Problem placement in fashion design practice: Reflections and recommendations for fashion design education in an era of complexity



Fashion, Jewellery & Textile Design


  • activity theory, fashion design education, fashion designers practice, problem placement


This paper identifies the desired design outcomes and problem domains of experienced Johannesburg fashion designers, to provide recommendations for fashion design practice and education. Traditional fashion design education often emphasises aesthetics and technical construction before strategically deciding on where the design effort needs to be focused within complex integrated systems. However, within the context of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), complex integrated systemic thinking is becoming increasingly important. As such, this paper provides an overview of the design outcomes of practising fashion designers and explores the correlation between the problems they manage and Buchanan’s (1998) seminal proposition of problem framing and placement domains. Based on a master’s study whereby a multiple-case study was conducted to observe, compare, and describe the communal design activities that experienced Johannesburg fashion designers manage using activity theory to analyse the complex nature of design, found that the biggest challenge faced by experienced fashion designers is their inability to define the complexity of the design problem. Against this backdrop and as the fashion industry moves into the fourth industrial revolution this paper identifies the design outcomes and problem domains that have to be considered as part of designers' practices that may be used to inform fashion education.

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