher Fahey
2005

Alan Wexelblat quoted an unnamed person who wrote:
> "[D]esign methodologies such as value-based design, reflective design,
> and critical design emphasize the value of explicitly questioning the
> underlying values, habits, and assumptions that drive both users and
> designers."

Can you clarify what is meant by "value-based design"? And what is
meant by a user's or a designer's "underlying values"?

I ask because I am also working on an essay about my own concept of
values and design.

-Cf

Christopher Fahey
____________________________
Behavior
biz: http://www.behaviordesign.com
me: http://www.graphpaper.com

18 Oct 2007 - 3:23pm
Chris McLay
2005

Is discomfort a bad thing?

Surely discomfort is part of the design process?

Chris

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://gamma.ixda.org/discuss?post=21647

18 Oct 2007 - 3:45pm
Phillip Hunter
2006

Discomfort is frequently a cause of the design process.

ph

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Chris
McLay
Sent: Thursday, October 18, 2007 2:23 PM
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Types of design values

Is discomfort a bad thing?

Surely discomfort is part of the design process?

Chris

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://gamma.ixda.org/discuss?post=21647

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18 Oct 2007 - 3:53pm
DrWex
2006

On 10/18/07, Christopher Fahey <chris.fahey at behaviordesign.com> wrote:
> Can you clarify what is meant by "value-based design"? And what is
> meant by a user's or a designer's "underlying values"?

That's a good question. As I understand the term "value-based design"
it means a style of design that emphasizes the creation of certain
human values, such as aesthetic appreciation, feelings of
connectedness, sense of accomplishment, and so on. These so-called
"soft" values are always tricky to measure and rarely prioritized in
the design methods I'm familiar with.

They're also often cited as key success factors in things such as
consumer product design, social network design, and design of human
use-spaces such as malls, museums, and technology-rich real-world
interactions (e.g. enhanced signs, location-aware mobile devices,
etc.)

As to "underlying values" this is where I see (potential) contention
in that the designer's and user's values may not even have an overlap,
let alone be the same. I wonder if the original author is being too
casual or speaking broadly in an attempt to make a point.

What do you think?

19 Oct 2007 - 4:24am
Adrian Howard
2005

On 18 Oct 2007, at 21:14, Alan Wexelblat wrote:

> I'd like to toss out a sentence for list members' comments:
>
> "[D]esign methodologies such as value-based design, reflective design,
> and critical design emphasize the value of explicitly questioning the
> underlying values, habits, and assumptions that drive both users and
> designers."
>
> (the sentence comes from an as-yet-unpublished paper, not written by
> me, so I can't give a formal source, sorry.)
>
> In thinking about this assertion I find myself wondering how one
> constructs and values usability within a practice that foregrounds
> explicit questioning and presumably induces some kind of discomfort
> due to that questioning.

Explicit questioning does not necessarily imply discomfort does it?

Even when it does the discomfort is with customers/stakeholders not
liking some of the information that pops up. The questioning doesn't
cause pain for the end users.

Not seeing the conflict with valuing usability myself...

Adrian

19 Oct 2007 - 12:48am
Jonas Löwgren
2003

part of Alan's original msg:
> "[D]esign methodologies such as value-based design, reflective design,
> and critical design emphasize the value of explicitly questioning the
> underlying values, habits, and assumptions that drive both users and
> designers."
>
> (the sentence comes from an as-yet-unpublished paper, not written by
> me, so I can't give a formal source, sorry.)
>
> In thinking about this assertion I find myself wondering how one
> constructs and values usability within a practice that foregrounds
> explicit questioning and presumably induces some kind of discomfort
> due to that questioning.
>
> I'd appreciate hearing others' thoughts about this.

It seems kind of obvious to me that usability can be at odds with
other values in a design situation. In a sense, that summarizes the
disaster story of HCI in the 1990s when instrumental values were
carried over from 1980s work-oriented design ("usable! useful!
efficient!") only to clash with new users and new use situations in
entertainment, leisure, the public spheres, and so on.

The way I see and practice interaction design, usability belongs in
the realm of instrumental qualities to be juggled together with
social, aesthetic and ethical qualities in any design situation. In
some situations, the instrumental qualities need to be top priority
-- in others, they are subordinate. The only thing you can be
reasonably sure about is that there will always be tradeoffs to make.

Alan's clarification in subsequent msg:
> As to "underlying values" this is where I see (potential) contention
> in that the designer's and user's values may not even have an overlap,
> let alone be the same. I wonder if the original author is being too
> casual or speaking broadly in an attempt to make a point.

Not unlikely ;) but another interpretation is that users and
designers are meant to have different values in the sentence
"underlying values, habits and assumptions that drive both users and
designers." I.e., users are driven by underlying values, habits and
assumptions; designers are driven by uvh&a; the users' uvh&a are not
the same as the designers' uvh&a. Far-fetched, perhaps, but the only
way I can see to make sense of the quoted sentence.

My own comment on the original quote, taken out of its context, is
that it seems sloppy to list value-based design (could it be value-
sensitive design a la Batya Friedman that is referred to in the
manuscript?), reflective design and critical design in the same
sentence since the goals behind "questioning underlying values,
habits and assumptions" are so fundamentally different between them.

/Jonas Löwgren

19 Oct 2007 - 5:48am
Adrian Howard
2005

On 19 Oct 2007, at 07:48, Jonas Löwgren wrote:
[snip]
> It seems kind of obvious to me that usability can be at odds with
> other values in a design situation. In a sense, that summarizes the
> disaster story of HCI in the 1990s when instrumental values were
> carried over from 1980s work-oriented design ("usable! useful!
> efficient!") only to clash with new users and new use situations in
> entertainment, leisure, the public spheres, and so on.
[snip]

Isn't that just bad usability work - rather than a problem with
usability per se?

Adrian

19 Oct 2007 - 8:07am
Chris Borokowski
2007

As a designer or any other employee, you're a mercenary. Your job is to
adopt the values of your audience and create for them.

--- Alan Wexelblat <awexelblat at gmail.com> wrote:

> As to "underlying values" this is where I see (potential) contention
> in that the designer's and user's values may not even have an
> overlap,
> let alone be the same. I wonder if the original author is being too
> casual or speaking broadly in an attempt to make a point.

http://technical-writing.dionysius.com/
technical writing | consulting | development

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19 Oct 2007 - 1:30pm
Christopher Fahey
2005

Chris Borokowski wrote:
> As a designer or any other employee, you're a mercenary. Your job
> is to
> adopt the values of your audience and create for them.

Speak for yourself. :-) Being a mercenary is not the same as being a
professional.

I, for one, will not adopt my audience's, boss's, or client's values
if they conflict with my own personal values. I try to work with
clients who are classy enough to be in synch with my values so I
don't have to face such a dilemma. My company has even (twice)
declined to talk to potential clients whose values were opposed to
our own. We are human beings, after all, who have to sleep at night
and tell our friends and family about what we do.

You probably/hopefully meant "values" as less of a moral/ethical
issue and more of an empathy issue, but all the same it's troubling
to be urged to be a mercenary.

-Cf

Christopher Fahey
____________________________
Behavior
biz: http://www.behaviordesign.com
me: http://www.graphpaper.com

19 Oct 2007 - 1:50pm
Chris Borokowski
2007

What I pointed out was that when you are paid to do a task, you are
paid to adopt the values and intents of your employers.

I did not say you did not have the choice of employers.

I am merely stating one facet of business reality. If this reality is
offensive, I suggest you take it up with those responsible.

--- Christopher Fahey <chris.fahey at behaviordesign.com> wrote:

> Chris Borokowski wrote:
> > As a designer or any other employee, you're a mercenary. Your job
> > is to
> > adopt the values of your audience and create for them.
>
> Speak for yourself. :-) Being a mercenary is not the same as being a
>
> professional.
>
> I, for one, will not adopt my audience's, boss's, or client's values
>
> if they conflict with my own personal values. I try to work with
> clients who are classy enough to be in synch with my values so I
> don't have to face such a dilemma. My company has even (twice)
> declined to talk to potential clients whose values were opposed to
> our own. We are human beings, after all, who have to sleep at night
> and tell our friends and family about what we do.
>
> You probably/hopefully meant "values" as less of a moral/ethical
> issue and more of an empathy issue, but all the same it's troubling
> to be urged to be a mercenary.

http://technical-writing.dionysius.com/
technical writing | consulting | development

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19 Oct 2007 - 2:16pm
DrWex
2006

I think I come down closer to Christopher Fahey's side of this
spectrum. I think it's necessary to *understand* the values and
intents of my employer but that doesn't require me to wholeheartedly
adopt them. Nor does it make me less professional, I think, if I do
that.

Being a paid professional means, in part, that I'm paid to bring in my
expertise and ethics, not check them at the door. Insofar as they're
in conflict with the clients and the clients' work then the question
is upon me to determine whether that conflict is important enough to
raise, and what is the appropriate way to raise it. The example of
refusing work is an extreme one, but it has arisen for me and I've
taken that path. I prefer to take an approach, though, that puts my
own ethical concerns within the framework of a professional
evaluation. When that's possible it's a much nicer approach.

--Alan

On 10/19/07, Chris Borokowski <athloi at yahoo.com> wrote:
> What I pointed out was that when you are paid to do a task, you are
> paid to adopt the values and intents of your employers.
>
> I did not say you did not have the choice of employers.
>
> I am merely stating one facet of business reality. If this reality is
> offensive, I suggest you take it up with those responsible.
>
> --- Christopher Fahey <chris.fahey at behaviordesign.com> wrote:
>
> > Chris Borokowski wrote:
> > > As a designer or any other employee, you're a mercenary. Your job
> > > is to
> > > adopt the values of your audience and create for them.
> >
> > Speak for yourself. :-) Being a mercenary is not the same as being a
> >
> > professional.
> >
> > I, for one, will not adopt my audience's, boss's, or client's values
> >
> > if they conflict with my own personal values. I try to work with
> > clients who are classy enough to be in synch with my values so I
> > don't have to face such a dilemma. My company has even (twice)
> > declined to talk to potential clients whose values were opposed to
> > our own. We are human beings, after all, who have to sleep at night
> > and tell our friends and family about what we do.
> >
> > You probably/hopefully meant "values" as less of a moral/ethical
> > issue and more of an empathy issue, but all the same it's troubling
> > to be urged to be a mercenary.

19 Oct 2007 - 2:18pm
Katie Albers
2005

At 12:50 PM -0700 10/19/07, Chris Borokowski wrote:
>What I pointed out was that when you are paid to do a task, you are
>paid to adopt the values and intents of your employers.
>
>I did not say you did not have the choice of employers.
>
>I am merely stating one facet of business reality. If this reality is
>offensive, I suggest you take it up with those responsible.
>
>--- Christopher Fahey <chris.fahey at behaviordesign.com> wrote:

Well...yes and no. I've been hired to do things precisely because
they relied on me to either take the heat from the higher-ups about
not doing things the way the company usually did them, or to push
management towards a better understanding of the difference between
what was possible and what was a good idea or to be the one who had
the big fight with the CEO, so that no one else had to or the one who
...you get the idea. In all cases, what I was being hired for was the
fact that my values conflicted with the established corporate values.
In a larger sense, you could say that my values coincided with
whoever actually hired me...but it was often in opposition to the
company as a whole.

Katie
--

----------------
Katie Albers
katie at firstthought.com

22 Oct 2007 - 1:15am
Jonas Löwgren
2003

> [snip]
>
>> It seems kind of obvious to me that usability can be at odds with
>> other values in a design situation. In a sense, that summarizes the
>> disaster story of HCI in the 1990s when instrumental values were
>> carried over from 1980s work-oriented design ("usable! useful!
>> efficient!") only to clash with new users and new use situations in
>> entertainment, leisure, the public spheres, and so on.
>>
> [snip]
>
> Isn't that just bad usability work - rather than a problem with
> usability per se?

No. There are inherent conflicts between usability and other design
qualities (playfulness, aesthetic pleasure, symbolic status
value, ... to mention a few).

When digital products spread from instrumental use in workplaces to
discretionary, ludic use in homes and in public, these "other" design
qualities became more obvious than before. Quite a few practitioners
and methodologists tried to address the changing demands by
incrementally extending the usability concept and updating the
familiar HCI tools and concepts. The results were generally not very
successful (task analysis for game design; laboratory experiments on
visual interface aesthetics; paper prototypes of dynamic-tactile
experiences; the list goes on).

A more promising strategy is to accept the multidisciplinary nature
of interaction design, the need for equal collaboration with more
mature design disciplines, and the importance of continuously trading
instrumental qualities off against social, aesthetic and ethical
qualites.

/Jonas Löwgren

23 Oct 2007 - 3:44am
Adrian Howard
2005

On 22 Oct 2007, at 08:15, Jonas Löwgren wrote:

>> [snip]
>>
>>> It seems kind of obvious to me that usability can be at odds with
>>> other values in a design situation. In a sense, that summarizes the
>>> disaster story of HCI in the 1990s when instrumental values were
>>> carried over from 1980s work-oriented design ("usable! useful!
>>> efficient!") only to clash with new users and new use situations in
>>> entertainment, leisure, the public spheres, and so on.
>>>
>> [snip]
>>
>> Isn't that just bad usability work - rather than a problem with
>> usability per se?
>
> No. There are inherent conflicts between usability and other design
> qualities (playfulness, aesthetic pleasure, symbolic status
> value, ... to mention a few).
[snip]

I guess I've always had the view that applying the same usability
techniques independent of the context is doing "bad usability work" :-)

Cheers,

Adrian

23 Oct 2007 - 9:05am
Jonas Löwgren
2003

> I guess I've always had the view that applying the same usability
> techniques independent of the context is doing "bad usability
> work" :-)

Absolutely.

Sorry about the sermon, it's just that the term "usability work" for
me has a rather narrow meaning. I prefer "interaction design" to
cover a broader range of design concerns, rather than stretching
usability too thin.

Regards,
Jonas

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