Boling, E. & Smith, K.M. The Design Case: Rigorous Design Knowledge for Design Practice. Interactions September-October 2012. pp. 48-53.

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The article is a discussion of utility and requirements for good design cases. According to the authors, while almost any design case can be useful for designers, only few are really trustworthy, i.e. rigorous. It is a bit difficult to grasp what would be a good example of a design case based on the article. It seems that different designs might require different case ‘descriptions’ and the authors explicitly state that teaching cases and case studies in design do not provide good design cases. However, later the authors state that especially novice and developing designers would benefit from good design cases.

For me the loan from naturalistic inquiry was the most interesting and important part of the article. The article loans the trustworthiness factors of naturalistic inquiry and applies them to design cases. The result is a list of guidelines for both observing and documenting design cases. The trustworthiness factors of naturalistic inquiry are (Lincoln, Y. & Cuba, E. Naturalistic Inquiry. SAGE Publications. 1985.):

  • prolonged engagement with phenomenon under investigation
  • persisten observation of salient elements
  • triangulation of data
  • negative case analysis
  • peer debriefing
  • member checks
  • thick description
  • audit trails

and the derived trustworthiness factors for design cases are:

  • spend significant time observing or understanding the design process
  • give a detailed explanation for how this was done
  • identify which elements of a design case are the most significant
  • explain what parts of the design’s process and form are being addressed
  • state what is being excluded from discussions or presentation
  • seek data of different types and from different sources to develop and present as complete an understanding as possible
  • these might include interviews, sketches, meeting minutes, prototypes, usability tests, observations of design activities and email communications
  • seek out and document options abandoned or significantly modified, decisions that were later deemed unworkable or undesirable, or directions that gad to be changed due to limited resources
  • avoid tunnel vision by having colleagues give formal and informal feedback
  • seek feedback on the design case from stakeholders
  • provide enough information for the reader to experience the design vicariously
  • use multiple forms of representation
  • allow readers to understand the context in which the design has taken shape
  • keep a record of activities in order to present a well-rounded, fair account of the design process and the designed artifacts
  • the audit trail applies to the design case itself, and not to the design; it is a method of providing evidence for judging the trustworthiness of the design case, not the quality of the design

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