The role of values in design decision-making

Rhoda Trimingham
2008, Vol. 13, No. 2,

Abstract


The paper presents the findings of a PhD study into
design decision-making and specifically the use of values
during design decision-making. Firstly it presents a model
of design decision-making as a combination of the use of
knowledge, skills and values and discusses a selection of
the associated literature. It then describes the
development of a taxonomy of values used in design
decision-making developed from a series of pilot
interviews, protocol analysis and focus groups. This was
necessary because although the values agenda is not new,
previous studies were found to have gaps, or did not
reflect the current state of play. From this more in-depth
case studies were carried out to explore the influence of
values in design decision-making. Eight designers, ranging
from A-level students to professionals were asked to
design a lectern out of sustainable materials. They were
given one day to complete the project. For one hour
during the day they were asked to ‘talk aloud’ while being
videoed, also known as concurrent verbalisation and
protocol analysis. They also took part in a 40 minute
retrospective interview about their design work, at the end
of the day. One professional was also asked to complete a
ten day design project in order to verify the results against
a longitudinal project. They also took part in a 40 minute
retrospective interview at the end of the ten day period.
The results were analysed using the new taxonomy as a
coding system. The study illustrates the ability to research
the role of values in design decision-making using a variety
of techniques. The data generated shows values driving
many of the decisions designers make including the way
in which they cognitively organise their design activity and
through which they can reduce avenues of enquiry. The
paper discusses the key influences of both internal and
external values, and similarities and differences between
participants. Finally the paper discusses how these findings
may contribute to the development of design and
technology education and outlines possibilities for future
work.

Keywords


Design decision-making ; Knowledge ; Skills ; Values ; Empirical evidence ; Research methods

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