On September 2, Wayne Chung, Associate Professor and Product Design Chair at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design, released his book, The Praxis of Product Design in Collaboration with Engineering, from Springer Publishing. The book reveals how a generative design process capitalizes on understanding humans in context to deliver appropriate innovation.
In today’s world, professionals in many industries, such as business, education, and engineering, are increasingly eager to incorporate elements of design thinking into their own practices. In his book, Chung addresses this surge in interest by making design more accessible for people of all disciplines and backgrounds. He guides readers through numerous design practices and combines these techniques with case studies from his years of experience. Chung recognizes that there is a skills gap between designers by trade and those in other industries whose work could be improved by design. To bridge this gap, Chung highlights the nuances of what designers learn in the studio and places these tenets in the context of other industries.
Chung was inspired to write his book through a combination of his experience as a designer and educator. He was initially attracted to the field of industrial design because it allowed him to work with different materials and produce tangible things. However, he quickly recognized the interdisciplinary nature of the field.
“Many people enter product design wanting to just make cool stuff, but successful designs come from understanding people and working well with others,” said Chung. Over the course of his career, Chung has worked with a wide range of clients across various sectors, such as Ford Motor Company, LG Electronics, Cognizant Technologies, and various health care and medical institutions.
While he understood the importance of collaboration early on, Chung says his experiences teaching at the School of Design sparked his interest in making design more accessible to others.
“I've taught over twenty years and at two prior universities, [but] I never taught a freshman design class until I arrived at CMU,” he said. “When I was responsible for teaching 45-50 first-year students, I really had to re-think and re-tread how and what I delivered.” This, along with his more recent endeavors in teaching executive education workshops to a range of professionals, encouraged him to figure out how to communicate complex principles of design in simple ways.
In order to accomplish his goals, Chung developed the “Design Matrix,” which presents a variety of design methods along two axes (Tangible/Intangible and Activities/Outputs), forming four quadrants (Framing, Making, Doing, and Defining). More importantly, the Design Matrix emphasizes that the design process is somewhat convoluted.
“As much as someone wishes [the process] is a linear [one with] some concurrent series of tasks,” Chung acknowledges, “it is more frequently a dynamic combination of cognitive, physical, and collaborative activities that occur throughout the process.”
By nature of its open and generative framework, the Design Matrix offers users the flexibility to pivot and adjust their activities, another important factor for success. Finally, the Matrix also helps teams make decisions around what to do next, thus helping students move forward by providing them a roadmap.
Chung credits his undergraduate education at CMU for success in helping teach and develop design tools for others. He notes that “the balance of generative learning [at CMU], where you were responsible for developing your own methods and ideas to deal with a range of challenges,” informed his approach to design.
While the book offers many practical applications, Chung also hopes that it will spark a deeper discussion around the value and applicability of design thinking, processes, and practice. “A larger dialogue on the discipline of design's theoretical and applied concepts is necessary,” he says, “and the design discipline still finds itself without words or visuals to start and sustain these conversations.”