Designing, Together and Apart

  • Timothy JachnaEmail author
Part of the Design Research Foundations book series (DERF)


Designing is a conversational activity. This chapter draws on second-order cybernetic concepts, particularly Pask’s Conversation Theory and subsequent work inspired and derived from it, to propose a conceptual basis for articulating various modalities of designing-with-others. This approach unifies different ways in which people and artifacts are linked in processes of designing, from the simple designer-client relationship to people’s interactions with designed things, to the ripples of effects of these things, beyond the control and intentions of the designer, once they are out into the world at large. After introducing the concept of conversation as applied to the processes of design, the chapter explores the detailed anatomy of such conversations with reference to a model of conversations by Dubberly and Pangaro, drawing on Pask’s concept of the conversation. Other cybernetic scholars, notably Krippendorff, are cited to demonstrate that the “statements” exchanged in the course of design conversations consist of both verbal and written utterances and the diverse range of artifacts produced in the course of the design process. The chapter then applies these concepts and perspectives to discuss different levels of design conversations, from those that take place within teams of designers working on a project, to those that occur in the wider communities formed by various designers and non-designers who cooperate in the realization of designed things, to those that permeate broad societies of people affected in one way or another by designed things. Implications are proposed for the role of designers in society, in light of this cybernetic framing of design processes. The chapter concludes by synthesizing these insights to demonstrate the potential of cybernetic perspectives in articulating the intrinsically political nature of design.


Design process Conversation Theory Designing-with-others Design conversations Design artifacts 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Design, Architecture, Art and PlanningUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA

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