12.Mai 2015, 19:00-20:30 Uhr, Kesselhaus, MKH
Alastair Macdonald, Glasgow School of Art, UK
Design’s great weakness is in its own hubris; can we test Design’s legitimacy in sceptical territory? Recent co-design initiatives demonstrate successful healthcare innovation and improvement without the need for Designers, potentially wrong-footing Design. Through case studies, Macdonald explores Design’s research value in the healthcare domain, where the RCT is regarded as the gold standard for scientific evidence. Design’s agency is also discussed in eliciting different kinds of evidence from stakeholders through ‘building into being’ by iterative prototyping, providing stakeholders with tangible new means to think with and experience how different and better things could be. Design’s shortcomings are also addressed.
Professor Alastair Macdonald is Senior Researcher, School of Design at The Glasgow School of Art. Trained as a designer, he headed the Product Design Engineering programme at GSA from 1996-2006 before pursing full-time design-led research within multidisciplinary healthcare teams. He publishes, reviews and lectures internationally, and supervises and examines PhDs.
Reflection: Design(er) as a Champion of ‘Radical Compassion’?
(A note on Alastair Macdonald’s lecture by Rosan Chow)
As an organiser of the lecture series, I am interested in how design-research-cum-practice is actually conducted so to set the facts against the ‘theories’ on methods, roles and substance. It is with this particular interest that I reflect on the lecture by Alastair.
Right at the start, he confronted us with the prospect of “co-design without designer”. The democratization of designing through participatory co-design might lead to the disappearance of professional designers. One might brush this provocation aside as non-sense or finger-point this as fearmongering that gets in the way of creative democracy. However, any knee-jerk dismissal misses his invitation to think critically about the legitimacy and authority of Design(er) in healthcare in particular and the competence and role of design(er) in the context of interdisciplinary research and development in general.
Competence and role are matters of reality as well as vision: what they are and what they can be. Designer is or can become an integrator of disciplinary knowledge (Buchanan), moderator of interdisciplinary team (Manzini), provider of infrastructure for design (Ehn), joker of not-knowing (Jonas) and more. Macdonald did not give definitive statements to his own questions but alluded through examples (rehabilitation of stroke and spinal-cord injured patients and nutrition monitoring of hospitalized elderly). Between the lines, design was considered a corrective to reductive scientific approach to healthcare.
He showed that, through visualization, designers made bio-engineering data understandable to both patients and therapists. As a result, progress was made faster. More significantly, to me, it also accounted for the ‘social and emotional’ character of rehabilitation therapy in which patients are extremely dependent and feeling vulnerable. This insight got me thinking.
Although empathy is often considered to be a strength of design(er), there are more testimonies than articulations on its imports and implications. Dilnot (2009) has gone further to suggest ‘radical compassion’ as the key ethical character of designing.
“At the core of design is an ontological and anthropological act – making as the making of self – which is also a meditation on and a realization of being…what a designer offers, ethically, is two-fold: that is, a quantum of (empathetic and imaginative) perception concerning a situation, together with (and this is where professional expertise comes in) the capacity to translate that perception into an objective or standing form that is capable, simultaneously, of understanding, recognizing, meeting and extending needs.”
Could design(er) be the champion of ‘radical compassion’!? And where else besides healthcare is this role more necessary?
(Dilnot, Clive. 2009. “Ethics in Design: 10 Questions.” In Design Studies: A Reader Ed. Clark, Hazel, and David Brody, 180–190. Berg Publishers.)