e.g. deep play
Beer model (Reproduced with permission)
ues as conversation with the possible. Crucial
for progress is documenting and visualizing our
analysis, making it possible for us to come back
to it, making it possible to imagine alternatives,
making it possible ultimately to discuss and agree
with others on our framing and definition. We
might write down a list of findings or a statement
defining the problem. Better still is writing a story.
A story describes actors and actions; it suggests
relationships, which we may represent in visual
form. A story of what happens suggests a model
of what is—an interpretation of our research.
The process of coming to a shared representation
externalizes individual thinking and helps build
trust across disciplines and stakeholders.
Having agreed on a model of what is (framed
the current situation, defined the problem) then
the other side of the coin (the preferred future,
the solution) is implied. An interpretation provides “a description of the everyday in such a
way as to see how it might be different, better, or
new [ 1].” We can devise stories about what could
happen. We can model alternatives in relation to
our first model. In doing so, we’ve moved to the
upper-right quadrant, to the use and development
of models of what could be. It is in the realm of
abstraction—by thinking with models—that we
bridge the gap between analysis and synthesis.
These models are hypotheses, speculations,
imagined alternatives to the concrete we started
with, but they are still abstract themselves. It is
easy to “play” with models at this point, to test
and explore. But design requires that the work
return to the concrete, that we make things real,
realize our models as prototypes or even finished
form. This is the lower-right quadrant.
Of course, results improve with iteration.
Submitting the new prototype to testing, further
observation and investigation, continuing around
the quadrants, we learn and refine our work.
The bridge model has several antecedents and
The bridge model grew out of personal discussions over the past few years. Rick Robinson (one
of this article’s co-authors) has written about “the
space in between” research and concept. He has
described anthropologist Clifford Geertz’s essay,
“Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight,” as
an example of abstracting a model from research,
and one that parallels strongly the moves that
other forms of research and design make in
moving from description through interpretation to application. “[The construct of] Deep Play
becomes a lens through which Geertz can show
what’s important about the Balinese cockfight,
and his colleagues can understand important
underlying factors in something like fan riots at
soccer matches [ 1].”