Hi iab, I don’t feel picked on.
On the topic of quantification, I don’t know. I don’t always tend to associate quantitative data with design, in fact when I think of design research I associate qualitative data more. I deal with quantitative data more when I wear my human factors / human-computer interaction hat I guess. That’s not to say I won’t give it a try.
I do have a set of quantifiable guidelines for evaluation of my success as a professor I suppose, these are my requirements for tenure, they specify a percentage of time I am supposed to be dividing my time between scholarship (including research and creative production), my teaching and departmental service and governance. I have to be productive as a scholar of design, doing research, making design objects, somewhere in between those. I also have to be productive as an instructor, teaching courses, advising students, documenting positive student outcomes based on juried student shows they are in and jobs they get or whether they go to grad school. Finally, I have to help keep the department running, I am on a curriculum committee at the moment.
We talk a lot about knowing whether something contributes to the field, and basically the way we qualify is through juried exhibition, journals, conferences, shows, etc. The department generally ignores work I do that isn’t accepted by a small group of peers. I think I also believed it was all going to be academic with professors looking only at other professor’s work and saying yes we are all professors, but in fact I see more professionals on juries than professors.
If you ask to define success in private industry, they will have many quantitative measurements. It could be sales numbers, market share, new users, conversions and other quantifiable outcomes. It is very black and white compared to the nebulousness of the academic definition.
While you do a good job of defining success, though I would argue you missed a few qualifiers that are more important, those things are not necessarily caused by design. The relationship between design and sales is not a causal one, we can observe good design, and we can observe good sales, but we cannot say good design caused good sales especially because we have also observed good design with abysmal sales. We could also argue whether then in fact the design was in fact good if the sales were not, which I think further disassociates sales and design. Similarly to market share, users, conversions etc. That’s not to say I am suggesting that we ignore those things. I have quantifiable things like that too, such as class size, retention rates, classes taken by non majors, average grades, number of papers I publish, but I would hope you would argue those are equally as unrelated.
I think there is a more complex story, and I embrace complexity. Which it looks like you would disagree with based on your comments about the SPARC lab (if it’s still called that at Mayo).
I am glad you brought up framing the right problem. When I interviewed at the place I am at now, one of the things I said I would add is a focus on defining the problem in parallel with the solution. It’s a newer theme that is being embraced especially by people who associate with interaction design and HCI, and is discussed in the book Thoughtful Interaction Design by Lowgren. I like that idea and I think it fits with Cross’ Designerly Ways of Knowing, viewing design as a mode of inquiry at the same level of science. Instead of asking a question and testing an answer, like a scientist, we frame the question and answer additively in parallel arriving at both at the same time.
This is hard to teach, and to be honest, I lurk here for ideas. So if you can think of a good way to frame the problem and solution in parallel while iteratively zeroing in on the correct problem, let me know. I have some ideas, but like many people I know I just making an earnest effort like anyone else. I know there are some professors who don’t, but I also know there are some professionals who don’t too.
Again, thanks for the conversation, it’s nice to feel like I can contribute something meaningful to the discussion, hopefully…