Storytelling and Metaphor in the Engineering Design Process
‘There seem to be two ways of understanding things; either by way of a metaphor or by way of a story… either [a person] can call on a model - a metaphor - of rationality… or [they] can tell a story’ . The two conceptions are not mutually exclusive, but the distinction seems sound. I argue that, although the popular way of representing and understanding the engineering design process is through metaphor – ‘models of rationality’, there is also another way in which designers understand designing, and that is in terms of ‘storytelling’.
I draw on empirical data from a two week study in a small engineering design company to show: how metaphors relate to designing behaviour, how social experience is encapsulated in stories, and how stories from different organisational departments lead to different understandings of common objects - product specifications for example. I conclude that storytelling is the key mechanism by which a well defined ‘common language’ evolves, and thus a highly economical way of interacting.
KeywordsDesign Process Engineering Design Design Project Design Organisation Organisational Department
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