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Title: Explicit design knowledge : investigating design space analysis in practice and opportunities for its development.
Author: McKerlie, Diane Lisa Humanski.
Awarding Body: South Bank University
Current Institution: London South Bank University
Date of Award: 1999
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In the context of knowledge management, the challenge for organizations is to convert individual human knowledge into structural capital so that the knowledge becomes persistent in the organization, making it more accessible and hence more usable. How to codify the knowledge of a workforce, including the tacit knowledge of experts, and how to apply that codified knowledge with success are unresolved issues. The conversion of individual knowledge into structural capital is of particular relevance in the field of design. Design is a complex activity that creates valuable knowledge. However, that knowledge is often implicit, unstructured, and embedded in procedures, methods, documentation, design artifacts, and of course in the minds of designers and other project stakeholders. In addition, design teams are often multidisciplinary and include experts who apply tacit knowledge to arrive at solutions. Design projects extend over time so that the risk of losing design knowledge increases. Information in itself is not knowledge for the purposes of structural capital. A user interface (UI) design specification for example, does not capture the knowledge used to create that design. The specification tells us what the artifact should be, but it does not tell us how the design came to be or why it is the way it is. Design rationale (DR) is a field of study surrounding the reasoning behind design decisions and the reasoning process that leads to the design of an artifact. The objective of creating a design rationale is to make the reasons for design decisions explicit. Design space analysis (DSA) is one perspective on design rationale that explores alternative design solutions and the assessment of each against design objectives. The rationale behind design decisions provides insight about the design knowledge that was applied and is therefore, of interest to the structural capital of organizations. Moreover, the process of making the rationale explicit is of interest to the domain of user interface design. The challenge for UI designers and the question addressed in this research is how to make the design rationale explicit and use it to effectively support the design process? The proposed solution is to conduct design space analysiS as part of the process of de.slgn. To. test this solution it is important to explore the implications of generating design rationale in practice and to explore whether DSA reflects the knowledge that expert deSigners apply. The "DSA study" demonstrated and examined the use of design space analysis by UI experts in a long-term, practical, design setting. The findings suggest that design space analysis supports communication and the reasoning process, and it provides context around past design decisions. It was also found that conducting design space analysis encourages designers to accumulate design ideas and develop an understanding of design problems in a systematic way. In addition, the study showed that designers are capable of producing and using the notation, but that the effort to conduct DSA is an obstacle to its use in practice. Conclusions are drawn that DSA can structure the reasoning aspect of design knowledge. The "design skills study" identified the skills that user interface experts apply in practice. The findings indicate that many of the skills of UI experts correspond to the skills that are emphasized by DSA. The study emphasized the pervasiveness and importance of the communication activity in design, as well as the role of reasoning in communication and decision making. The study also identified design activities that receive comparatively little attention from UI experts and design skills that may be comparatively poor. Conclusions are drawn that DSA reflects in part the knowledge that designers apply in practice. Findings from the above studies point to two approaches that maximize the positive effects of DSA and minimize the effort to conduct a design space analysis. I describe these approaches as coaching and heuristics. Informal evaluations indicate that coaching and heuristics warrant further investigation. The findings from each of the studies have implications for design space analysis. These are discussed around several themes: the tension between the processes of designing and structuring design knowledge, the trade-off in effort between structuring design knowledge and interpreting unstructured design knowledge, design knowledge and the complementary roles of communication and documentation, and DSA as it pertains to expert and novice designers. It is inevitable that where there are new findings and solutions there are also new questions to be explored. Several interesting questions raised by these investigations suggest an agenda for future work.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: User interface design; Knowledge management