Design & The Scientific Method: How To Logic-Power Your Creativity
Science is never finished. It proceeds by successive approximations, edging closer and closer to a complete and accurate understanding of nature, but it is never fully there. Science is always subject to debate, correction, refinement, agonizing reappraisal, and revolutionary insights” - Carl Sagan
We live in an increasingly plural and complex world, where vast amounts of new scientific data and hypotheses are generated at an exponential rate. However, to say that all data is insight, is to say that all haystacks are needles.
Design has always been the creative and human-centric key in accessible and inspiring communication of information and ideas, but where does design belong in a world of increasingly esoteric scientific specialization? I suggest that complex, technical, and scientific problem spaces hold the most exciting and least explored creative frontier for designers today – if we are ready to engage across the cultural divide.
As an Interaction Designer working on technical client projects ranging from NASA to the World Energy Council and from CERN to the United Nations, I hope to impart some insight into what we as designers can learn from collaborating with STEM professions and what we can do to advance those collaborations.
In this interactive talk, I will discuss the role design can play in helping to communicate complex ideas and what we must do to break down long-standing interdisciplinary misconceptions.
I’ll demonstrate the roles that visual creativity and design thinking have played in scientific discovery and communication throughout history by discussing the work of William Playfair, Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman. By contrast, I’ll discuss the impact science has had in the work of artists and designers like Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso and György Kepes.
Finally, I’ll present tangible strategies that you as a designer can use in engaging with professionals in STEM fields, encouraging you to…
Get inspired by the technical!
The more technicality you can learn to grasp in your work, the more you can be sure that nobody has thought about how design and communication of that technicality can be achieved, and you can be confident that you are covering truly new ground in design.
Understanding that design in the scientific realm is less about how you feel about a topic and more about how you represent it effectively without bias.
Find a shared language!
Spend time to ensure all parties are using understandable terminology. Understand what technical experts expect from design and help to expand their ideas of what closer collaboration can mean.
Use data interpretation as a design superpower!
How to brush up on your heuristics, statistics, and data analysis skills.
How to use research to back your design decisions up. In a technical world, numbers offer more reliable proof than sentiments.
Show your workings!
Sharing your design decisions with technical experts can help them to see the true value design can play in their work.
Enact cross-cultural peer review!
Document your findings and hold them up to open-source scrutiny. Get critique from both an artistic and scientific lens. New perspectives allow you to focus on shattering preconceived silos and improving both how you interact with other disciplines and the work you create.
Test beyond your audience!
Your skill should open ideas up to bigger audiences. It’s common for technically minded people to give too much detail all at once. Jargon is an abstraction to access. Deploying scarcity in everything you do will help to communicate meaningfully to the widest possible range of people.
Use the scientific method in your work!
Proceed by successive approximation. Reappraise, reassess, and refine your design work in as many contexts as possible to communicate truth, accuracy, and to inspire others to build up on what you create, but understand that as a designer, your work will never truly be ‘done’.
Accelerate impact: How to align design, data, and business to build products people actually use.
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