The Challenge of Improving Designing
Erik Stolterman


This paper presents an analytical and conceptual investigation of research aimed at improving design practice. These ambitions and challenges of improving design practice are primarily analyzed in relation to the concept of predictability. A basic assumption of this analysis, grounded in contemporary design theory, is that the design process is impossible to fully control and because of that, cannot guarantee a desired outcome. As a result, there is a need to carefully reflect on how design research aimed at improving design practice takes on this task. The argument is made that research aimed at supporting or improving designing has to be grounded in a deep understanding of the nature of designing, in an understanding of the aspects that makes design an approach that can deliver highly creative and innovative outcomes. If that is not the case, there is a risk that attempts to improve designing will instead lead to detrimental consequences, potentially destroying what constitutes the core of designing, and the approach will no longer provide desired outcomes.

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