Summary: DESIGN: DESCRIBING THE BLIND MEN'S ELEPHANT
Atwood, Michael E., College of Information Science and Technology, Drexel University,
3141 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA, firstname.lastname@example.org
Wania, Christine E., College of Information Science and Technology, Drexel University,
3141 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA, email@example.com
Design is an activity that is central and pervasive in our lives. It is an activity we must understand and
one we must be able to do well! This is made difficult by the fact that (1) how we view design changes
with the way we view our world, (2) there is no common understanding of the term design, and (3)
while design researchers and design practitioners both have much to contribute, they are separate
communities. The concept of patterns introduced into architecture by Alexander et al (1977) offers the
promise of resolving these problems. But, this promise is largely unrealized. Why this is so, is the
focus of this paper.
Keywords Interactive systems design, system design, design patterns.
General Terms Design, Languages, Theory.
No human activity is more central to our lives, and more pervasive in its effects, than design. Every
artifact we use, from apple peelers to airplanes, from staplers to software, results from a process of
design. Whereas the natural sciences developed a scientific method as a common means of inquiry, for
the artificial sciences and their related professions, design is the paramount skill. Yet our