tetrad of
While most schooling remains fixated on rote learning or ‘banking’20, a designer’s ability to comprehend a situation, critically analyze it and apply their findings to the creation of a response, as well as reflect upon the outcome, are basic competencies required for design. As a reflective practitioner, the designer has to reflect not just on action but also in action. Several professionals such as pilots and surgeons need to reflect on their actions in real time, and not after ‘the job is done’. This seems to be a necessary condition for designers too – to be able to reflect during the process of design, i.e. reflection in action.

Making is central to knowing21. It forces the designer to move off the plane of thought and inhabit the real world. Artefacts of the mind become a thing22 once they enter and interact with the world. Making thus reveals the design. Prototypes enable the design and the designer’s assumptions to be tested, preferably in context. This enables the designer to reflect on the outcomes, and perhaps the consequences of the design.

Making happens through one’s body, especially the hands – whether writing, typing, grasping, clenching, bending, and so on. In the process, it hones the skills or craft of the designer through a personal and intimate dialogue between the maker and the material. Hands embody tacit knowledge23. A direct engagement with making forces the student to understand the complexities and intricacies of production of their design.

A student has to feel their way through a project. To feel implies to be able to receive stimuli and respond emotionally; an awareness of the self and the world. To feel is to perceive the world, not just through one’s eyes, but through the richness and fidelity of the senses. To feel is to be a good listener, receptive to other people, ideas, phenomena and values and respect their place in the world. Feeling cultivates character and conscience.

Often the student may listen to their inner voice. One way of looking at this gut feeling or intuition is as some kind of ‘informed judgement’ that is subconsciously drawn from past experiences, coupled with current knowledge. Listening to your gut is like listening to your body, and just as one tends to the body, one should pay attention to one’s instinct, despite the fact that it may pit the student against their rational self.

The student has to learn how to communicate their design through diverse modes — written text, speech or the spoken word and images — static and moving. This communication is inherently multimodal24. Each mode carries its own value, and cannot be substituted; they complement each other. Each of these modes has to be learned and allows the student to specify and articulate their design. As the student learns these modes of representation, they become invaluable means of documentation of design and its process. This archive is an invaluable repository of knowledge and a library for introspection.

  1. read Paolo Friere in The Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970).
  2. read Tim Ingold in Making: Anthropology, Archeology, Art and Architecture (2013).
  3. read Burno Latour in A Cautious Prometheus? A Few Steps Toward a Philosophy of Design (with Special Attention to Peter Sloterdijk) (2008).
  4. read Michael Polanyi in The Tacit Dimension (1967).
  5. read Gunther Kress in Multimodality: A Social Semiotic Approach to Contemporary Communication (2009).