DESCRIPTION, PRESCRIPTION AND “BAD” DESIGN
Editor: Culley, S.J.; Hicks, B.J.; McAloone, T.C.; Howard, T.J. & Reich, Y.
Author: Winkelman, Paul
Section: Design Theory and Research Methodology
Design methodologies can serve the purposes of description, prescription, or the creation of norms. A given methodology can display features of all three. In such cases, does the presence of all three compromise the validity of the methodology? The mixing of the descriptive with the prescriptive is common in both science and engineering. Science often requires a theory (prescription) to enable us to make sense of what we are seeing (description). Within engineering, mathematics draws the descriptive and the prescriptive together; at first glance, mathematics appears merely descriptive, but the unwavering trust placed in its constructs give it prescriptive powers. Thus, one would expect models of the engineering design process to be ambiguous without diminishing the methodology. The normative presents its unique challenges for engineering research, for the normative suggests that we need to espouse certain values and this detracts from the logic of design.