After reading Rowe, I don’t really want to write about only one of the case studies, but rather to focus on ‘episode creation’ as part of design thinking. I will explain why my idea on this makes it so that I don’t think the three case studies Rowe used were all that different in process, at least not in what I would call a meaningful way. I will finish with a claim on the need of designing in teams so as to remove periods of ‘blinding’ in the design process.
In all three of the case studies the designers when through different ‘episodes’. The structure of these episodes is defined by Rowe as:
First, there is the ” to and fro” movement between areas of concern-a movement perceived at the time by the designers in our three case studies.
Second, there seem to be periods of unfettered speculation, followed by more sober and contemplative episodes during which the designer ” takes stock of the situation.”
Third, each episode seems to have a particular orientation that preoccupies the designer. We might say that the organizing principles involved in each episode take on a life of their own, as the designer becomes absorbed in exploring the possibilities that they promise. Here a ” dialogue” between the designer and the situation is evident (Schon 1983, ch. 3).
The last part about these episodes “taking on a life of their own” and a “dialogue” existing between designers and the situation is the most meaningful observation made in this paper. Sure, within the three case studies different constraints were applied at different times, different retractions and backtracking was done, and different models were applied in different ways. To me, this was the implementation of episodic understanding of the design process. That is, each designer created a different episode of the process by selecting its content, be it a constraint, exploratory sketches, or an applied model like the classical Villa. In this way, the content of the episode started a string of events that led, in some fashion, to subsequent episodes. In Rowe’s words these episodes:
These episodes are not happenstance events. They possess an interior logic that seems determined partly by the subject matter at hand and partly by the organizational procedures being used. They also have a consequential connection with one another. Without such logic and closure among episodes the emergence of design proposals would be difficult to imagine.
I claim that this interior logic is a priori to the problem at hand, yet developed through the combination of experience and knowledge acquisition (higher education, reading things). In this way, these episodes are colored by our formations as designers up to that point. These episodes are the manifestations of how we understand the design process. To me this explains the difference in the three case studies. I think they are using the same process, here as episodic design, but the creation and understanding of the episodes themselves rely on their ongoing formation as a designer.
This reminds me of the saying “we need a fresh pair of eyes on the project”. More eyes = more possibilities for a diversity of episodes and in this way removes the ‘blinding’ that occurs when designers move forward even when ” conditions in which obvious connections between various considerations of importance go unrecognized by a designer (Newell, Shaw, and Simon 1967, pp.107-108).” The more designers on the project, even for a few minutes, could decrease these periods of blinding that occur when no one currently on the project can recognize when a team is going down the rabbit hole.