Dialogical Reinterpretation and the Productivity of the Conceptual Stage of Design

By Janan Mustafa and John Lee.

Published by The International Journal of Visual Design

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This paper discusses the early conceptual stages of the process of design. The aim is to characterise the productivity of this process, or how effectively new design ideas are produced and developed. Drawing on the reflective model of Schön and the dialectic modalities of Goldschmidt, this paper offers a particular definition of productivity during the conceptual design phase. Focusing on the characteristic activities of this stage of design — such as sketching — the paper argues that productivity can be most usefully understood in terms of key aspects of the process of dialogical reinterpretation. Studies into design cognition have identified interpretation as an essential operation for generating design ideas. However, interpretation can lead to fixation. Different dialogical reinterpretations operate at different levels, each representing a different stage in the production of a design proposal. Each level indicates the occurrence of specific cognitive operations that render fixation less likely. Thus the number of levels of dialogical reinterpretation and their specific cognitive operations are indicators of productivity. These levels include: pattern discovery, conceptual reinterpretation, alternation of thinking, and restructuring. The first two levels are combined under the title “the occurrence of dialogical reinterpretation”; the second two under the title “the effectiveness of dialogical reinterpretation.”

Keywords: Productivity, Conceptual Design, Cognitive Operation

The International Journal of Visual Design, Volume 7, Issue 1, March 2014, pp.31-42. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 410.007KB).

Janan Mustafa

Student, Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

Janan Mustafa has recently completed her Ph.D. student in Architecture at the University of Edinburgh. Her Ph.D. study is concerned with using the computer in the design process. She received her M.Sc. degree in Architecture from the Department of Architecture, University of Technology, Baghdad, Iraq 1994. Since 1994 she has been an assistant lecturer in the Department of Architecture in the College of Engineering at the University of Mosul, Iraq. In 2009, she became a lecturer in Architecture at the University of Mosul. As an architect, she has participated in local competition projects in Iraq and has published papers dealing with design analysis and theory of Architecture in scientific journals.

John Lee

Professor of Digital Media, Edinburgh College of Art/School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Prof. Lee received a Ph.D. in Cognitive Science from Edinburgh, 1987, and has been Deputy Director of the Human Communication Research Centre since 1993. He holds a joint appointment in the Edinburgh College of Art at the University of Edinburgh, where he works on design and digital media and formerly directed the Edinburgh Computer Aided Architectural Design research unit (EdCAAD). He has held a large number of externally funded research projects, and coordinated the Edinburgh-Stanford Link programme, a collaboration with Stanford University, California. Much of his research centres on various aspects of cognition, communication and uses of technology in design and learning.