Figurative Approach




Ten objects that help designers tackle »wicked problems«.

Horst Rittel published his essay »Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning« in 1973. In it he formulates the term wicked problems and their ten characteristics. Horst Rittel’s idea is frequently used in design education to describe the indeterminacy and complexity of design, which is particularly challenging in undergraduate studies. There are many wicked problems, we usually encounter them several times a day. Design problems are treacherous per se, argues Rittel, since there can never be a complete and »perfect« solution for them. The designer’s task is therefore to define the best possible approach using the time and resources available.

In the exhibit, each characteristic of a ‘wicked problems‘ is confronted with a tool. The tools are meant to help tackle the problems in a very concrete way — beyond design theory. However, as designers often face bigger problems than they are aware of, the tools have been upscaled. Thus, the attempt to design a suitable tool is in turn a wicked problem.

  • I — The encyclopedia for the Indescribable. Words are so densely packed that the Pages appear to be just black.

  • II — A wedge to stop the infinite chain of causations.

  • III — The megaphone helps you to convince everybody of your opinion.

  • IV — The Measuring Instrument - for measuring solutions once they are in place.

  • V — The eraser for reversing the irreversible.

  • VI — The compass always points in the right direction in the jungle of infinite potential solutions.

  • VII — The pestle brakes down unique problems to their lowest common denominator.

  • VIII — A saw to cut problems dependencies and isolates problems.

  • IX — The pen provides you with only one simple way to describe a problem.

  • X — A safety line, in case a solution turns out as a fail.