Cartesian Problems in Communicating about Designing and Design Thinking

Interesting article – Thinking About Design Thinking – by Fred Collopy blogging for Fast Company.  Fred considers, “As (Design Thinking) is a way of talking about what designers can contribute to areas beyond the domains in which they have traditionally worked, about how they can improve the tasks of structuring interactions, organizations, strategies and societies, it is a weak term”, because it makes a “distinction between thinking and acting.”

As Fred points out Design Thinking is beset by the Cartesian Mind – Body problem, which is frequently being rejected today.  One form of rejection is found in the idea, “thought” has it’s genesis in “action”, like how you learn to walk and then you learn to think about where you want to go.  A similar idea (attributed to Bakhtin) is that Cartesian thinking unnecessarily divides being from becoming, where the abstractions of disembodied thought never fully capture either the actions of our lives or the moral aspects of those actions.

This is especially important for education that often has it exactly backwards, trying to teach you how to think in order to go out into the world to act.  Education would be so much more valuable if there were no dichotomous walls. (i.e. classroom/world, schooling/working, or even the idea that education = a 4 year quest for certification instead of an ongoing quest for knowledge.)

2 thoughts on “Cartesian Problems in Communicating about Designing and Design Thinking

  1. Howard,

    I wanted to share my piece called “Design Without Designers” with you that Fred pulled the quote from. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts about the various ways in which non-designers have identified aspects of design that many designers themselves are unaware of.

    I’d be interested to hear your comments. I think you might be most interested in the Design-Based Learning work that draws on Dewey, et al.

  2. Anne;
    Thanks for the invitation and for the links to your piece (I haven’t hear that term since music school, but very appropriate). I will response shortly in a separate post , where formating will allow a more complete answer.

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