The Fourth Order of Design
As indicated in Richard Buchanan’s ‘Wicked Problems in Design Thinking’, ‘knowledge’ in art and design, as seen in the current era of artificial intelligence, is based on the creation of symbols, logos, and other things, which primarily cannot be classified as knowledge (Buchanan 33). This is the fourth order of design. Looking into the field of modern visual communication and commercial design, it is clear that instead of maintaining focus on establishing theoretical knowledge through analytical thinking, designers emphasize on knowledge that can only be classified as experiential (Buchanan 33). Compared to the first order of design where the focus was on establishing scholarly knowledge regarding graphic design, the fourth order primarily centers on ‘crafting’ symbols made for mass production. Consequently, knowledge is mainly gained through experience with little focus on theoretical knowledge.
According to Buchanan, most modern employers look for self-taught ‘do it yourself’ designers that understand the use of designer software rather than designers with design theory (33). With this emphasis on knowledge through experience, it is evident that the fourth order design needs to seek and establish a scientific basis of design that will connect and integrate significant knowledge on the theoretical base of design. Modern and future designers need to employ design thinking to understand the connection between current problems and the ‘art’ in design.
Beyond the need for design thinking, both designers and employers in the now design ‘prosumer’ market should start realizing the problem of everyday experience and focus on the development of diverse products that integrate appropriate design knowledge. Furthermore, the orders of design should be clearly understood and applied, as they present areas of intervention that are shared by diverse designers (Buchanan 33). Accordingly, designers should understand that the first order of design entails communication design referring directly to visual communication through symbols and signs. In addition, the second and third orders mainly cover material object and design as an organized activity, action, or service respectively. Lastly, the fourth order design is design as a complex integrated environment for learning, working, and experimenting.
In many instances, people tend to think that the graphic designer’s role is simply to engage in artistic rendering. However, according to Press et al., artistic rendering is only a part of the designer’s job that in essence entails the transformation of information received from other specialists such as marketers or engineers into visually communicating symbols (35). Basically, the designer acts as a visual illustrator that eases the process of interpreting words or numeric symbols.
Objectivity is key in the design process. Consequently, graphic designers cannot rely on good taste and style alone; they must rely on functionality, applicability, and the overall impact of every visual illustration (Press et al. 36). Similarly, taste and style separate good designers from great designers. In addition to objectivity, communication is a key part of the designer’s role (Press et al. 36). The design process mainly involves three processes: receiving information, converting the received information into the actual work of design, and relaying the information in such a way that it communicates to the right people.
Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence for Designers
Machine learning is arguably one of the most interesting advancements that characterize modern technology. In principle, it points to algorithms that have the capacity to reveal useful information about a given set of data without the need for developing customized code. Notably, artificial intelligence plays a critical role in machine learning as it can be argued to be the brain of the latter. Accordingly, it allows computers to gain access to large data sets and to establish solutions on its own, a process that can be described as learning. While machine learning and design continue to improve the design process, the reality is that designers still play a critical role in ensuring that the designs develop ascribe to principles that make them appealing to human beings. Two approaches to artificial intelligence and machine learning exist in the design domain. The first among them centers on the algorithm as an integral part of the system while the latter emphasizes the user (Cristina). A salient example for the former is the control system of the Netflix category rows, which randomly moves categories such as “Continue Watching” and “My list” without any control from the user. This makes some users frustrated as it limits the ease to reach their desired categories. Conversely, the user-centered design allows for some customization to capture the ‘human’ aspect although it could limit efficiency. Consequently, designers must find a balance between the two approaches to developing the best designs.
Designers and Artificial Intelligence Collaboration
Undoubtedly, artificial intelligence is shaping the future of design, the same way it is bound to revolutionize transport through self-driving cars and business through delivery drones. However, the only possible way that this is going to happen if there is collaboration between designers and artificial intelligence. A few years ago, a system for designing websites that depended solely on artificial intelligence, a la Squarespace failed as the products lacked the ‘human’ aspect (Teixeria). Unlike other jobs that can be easily automated such as driving, graphic design requires non-repetitive jobs that are often unpredictable, therefore, hard to perform using artificial intelligence alone. Consequently, the role of designer is to ensure that designs generated by artificial intelligence ascribe to the principle inherent in structuralism, semiotics, and poststructuralism to appeal to human beings. For instance, regarding semiotics, designers can ensure that a given design is well placed regarding its connotation and denotation.
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Buchanan, Richard. “Wicked Problems in Design Thinking.” Kepes 6 (2010).
Cristina, Cris. “The Designer’S Guide to Machine Learning – Digitalist Global”. Digitalist Global, 2018, digitalist.global/talks/the-designers-guide-to-machine-learning/. Accessed 4 Nov 2018.
Press, Mike, and Rachel Cooper. The design experience: the role of design and designers in the twenty-first century. Routledge, 2017.
Teixeria, Fabricio. “How AI Has Started To Impact Our Work As Designers”. Marvel, 2018, https://blog.marvelapp.com/ai-started-impact-work-designers/. Accessed 4 Nov 2018.