nonad of

Design is embedded in context36. Context, in very simple terms, is the sum of interactions between all living entities and their environment. This environment includes people (other than the designer), manmade artefacts, as well as social and cultural norms or formal rules that govern our behaviour. This is what makes understanding context complex, for the outcome of these interactions is not only difficult but perhaps impossible to anticipate.

But what is context and how does one study it? The PESCSTLEEM framework (pronounced 'pestleem'; (c and s are silent)) is a multi-dimensional tool that enables the student to study and draw connections between various interdependent dimensions that can help in stitching together a picture of a phenomenon. These factors are political, economic, social, cultural, scientific, technological, legal, environmental, ethical and moral. Each parameter or dimension operates in its own time and space, and often, the designer has to immerse themselves in a specific milieu to be able to make sense of what is going on37.

Understanding context is thus about understanding the subtleties and nuances of these relationships, their intertwining and their fragility. Context helps the designer situate38 their practice in a network of relationships39, for design is situated practice.

  1. read H. Kumar Vyas in Design, the Indian Context: Learning the Historical Rationale of the Indian Design Idiom (2000) and S. Balaram in Thinking Design (2011).
  2. read J. A. Maxwell in Conceptual framework: What do you think is going on? (Chapter 3) in Qualitative Research Design: An Interactive Approach (2005).
  3. read Lucy Suchman in Human-Machine Reconfigurations: Plans and Situated Actions (2006).
  4. read Kenneth J. Gergen in Relational Beings: Beyond Self and Community (2009).