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How system designers think: a study of design thinking in human factors engineering

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The paper presents a descriptive study of design thinking in human factors engineering. The objective of the study is to analyse the role of interpretation in design thinking and the role of design practice in guiding interpretation. The study involved 10 system designers undertaking the allocation of cognitive functions in three production planning and control task scenarios. Allocation decisions were recorded and verbal protocols of the design process were collected to elicit the subjects' thought processes. Verbal protocol analysis showed that subjects carried out the design of cognitive task allocation as a problem of applying a selected automation technology from their initial design deliberations. This design strategy stands in contrast to the predominant view of system design that stipulates that user requirements should be thoroughly analysed prior to making any decisions about technology. Theoretical frameworks from design research and ontological design showed that the system design process may be better understood by recognizing the role of design hypotheses in system design, as well as the diverse interactions between interpretation and practice, means and ends, and design practice and the designer's pre-understanding which shape the design process. Ways to balance the bias exerted on the design process were discussed.
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Keywords: Design research; Design thinking; Interpretation; Ontological design; Requirements analysis; System design

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2004

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