If Designers are Problem Solvers: What is a "Real" Problem, A Problem for Whom?

Whiting, Philip G. C.
March 2011
Design Principles & Practice: An International Journal;2011, Vol. 5 Issue 3, p553
Academic Journal
Meikle describes American industrial designers in the 1940's as nothing more than a service to industry and responsible for the development of consumerism, rather than solving real problems? What is a real problem as opposed to a perceived problem or even a wicked problem? Problems always exist in one form or another, so should designers begin to view the world in a more scientific way and look for real problems within situations that require resolution, in the way that Heidegger asks the question: What actually calls for thinking?; real food for thought as opposed to reactive design thinking. It could be argued that designers such as Dyson already do this to some extent, but should not all designers become much more proactive in terms of path-finding, leading and design management? Designers today only provide assistance when they should provide overall direction or redirection for tomorrow. Redirecting and addressing the impact of socio-economic problems we are now facing, as well as climatic change or natural disaster especially where there is potential for re-occurrence and the real problem may be floods, storms, volcanos, erosion, rising tides, extreme heat or cold. In a sense we tend to treat our environments as a constant war with nature, yet earlier thinking; due in part to limitations of machine and lack of technology in the past, was to adapt to our environment. Today we solve many problems by simply trying to dominate nature as we possess the power and technology to do this, without fully appreciating the long term implications of our designs. To begin to solve this real problem we have to move the designer from a reactive service industry to proactive design thinking, path-finding and profession of leaders


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