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VCD Theory Critical thinking

Critical thinking.

How to analyse, evaluate and sign-post future directions

Thinking about thinking

Critical thinking is...

Our design process

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VCAA, 2018, Visual Communication Design Study Design, Figure 1: A process for creating visual communication. (p 11). VCAA, Melbourne.

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Convergent thinking

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Collecting and making

data visible

The first stage of critical thinking is to develop techniques that will make data about our ideas visible. Once we can 'see' the advantages and disadvantages of ideas clearly, we will then be able to decide how best to move forward through the Development and Resolutions stages of our design process.

Ways to make initial selections

Pugh or prioritisation matrix

Description

The Pugh or prioritisation matrix is a method for creating a kind of score card for evaluating design ideas.

Create a table like this one. Enter several relevant aspects from the brief in the left column. Put in descriptions or pictures of a selection of ideas or approaches across the top. Evaluate and score each idea against the requirements of the brief you have identified. Write the total score below.

Reference

Aspects contained in the brief

Concept 1

Concept 2

Concept 3

Concept 4

Potential to meet audience needs and preferences

Score /10

Score /10

Score /10

Score /10

Potential to meet the purpose and respond to context

Score /10

Score /10

Score /10

Score /10

Potential to meet aesthetic constraints

Score /10

Score /10

Score /10

Score /10

Potential to meet functional constraints

Score /10

Score /10

Score /10

Score /10

Potential to respond to factors

Score /10

Score /10

Score /10

Score /10

Total for each idea

Total /50

Total /50

Total /50

Total /50

Four-field matrix

Description

The four-field matrix is a way of rating ideas against two sets of opposite attributes or characteristics. It is important that reference or reflect constraints in a brief. A matrix can also be produced where different zones are weighted differently to create quantitative data.

To use this technique, simply create a graph with a vertical and horizontal axis. Then place copies of each design, moving them towards the + or – on each axis according to the student’s evaluation according to constraints chosen from the brief. If needed repeat the matrix for other constraints or expectations.

Visual placement

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Here is an example of the 4-quadrant matrix in use showing how movie posters have been positioned to grade them according to characteristics.

Scored positions

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Here is an example of how relative positions could be used to create quantitative data to support selection for development.

template

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Here is an example of how to set up a scored 4 quadrant matrix.

PMI (Plus, minus, interesting)

Description

Plus, minus, interesting was developed by psychologist Edward de Bono.

This routine is intended to encourage different perspectives, rather than to justify opinions that may already be held. This is an important distinction considering that a student designer has indeed much vested interest in their ideas. Naturally, collaboration with trusted peers is advantageous to stimulate alternative thoughts and views.

Students work to simple time limits, such as one or two minute to examine an idea and;

  • Identify as many plusses or positive points
  • Identify as many minuses or negatives
  • Identify as many things that are neither positive nor negative, merely interesting.

Keeping to strict time limits increases engagement and facilitates thinking without judgement. PMI can be done individually or collaboratively.

Templates can be found online or simply set options out on a page.

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A simple PMI analysis. Amy Nguyen, 2018.

Reference

https://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/PMI-plus-minus-interesting-retrospective

Compass Points

Description

Compass points works in a similar way to PMI. However, it is a little more elaborate. This routine is good for signposting a way forward in a student’s design process. The following explanation of the compass points E, W, N, S are taken from the Harvard Project Zero site on compass points shown below.

  • E = Excited
    What excites you about this idea or propositions? What’s the upside?
  • W = Worrisome
    What do you find worrisome about this idea or proposition? What’s the downside?
  • N = Need to Know
    What else do you need to know or find out about this idea or proposition? What additional information would help you to evaluate things?
  • S = Stance or Suggestion for Moving Forward
    What is your current stance or opinion on the idea or proposition? How might you move forward in your evaluation of this idea or proposition?

Reference

http://www.pz.harvard.edu/resources/compass-points

Ways to seek alternative perspectives

6 thinking hats ®

White

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Finds facts, known information or data

Red

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Explores emotions, intuition, feelings

Yellow

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Finds the positives in an idea, identifies its strengths, its capacity for adaptability

Black

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Seeks the negatives and asks, what could go wrong with this idea?

Green

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Explores creative options, suggests new possibilities, new interpretations

Blue

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Manages thinking and investigates a framework or process for the design

Description

Six Thinking Hats ® is a way of allowing alternative views on an idea, called perspectives, to be educed (brought out) and made visible. It promotes “parallel thinking as an alternative to adversarial thinking”. This technique quickly yields heaps of data that can be used to make an informed evaluation of a student’s ideas and justify their selection of ideas for development and subsequent refinement.

There are many ways Six Thinking Hats ® can be used individually and collaboratively in the design process. Three ways I suggest are;

  • Group role play
  • Individual evaluation chart
  • Silent collaboration

Reference

Edward de Bono, 1985, Little Brown and Company, New York City.

http://www.debonothinkingsystems.com/ tools/6hats.htm

Detailed example

https://lo.unisa.edu.au/pluginfile.php/916819 /mod_book/chapter/100453/ The%20Six%20Thinking%20Hats.pdf

1 Group role play

Description

Each student selects one design idea per round of the game. They table a copy of their idea. (Students may find it useful to use one of the techniques above to help them make their selection).

The class divides into groups where each participant will ‘wear’ a different coloured hat. It may be necessary to combine hats if needed. Students can easily play two roles.

A discussion takes place and each perspective is recorded on each student’s sheet.

2 Consider and compare ideas

Description

To compare the merits of several different ideas each student prepares a chart like that shown below. Each student individually considers the range of ideas from each of the hat’s perspectives in order to build a fuller picture of the merits and possible setbacks of their designs. Student’s use this information to help justify decisions about the selection of ideas for development.

Idea 1

Idea 2

Idea 3

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Key constraints and expectations from brief

Summarise the brief here

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Finds facts, known information or data

Discuss this idea from this hat's perspective here

Discuss this idea from this hat's perspective here

Discuss this idea from this hat's perspective here

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Explores emotions, intuition, feelings

Discuss this idea from this hat's perspective here

Discuss this idea from this hat's perspective here

Discuss this idea from this hat's perspective here

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Finds the positives in an idea, identifies its strengths, its capacity for adaptability

Discuss this idea from this hat's perspective here

Discuss this idea from this hat's perspective here

Discuss this idea from this hat's perspective here

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Seeks the negatives and asks, what could go wrong with this idea?

Discuss this idea from this hat's perspective here

Discuss this idea from this hat's perspective here

Discuss this idea from this hat's perspective here

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Explores creative options, suggests new possibilities, new interpretations

Discuss this idea from this hat's perspective here

Discuss this idea from this hat's perspective here

Discuss this idea from this hat's perspective here

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Manages thinking and investigates a framework or process for the design

Discuss this idea from this hat's perspective here

Discuss this idea from this hat's perspective here

Discuss this idea from this hat's perspective here

What next?

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The most important reason for using a thinking routine is to inform your next moves.

Discuss the result of the examination of this idea using the 6 Thinking Hats. Will you be rejecting or selecting this idea based on the evidence? If you will be selecting it, discuss your possible approach to its development. Refer to the evidence gained above.

Discuss the result of the examination of this idea using the 6 Thinking Hats. Will you be rejecting or selecting this idea based on the evidence? If you will be selecting it, discuss your possible approach to its development. Refer to the evidence gained above.

Discuss the result of the examination of this idea using the 6 Thinking Hats. Will you be rejecting or selecting this idea based on the evidence? If you will be selecting it, discuss your possible approach to its development. Refer to the evidence gained above.

3 Round-robin perspective taking

Description

Charts like the one shown above are prepared by each student and placed on tables around the classroom. Students are appointed to wear each coloured hat. They rotate between tables completing each student’s sheet with comments from the perspective of the coloured hat they are wearing.

Stakeholders perspectives

Description

A variation of the Six Thinking Hats ® technique is to look at student designs from the perspectives of key stakeholders. Considering the briefs for a selection of ideas students in the class adopt the role of key people who are somehow involved by the creation of the design.

Stakeholders may include people like;

  • a member of the target audience
  • a peer designer
  • a design critic
  • a media person
  • a representative from a business
  • environmental or equal opportunities/ accessibility institution.

The three techniques described above can be used to frame the evaluation of designs from key stakeholder’s perspectives. The result will give valuable data to justify selections.

Factors that influence designs

Description

A third way to consider the merits of an idea is to view it through the lens of the factors that influence designs. As these factors should be considered by responsible designers, they are a useful frame through which data can be gathered and evaluations made. In this example, I have also indicated the positive and negatives of each evaluation as a visual cue with a tick or cross.

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Sign-posting

next directions

Design thinking is intended to help students to plan and organise their progress through the design process. Although the techniques on this page enable the collection of data about designs, the real benefit comes as they help to clarify and direct the design process.

The following techniques are most useful for students to articulate and document how they will modify ideas in the development, refinement and resolution stages of the design process.

two Stars and a wish

Description

Two stars and one wish is a simple collaborative critical thinking routine. Have each student table their generation of ideas or one single idea. Students roam the room with post-it notes or a form like the one at right, and give their opinions on how well ideas work and what could be done to make them even better.

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Stars and wishes done collaboratively on Google Sheets.

SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis

Description

A SWOT analysis is a  critical thinking technique to help students see opportunities and consider threats by evaluating ideas carefully their your brief. It will then enable them to determine how they will overcome threats that may be embedded in designs.

  • Students copy in ideas they wish to evaluate.
  • Describe the strengths of each idea. Consider how they meet the communication need.
  • Look hard at each idea critically, keeping in mind the constraints and expectations of the brief. Describe the weaknesses of each.
  • Consider the opportunities for development of your design. How could it be developed? Describe the approach that might lead to improvement.
  • Consider threats to your design. Could the design be misinterpreted? Could it be misused? Does it have any associations with other imagery that may create an incorrect meaning. Would it be flexible for reproduction at any size? Could it be adaptable and is it future proof?

Finally, plot a course for development of the idea that best meets the brief.

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A SWOT analysis. Tiea Sacco, 2019.

POOCH (Problems, options, outcomes, choice)

Description

POOCH is another creative thinking technique to help compare and select the most suitable concept for refinement, and to road-map a path forward in the design process.

Students;

  • Locate concepts they wish to compare and evaluate. They prepare a structure for your page.
  • Re-focus on the problem. Paraphrase your brief concentrating on the constraints, expectations, purpose and context.
  • Copy in concepts for evaluation. These are the options.
  • Consider the possible results for each option. These are called the outcomes. It helps to evaluate outcomes by handling the pros and cons Describe the strongest and weakest features of each design, considering the brief.

Finally students need to make an informed choice of which option to bring forward in the design process. Identify and justify the choice made and how it will be enacted. For instance, students may look at combining parts of options or removing and changing others. Decisions are justified in consideration of the brief.

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A POOCH analysis. Tiea Sacco, 2019.

R.E.D Critical Thinking Model

Description

The RED Critical Thinking Model is a tool for the analysis and strategic development of business. However, the overarching framework can be applied to VCD effectively to investigate existing design approaches, identify deficiencies and sign-post future design directions.

Reference

Based on and adapted from “Pearson’s Watson-Glaser II Critical Thinking Appraisal”

https://www.pearsonclinical.com.au/products/view/359

Why two bikes?

To illustrate this critical thinking model, I collected two pictures of racing bikes. The left one is from the 1930s and the right is from the 1990s. Consider the one from the 1930s as an initial design idea that has been proposed before using this critical thinking technique. Consider the one from the 1990s as a development that has been made after, and by implementing the findings of this routine. I am using them as two designs that could be found at either end of one design process. I’m considering the white one a ‘visualisation drawing’ and the black one the ‘resolution of concepts’. If only we had sixty years to perfect our designs!

Below are the three stages of the RED Critical Thinking Model.

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(http://classiccycleus.com/home/repair/people/)

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(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotus_108#/media/ File:Lotus_108_(24281585325).jpg)

Recognize Assumptions

When we begin designs we always start with a range of assumptions in mind. An assumption is something we think is true about something. Although our research should direct our beginnings, particularly in respect to the preferences of the target audience and how to design effectively for a purpose and context, we begin designing with a range of assumptions that frame our approach. Examples of assumptions include ideas like a table should be flat or a poster should be legible. Whilst these ideas are often useful, many assumptions are developed over time and become unwritten laws that restrict new design ideas.

The first stage of RED is to recognise assumptions and critically consider their validity. It is best to consider them from a range of different perspectives. An assumption may be based on fact in one context yet not necessarily needed in another. The designer identifies the assumptions that may have framed their approach consciously or unconsciously, when they began.

Here are a range of assumptions that may have shaped the design of the bike at the start of the design process:

Racing bikes should be;

  • painted light colours because they have less ‘visual weight’
  • adjustable to suit different riders
  • made from existing bike parts
  • use the ‘male’ style frame
  • use pedals and chain drive mechanisms
  • position the rider so their back is high and the hand grips are low
  • have two wheels
  • as light as possible so they eliminate parts like brakes, mudguards, lights, etc.
  • long lasting machines

Consider the image of the bike from the 1930s and see if you can see how these assumptions shaped its design.

Evaluate Arguments

A design presents an argument. Whether it is driven by aesthetics, style or function, the way it communicates can be considered is its argument.

The second stage of RED is to make a systematic analysis of the arguments based on evidence. This helps the designer discern which assumptions are true, that could underpin a successful design, and which are unnecessary and may be preventing an innovative design proposal emerging.

Critical evaluation of arguments requires a designer to suspend their judgement as emotions may get in the way of consideration. One should look from different perspectives. Debono’s Six Thinking Hats can be used with the routine. One should also realise that it is easy to unconsciously seek information which confirms a preferred perspective.

I have created a range of features of racing bikes in the following table to organise the arguments suggested in the old bike. In the column at the right I have evaluated each argument. Where the assumption was true it holds. Where is false I have suggested an idea for development and improvement of the design.

Features

Argument suggested in the old bike

Argument evaluated

Contact with ground

The smallest contact area creates the lowest friction with ground

True

Pose of rider

A hunched pose of rider is the most aerodynamic

True - but an elongated pose is even better

Materials

Steel and aluminium give the best strength to weight ratio Plastics are weak so are not used in high stress applications

False – there are materials that are stronger and lighter False – there are plastics that are stronger than metals

Profile of parts

The smallest profiles (circular by definition) are the most aerodynamic forms for bikes

False – from the front they are but from the side they need to be merged with each other

Durability

Bikes need paint for durability

False – only metals that rust need paint. Paint adds weight

Accessories

Less stuff is lighter therefore faster

True

Recognise inferences

In addition, one should recognise inferences or noise in the evidence. These are arguments that may appear but are false.

Examples of interfering arguments are;

  • The bike is white with red detailing so this must make it faster
  • The seat is leather so it must be comfortable
  • The rims, pedals and handlebars are chrome so this must be a fast material

Draw Conclusions

So how can we use this information to shape a better design? The findings need to be fed back into the design process again and used to shape improvements to the concept.

The third stage of RED is to made conclusions based on the evidence. Here, I am proposing that the bike from the 1990s was made as a result of the conclusions drawn from the first and second stage of the creative thinking model.

I have used the same categories in the table below and proposed suggestions (as conclusions) that can be used to reshape the design. A feature of real, evidence based conclusions is that they are able to be able to be adjusted,  should further evidence emerge. This is shown as adaptability in the right column.

Features

Conclusion drawn shown in the new bike

Adaptability to future should further evidence arise

Contact with ground

We need to continue with a small contact area to minimise friction

Tires should continue to get thinner

Pose of rider

An elongated pose is even faster

However, control in the ‘Superman’ pose is more difficult resulting in crashes so this is usually not used

Materials

Carbon fibre is the strongest and lightest material now and allows for one piece frames eliminating weight caused by joints

As new materials are developed weight can decrease, one-piece construction eliminates gaps that cause drag

Profile of parts

Profiles of parts need to be a ‘flat’ as possible leaving no jagged edges to catch the air. Therefore a ‘solid’ wheel and frame allows air to pass over it slickly. All other parts are elliptical, so they are more aerodynamic

The bike design should continue to develop more as an integrated form. Parts should get thinner (from the front) and wider (from the side) to minimise drag and maximise strength.

Durability

By eliminating metals that rust surfaces don’t need to be painted. Bikes only need to last for one race

Materials should be developed that are resistant to atmosphere. Teams should focus on race day not on keeping a bike for the future

Accessories

Performance enhancing equipment like body monitors are a benefit to a racing team

Collection of data is valuable to a team