Perspectives of design

Imagine a house fire.

  • The owners perspective could be: "What should I do now with my life? Everything I own and is important to me is lost."
  • The fire fighter thinks: "Very good, the fire is under control and nobody was injured".

As you can see, every "actor" perceives the situation different. This is also true to designers solving a design problem. This point of view is described by Klein, Moon and Hoffman as a frame. But compared to a point of view a frame is more long lasting. It is shaped by experience, a larger view of the world and the situations that occur in it. A frame is deeply connected to a person. In the example above the owner is more on the "materialistic frame", because the first thing he thought about were his belongings. This knowledge can also by used to predict how the person reacts in other situations.

The question that know comes up, is having this frame helpful or is it hindering my work as a designer?

According to Jon Kolko (Exposing the magic of design) those frames apply further constraints to a given problem and therefore help to specify the direction of development more.
I share this opinion but it should not be forgotten that it can also be dangerous in the design process if the designer does not try to understand the needs of other people or does judging a given problem to early and therefore not fully understand the problem to its core. This is also the first difficult property of design that John M. Carroll is listing in his book Making Use, scenario-based design of human-computer interactions:

  • Incomplete description of the problem to be addressed.
  • Lack of guidance on possible design moves
  • The design goal or solution state cannot be known in advance
  • Trade-offs among many interdependant elements
  • Reliance on a diversity of knowledge and skills
  • Wide-rangeing and ongoing impacts on human activity

Some other intersting thoughs I've got from the books:

"Decomposition tends to simplify problems in ways that implicitly discourage creative solutions." --> Relationship or the big picture gets lost.

"By embodying a familiar pattern in an otherwise radical form, we can make the unusual acceptable to many people who would otherwise reject it."


  • Carroll, J. M. (2000). Making Use: Scenario-Based Design of Human Computer Interactions. The MIT Press. "The Process" (Chapter 2)
  • Dreyfuss, H. S. (1955). Designing for People. (26-43).
  • Dubberly, H. (2004). How do you design? Dubberly Design Office.
  • Kolko, J. (2011). Exposing the Magic of Design: A Practitioner’s Guide to the Methods and Theory of Synthesis (Oxford Series in Human Technology Interaction) (1 ed.). Oxford University Press, USA.