At the very end of Nelson & Stolterman’s chapter on desiderata, the authors conclude:

Desiderata, as the initiator of design action and designed change, are the intentional links between human capacity and human achievement. They are the enabling sources of guidance for intentional human evolvement. Design is the change of evolution into an intentionally directed process rather than a consequence of necessity, luck, or accident. Reactive triggers to change—such as fear, hate, hurt, humiliation, anger, distress, and need—drain energy and hope from human potential. Desiderata create energy, and hope, fueling the generative capacity of humans individually and collectively. Desiderata reflect the innate human understanding that the world is not complete as it is. Desiderata make design possible and necessary.

Reading that out of context all sounds well and good, and I can imagine everyone is nodding in agreement about this. (Me too.)

But here is my challenge. How does this square with the numerous design accounts we have read in the past two weeks? The squid in the cafe? The building by the water? The Pompidou Center as a “giant erector set”?

Are Nelson & Stolterman describing how design actually is practiced by anyone? Are they instead proposing a normative view, a “vision” (*ahem*) of what design ought to be? I haven’t thought deeply about this, but I guess I have problems no matter which way we answer this question.

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