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CEPHAD  April 2004

CEPHAD April 2004


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Ken Friedman <[log in to unmask]>


Ken Friedman <[log in to unmask]>


Sat, 24 Apr 2004 16:23:35 +0200





text/plain (1957 lines)

Dear Cindy,

Read your research request with interest.
Been meaning to gather some references for you.
Also forwarded the request to colleagues involved
in philosophy, art, and design.

I'm sending an old version of a paper that you may
find useful. This includes a reference list that may
guide you to some other good thinkers. I am still
struggling to get a better version done.

I'm traveling too much these days. In a week or
so, I will sent you a bibliography of useful sources.
Others also write about some of the topics considered
here. John Broadbent, Terry Love, Harold Nelson,
and Erik Stolterman describe design from a systems
standpoint. Many of us frame design in the context
of complexity thinking and complex adaptive systems,
but no one seems to have done enough to apply the
mathematical models of complexity studies to design
process. Judith Gregory, Lily Diaz, and Pelle Ehn work
from a position that embeds design activity in social
process, and their work addresses significant philosophical

Among philosophers whose work is valuable, I can
point to John Searle, Steve Fuller, Albert Borgmann,
and Joseph Dunner. Some other scholars also address
specific philosophical problems that apply to design,
such as Robert Sternberg's work on wisdom, or
Michael Polanyi's work on knowledge.

Several people specialize in philosophy and design. Per
Galle and Peter Kroese have done a great deal of work
to build this field, as has Louis Bucciarelli. Richard
Buchanan has been a central figure, and a number of
people in Australia have worked on these issues from
different positions, including Keith Russell, Cameron
Tonkinwise, and Tony Fry.

In Europe, Michael Biggs, Robin Durie, and Mark
Palmer are particularly notable as philosophers
who also work with art and design, and Jan Verwijnen
is a designer and architect who has been approaching
these issues from the other side.

There are also theologians who work with philosophical
issues that apply to design. I don't mean the notion of
a "designer," but the concept that human beings must
design their relationship to the world because they have
no predetermined role in nature. According the Walter
Kasper, for example, reality in its an entirety is the natural
human environment. Because of this, human beings must
create our environment and orient ourselves within it as
social beings. This view is remarkably consistent with
Herbert Blumer's view of the way that human beings
develop, and it fits nicely within the Berger and Luckmann
approach to the social construction of reality. Many of
the philosophical conclusions that follow from this are
useful in design, whether or not we believe in a specific
religious or theological doctrine as Kasper does. Kasper's
views as a Roman Catholic theologian and cardinal
can be distinguished from the philosophical issues
that apply to design. There are other theologians
whose work can be used in the same way, including
Martin Buber, Soren Kierkegaard, and Paul Tillich.
Applying the work carefully is difficult because it
requires close reading to build distinct bridges, but
the specific interest of these theologians in the nature
of human responsibility in a social world is what makes
many of them philösophers whose work can be useful
in design.

It will take me a while to gather these items up
for you. I'll send them when I can.

Good luck with your research request.

Best regards,

Ken Friedman

Design knowledge: context, content and continuity


Ken Friedman, Ph.D.
Professor of Leadership and Strategic Design
Department of Knowledge Management
Norwegian School of Management


This is the extended version of a paper published as:

Friedman, Ken. 2000. "Design knowledge: context, 
content and continuity." In Doctoral Education in 
Design. Foundations for the Future. David Durling 
and Ken Friedman, editors. Proceedings of the La 
Clusaz Conference, July 8-12, 2000. 
Staffordshire, United Kingdom: Staffordshire 
University Press, 5-16.

Copyright © 2000 by Ken Friedman. All rights 
reserved. This text may be quoted and printed 
freely with proper acknowledgment.


1. Ten challenges to design
2. From prehistoric making to postindustrial complexity
3. The making disciplines in a complex world
4. Thinking in a complex world
5. Design knowledge and systems thinking
6. An end-user's tale
7. A model of design
8. Kinds of knowledge
9. Philosophy and design
10. The challenge of continuity

1. Ten challenges to design

Design is a broad field of making and planning 
disciplines. These include industrial design, 
graphic design, textile design, furniture design, 
information design, process design, product 
design, interface design, transportation design, 
systems design, urban design, design leadership 
and design management and well as architecture, 
engineering, information technology, and computer 

Around the world, conferences, colloquia, 
seminars, and discussions now focus on design 
research and on the kinds of design theory that 
support fruitful research. One purpose of these 
conferences and meetings is to analyze the field. 
Another is to generate, develop, and articulate 
streams of research and theory construction.

This definition of design covers a broad spectrum 
of fields. In many ways, they overlap in thought 
and practice. Barriers divide them even so.

These fields focus on different subjects and 
objects. They have distinct traditions, methods, 
and vocabularies. They involve distinct and often 
different professional groups. The traditions 
dividing these groups are also distinct. Common 
boundaries often form a border where common 
concerns should build a bridge.

Despite differences, ten challenges face all the 
making disciplines. These are three common 
performance challenges, four substantive 
challenges, and three contextual challenges. 
These challenges bind the making disciplines 
together as a common research field.

The three performance challenges held in common 
by all the making disciplines are that they:

1. Act on the physical world.

2. Address human needs.

3. Generate the built environment.

In the past, these common attributes weren't 
sufficient to transcend the boundaries of 
tradition. Today, objective changes in the larger 
world cause scholars, practitioners, and students 
to converge on common challenges. These 
challenges require frameworks of theory and 
research to address contemporary problem areas 
and solve individual cases.

These problem areas involve four substantive 
challenges. These substantive challenges are:

1. Increasingly ambiguous boundaries between artifact, structure, and process.

2. Increasingly large-scale social, economic, and industrial frames.

3. An increasingly complex environment of needs, requirements, and constraints.

4. Information content that often exceeds the value of physical substance.

They also involve three contextual challenges. These are:

1. A complex environment in which many projects 
or products cross the boundaries of several 
organizations, stakeholder, producer, and user 

2. Projects or products that must meet the 
expectations of many organizations, stakeholders, 
producers, and users.

3. Demands at every level of production, distribution, reception, and control.

These ten challenges require a qualitatively 
different approach to professional practice than 
was the case in earlier times. Past environments 
were simpler. They made simpler demands. 
Individual experience and personal development 
were sufficient for depth and substance in 
professional practice. While experience and 
development are still necessary, they are no 
longer sufficient. Most of today's design 
challenges require analytic and synthetic 
planning skills that can't be developed through 
practice alone.

Professional design practice today involves 
advanced knowledge. This knowledge isn't a higher 
level of professional practice. It is a 
qualitatively different form of professional 
practice. It is emerging in response to the 
demands of the information society and the 
knowledge economy to which it gives rise.

Research is vital if we are to meet these 
challenges. Consequently, design research has 
become a central framework for inquiry in design 
over the past decade.

2. From prehistoric making to postindustrial complexity

Acting on the physical world, addressing human 
needs and generating the built environment have 
defined the making disciplines for thousands of 

Homo habilis manufactured the first tools over 
two and a half million years ago. That is when 
toolmakers and builders consciously began to act 
on the physical world to address human needs. 
They generated the built environment thereby.

Over the millennia that followed, makers 
diversified from generalized tool making into 
such specialties as architecture, textiles, or 
pottery. As they did, they continued to perform 
the three essential functions. The making 
professions have been with us ever since.

Not all of the making professions have been with 
us for an equally long time. Some of today's 
challenges have brought about significantly new 

Computer design is one example of a significantly 
new profession. Examining this profession will 
reveal some of the issues inherent in the 
challenges we all face.

Over the past two centuries, scholars, 
scientists, inventors, and engineers have made 
major contributions to the birth of the computer. 
The engineering design process of computer design 
began long before the first computer was realized 
as a working instrument. Charles Babbage 
conceived the first version of his difference 
engine in the 1820s. While he began designing the 
mechanism of the machine in 1834, Babbage never 
finished his machine. He moved from one stage of 
his device to the next before completing a 
working model.

Some say that Babbage never finished because his 
work because it would have been impossible to do 
so using 19th century technology. This is not so. 
A project at the Science Museum in London 
recently built a working difference engine using 
only the technology available to Charles Babbage. 
This demonstrates that Babbage's project was 
feasible using the machine technology of the 
1800s. Whatever the real reasons for Babbage's 
failure, the computer as we know it only took 
shape in the 20th century.

When Vannevar Bush created an early electronic 
computer in 1930, the field took an important 
leap forward. Bush (1945) also entered Internet 
history by proposing a conceptual model of the 
World Wide Web is his 1945 article, "As We May 

Computer design made another leap in 1937 when 
Alan Turing created the hypothetical "Turing 

Computer design as a distinct profession began to 
take form in the 1950s. This is when computers 
began to be manufactured for regular use in 
business and industry. The computer design 
profession grew as the computer developed an 
increasingly important role in the contemporary 

The first civilian computers resembled their 
early military research counterparts. These were 
huge, mechanical-electric computers built by 
engineers. As they diversified into different 
specialized information tools, they developed 
powerful specialized components. As this 
transformation took place and gradually ramified 
into multiple branches, the computer design 
profession branched off into specialized 
subfields. Each has its own specific requirements 
and skills. The general profession of computer 
design as we know it today is now half a century 
old. Some subfields of computer design are as 
recent as the past year or two.

Software design is far older than the computer. 
As a branch of mathematics, some aspects of 
software design date back hundreds of years.

The conceptual Turing Machine of 1937 can perform 
any computation possible on the most advanced 
supercomputer available today. While processing 
speed is inevitably slow, a Turing Machine can 
perform any computation that a massive parallel 
processor array can perform -- give or take a few 

Much of the computation in early computers took 
place on a physical level. Some of it was 
hard-wired into the machinery. Performing 
computations or processes of certain kinds 
required physical manipulation of the equipment. 
Other forms of computing relied on punch cards 
that were physically manipulated by the computer, 
a method of programming that goes back to the 
1801 invention of the Jacquard Loom for weaving 
textile patterns.

It was not until the creation of the digital 
computer that computer programming truly came 
into its own. The birth of programmed digital 
computing on multi-purpose computers created the 
profession of software design. Over the past two 
decades, this field, too, has branched out, 
specialized, and developed its own subfields.

This has been the pattern for the vast majority 
of the world's professions and trades. A few 
millennia ago, there were only a few hundred 
kinds of jobs. Many jobs had a wide, ambiguous 
range of responsibilities. The development of 
advanced civilizations created an ever-increasing 
division of labor.

By 1776, when Adam Smith (1976) wrote The Wealth 
of Nations, the principle of specialized skill 
and division of labor was recognized as a key to 
the coming industrial economy. At that time, 
there were probably a few thousand kinds of jobs.

Now, at the beginning of the twenty-first 
century, kinds of jobs and the kinds of work 
associated with them have exploded in variety, 
nature, and skill requirements. At the same time, 
increasing numbers of jobs have moved from the 
direct manipulation of physical material to the 
kinds of work that Reich (1992) summed up under 
the rubric of symbolic analysis.

Grocery clerks now operate advanced 
computer-based information systems to answer 
customer questions about available products and 
product-related services. They check the produce 
for freshness and serve coffee at the same time 
that they load dough into an on-premises, 
automated, computer-driven mini-bakery.

Deliverymen manage sophisticated 
inventory-control systems that use shipping and 
restocking labels to instruct an array of 
computerized information systems. These systems 
link factories to distributors and retailers on 
the downstream side. They help to control the 
delivery of raw materials and just in time 
subcontracted parts on the upstream end.

Information technology has transformed routine 
manual labor into jobs associated with advanced 
knowledge and skill. Information technology also 
adds a dimension of manual labor to jobs 
associated with advanced skills and knowledge.

Research scholars and scientists take part in 
skilled manual labor nearly every day. Scholars 
now perform tasks once associated with 
secretaries and unionized printing press 

When we write research reports, we type the 
manuscripts and do the proofreading once 
associated with secretaries. The same act 
prepares the typesetting once handled in a 
letterpress shop. When we use copiers with 
advanced collating and binding functions, we 
manage the print production once undertaken by 
the journeyman printer.

Many jobs are increasingly informated in the 
industrial democracies. Nearly all jobs in the 
complex information landscape are changing in 
response to the multiple stimuli of the demanding 
environments within which work is performed. This 
has three results.

1. Formerly distinct job categories tend to blur and mix.

2. There are now more kinds of jobs than ever 
before, with several hundred thousand distinct 
job descriptions.

3. The built environment takes on a complex new 
relationship to those who live and work in it.

Traditional service jobs of the old kind will 
continue to exist in a social economy that values 
a diversity of goods and services. Bakers will 
bake, chefs will cook, taxi drivers will 
transport passengers, and bartenders will serve 
drinks. Each of these service professionals also 
uses informated technology in some way. They all 
use informated technology when they move from 
their seemingly old-fashioned work to their home 
life as the consumers and end-users of goods and 
services produced by others. Even Old Order Amish 
now use advanced information technology 
(Rheingold 1999), though they control its use far 
more consciously than the rest of us and are 
therefore influenced by it in less complex ways.

3. The making disciplines in a complex world

The making disciplines are only now recognizing 
the challenges that this kind of change imposes 
on the built environment. Some designers have yet 
to adapt.

Professional adaptation by rethinking the nature 
of design is essential to the demands of 
contemporary work. Design professionals develop 
the artifacts, structures, and processes that 
hundreds of thousands of other kinds of workers 
use. The rate of change and the nature of change 
in other fields inevitably affect design. This, 
in turn, affects how designers must think.

Depending on our analytic frame, we are living in 
a postindustrial society, an information society, 
or a knowledge economy. If Charlie Chaplin were 
to shale hands with Jacques Derrida, they might 
describe the present moment as "Postmodern Times."

The modern era had many birthdays. Some place the 
pivotal point with the beginning of First 
Industrial Revolution and the publication of The 
Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. For others, the 
modern era was born in the same year - 1776 - 
while the triggering event was the American 

The French Revolution of 1789 gave birth to the 
concept of a revolutionary population organized 
as what Marx would come to call the masses and 
the minor revolutions that swept Europe in 1848 
paved the way for the middle class.

The American Civil War that began in 1861 saw the 
development of the first industrialized society. 
The Civil War also marks a turning point in the 
use of railroads and telecommunication.

These moments, together with the advent of 
mass-produced motor cars and the widespread use 
of the electric light at the beginning of the 
20th century, denote a nascent economy different 
than any that came before. Revolutions in 
material production, electrical production, 
chemical engineering, material science, 
communications, information technology and now 
biotechnology have each been a step moving 
civilization from the distant world of 
agricultural production to the world we inhabit 

These transitions have not been easy. When the 
century began, the vast majority of the world's 
people were engaged in agriculture. They were 
busy from first light until dusk, working to feed 
each other. Since the dawn of time, agriculture 
also created the surplus that made possible the 
growth of cities, modern economies, and a larger 
industry. This has now changed. Other sectors 
shape the surplus that fuels growth. In today's 
advanced societies, two or three farmers per 
hundred citizens feed all the rest.

While powerful changes have affected great parts 
of the world, other parts of the world remain 
much as they have been for millennia. When Jules 
Verne wrote Around the World in Eighty Days in 
1873, it was a novel set at the border of 
adventure and science fiction. Traveling at that 
speed was a remote possibility. It remained 
beyond the practical reach of all but an elite 
few until this past decade. Today, we can fly 
around the world fast enough to see the sun rise 
several times on the same day. At the same time, 
vast portions of the world's population live in 
the world we would have inhabited only a century 
ago. Many people have never traveled farther than 
a day's walk from the place where they were born.

Over three centuries have gone by since Robert 
Hooke published the first technical description 
of a telecommunication device (Flichy 1995: 7). 
In 1684, Hooke described an early version of the 
semaphore telegraph under the title, Method for 
making your thoughts known far away. It was 
nearly a century before the semaphore telegraph 
became a reality. Over the century that followed, 
semaphore telegraph gave way to the electric 
telegraph and finally to the telephone. In this 
century, the landline telephone gave birth to 
extended telephone networks, radio, television, 
mobile telephones, and wireless telephones linked 
by satellite. Even so, most of the world's 
messages travel no faster than a man or woman can 

Each layer of advanced technology is built onto 
the technology of the prior systems, and many of 
these survive alongside recent developments. The 
behaviors that enabled us to adapt to and use the 
older technologies survive. We rely on them along 
with behaviors that are more recent. Our cultures 
and behaviors are folded around the past much as 
the layers of the human brain are folded around 
biological traces of the older primate brain and 
still older sections of the brain that we hold in 
common with distant reptile ancestors.

Someone said it well: "The future is already 
here. It's just not evenly distributed." The 
shifts from feudalism to modernism to the world 
we live in today have left their mark in the 
layers of our culture. During that long period, 
the world has been transformed from a relatively 
stable environment to multiple, unstable social, 
economic and industrial systems. These systems 
are increasingly described by the paradigm of 

4. Thinking in a complex world

Complex systems can be mapped along a spectrum. 
Static systems lie at one end. They are orderly. 
Their behavior is predictable. Linear systems 
come next in levels and kinds of complexity. 
Although they are increasingly active, their 
behavior is orderly and predictable. Non-linear 
systems are more complex still. They are also 
characterized by orderly behavior. While 
non-linear systems exhibit behaviors that can 
only be described by complex mathematics, 
understanding them is a matter of computational 
complexity rather than a fundamental lack of 
order. Beyond them, we find systems that seem to 
demonstrate little or no order. The behavior of 
these systems can often seem random or 
meaningless. The challenge we face is seeing 
through the apparently meaningless to the subtle 
forms of order to which we can fruitfully respond.

As an integrative discipline, design must address 
problems across many ranges of complexity. All 
designed artifacts and processes can be described 
at some point on the spectrum of complexity. Some 
artifacts may be found at several such points, 
depending on the level of analysis. A steel 
hammer, for example, is static. In manufacture 
and use, however, a hammer undergoes rich and 
complex forms of interaction with the surrounding 

Design increasingly involves a full spectrum of 
processes that lead to the development and use of 
the designed artifact. Design also moves beyond 
use to after-use, and recycling. The growing need 
for full-spectrum product development and 
concurrent design processes in industry point in 
this direction. Such concepts as co-design and 
user-centered design engage the designer in the 
flow of a constantly changing, complex 

Complex systems operate at what many describe as 
the edge of chaos. Working at this edge requires 
intellectually mature and behaviorally adaptive 
skills. In this context, the nature of design 
moves beyond the tacit craft practice of 
manipulating material artifacts to the explicit 
professional practice of systemic development and 
adaptation. In industrial practice, these skills 
can be summarized by what W. Edwards Deming 
(1993: 94-118) terms profound knowledge. This 
knowledge is comprised of "four parts, all 
related to each other: appreciation for a system; 
knowledge about variation; theory of knowledge; 
psychology" (Deming 1993: 96).

Complexity is a factor of interaction. Not all 
complex systems are complicated systems. 
Complexity often involves systems in which the 
interaction of a few simple elements gives rise 
to surprising results. In many kinds of complex 
systems, one result of the interacting elements 
is emergent order. While this orderly behavior 
emerges from the interaction of the elements of 
the system, the quality of complexity often makes 
subtle interactions difficult to identify or 

Complexity may also emerge from the interaction 
of many complicated parts. It is the relationship 
of these parts to one another and to the whole 
system that defines complexity. This is a 
contrast with large, complicated machines and 
engineered systems that may be linear and 
predictable despite the presence of thousands of 
parts and subsystems.

Working in the context of complexity requires 
more sophisticated ways of thought than were 
needed in world of craft knowledge. The world of 
craft knowledge moved slowly. The patterns of 
craft skill were essentially reproductive. For 
the most part, they involved tacit knowledge, and 
they were effectively transmitted by 
apprenticeship and guild transmission. Elsewhere 
I analyze the distinctions between the learning 
implicit in this kind of thinking and the 
learning required for knowledge creation (see: 
Friedman 1997).

Adapting to the demands of a complex world 
requires us to generate knowledge. This knowledge 
must be created against the background of 
existing events while looking forward to a world 
that does not yet exist. Nonaka and Takeuchi 
(1995) describe this frame in the knowledge 
creation spiral. The crucial factor in the 
knowledge creation spiral isn't management or 
making so much as understanding the 
epistemological and ontological dimensions of 
managing and making (Nonaka and Takeuchi 1995: 

The epistemological dimension can be portrayed as 
a spectrum running from explicit knowledge to 
tacit knowledge. The ontological dimension 
describes levels of knowledge moving from 
individual knowledge through group knowledge, 
organizational knowledge, and 
inter-organizational knowledge. Human beings 
shift knowledge from one frame to another. As 
they do, they embrace knowledge, enlarging it, 
internalizing it, transmitting it, shifting it, 
giving it new context and transforming it. Humans 
create new knowledge by acting on and working 
with knowledge. Knowledge creation requires 
social context and individual contribution. To do 
this effectively requires effective thinking. 
Here, we must address the intersection of design 
and philosophy as the foundation for design 
theory and design research.

5. Design knowledge and systems thinking

To understand the nature of design research, we 
must define what we mean by the term design. 
Then, we must distinguish among the kinds of 
thinking that may be relevant to design.

Design is first of all a process. The verb design 
describes a process of thought and planning. This 
verb takes precedence over all other meanings. 
The word "design" had a place in the English 
language by the 1500s. The first written citation 
of the verb "design" dates from the year 1548. 
Merriam-Webster (1993:343) defines the verb 
design as "to conceive and plan out in the mind; 
to have as a specific purpose; to devise for a 
specific function or end." Related to these is 
the act of drawing, with an emphasis on the 
nature of the drawing as a plan or map, as well 
as "to draw plans for; to create, fashion, 
execute or construct according to plan."

Half a century later, the word began to be used 
as a noun. The first cited use of the noun 
"design" occurs in 1588. Merriam-Webster 
(1993:343) defines the noun, as "a particular 
purpose held in view by an individual or group; 
deliberate, purposive planning; a mental project 
or scheme in which means to an end are laid 
down." Here, too, purpose and planning toward 
desired outcomes are central. Among these are "a 
preliminary sketch or outline showing the main 
features of something to be executed; an 
underlying scheme that governs functioning, 
developing or unfolding; a plan or protocol for 
carrying out or accomplishing something; the 
arrangement of elements or details in a product 
or work of art." Only at the very end do we find 
"a decorative pattern." The definitions end with 
a noun describing a process: "the creative art of 
executing aesthetic or functional designs."

Although the word design refers to process rather 
than product, it has become popular shorthand for 
designed artifacts. This shorthand covers 
meaningful artifacts as well as the merely 
fashionable or trendy. I will not use the word 
design to designate the outcome of the design 
process. The outcome of the design process may be 
a product or a service, it may be an artifact or 
a structure, but the outcome of the design 
process is not "design."

Using the term design as a verb or a process 
description noun frames design as a dynamic 
process (Friedman 1993). This makes clear the 
ontological status of design as a subject of 
philosophical inquiry.

Before asking how design can be the subject of 
philosophical thinking, it is useful to identify 
some of the salient features of the design 

Fuller (1969: 319) describes the process in a 
model of the design science event flow. He 
divides the process into two steps. The first is 
a subjective process of search and research. The 
second is a generalizable process that moves from 
prototype to practice.

The subjective process of search and research, 
Fuller outlines a series of steps:

teleology -- > intuition -- > conception -- >
apprehension -- > comprehension -- >
experiment -- > feedback -- >

Under generalization and objective development leading to practices, he lists:

prototyping #1 -- > prototyping #2 -- > prototyping #3 -- >
production design -- > production modification -- > tooling -- >
production -- > distribution -- >
installation -- > maintenance -- > service -- >
reinstallation -- > replacement -- >
removal -- > scrapping -- > recirculation

For Fuller, the process is a comprehensive 
process leading from teleology to practice and 
finally to regeneration. This last step, 
regeneration, creates a new stock of raw material 
on which the designer may again act.

Elsewhere (Friedman 1992, 1995a, 1999) I have 
described the design process in a taxonomy of the 
domains within which a designer must act.

In today's complex environment, a designer must 
identify problems, select appropriate goals, and 
realize solutions. A designer may also assemble 
and lead a team to realize goals and solutions. 
Today's designer works on several levels. She is 
an analyst who discovers problems. She is a 
synthesist who helps to solve problems. She is a 
generalist who understands the range of talents 
that must be engaged to realize solutions. She is 
a leader who organizes teams when one range of 
talents is not enough. She is a critic whose 
post-solution analysis ensures that the right 
problem has been solved.

A designer is a thinker whose job it is to move 
from thought to action. The designer uses his 
mind in an appropriate and empathic way to solve 
problems for clients. Then, the designer works to 
meet customer needs, to test the outcomes and to 
follow through on solutions.

For my seminars on strategic design at Oslo 
Business School (Friedman 1992), I developed a 
taxonomy on the domains of design skill and 
knowledge. The taxonomy identified four areas, 
each quite large. The first area involves skills 
for learning and leading [Domain 1]. The second 
is the human world [Domain 2]. The third is the 
artifact [Domain 3]. The fourth embraces the 
environment [Domain 4].

Each of these areas requires a broad range of 
skills, knowledge, and awareness. No one can know 
all of these fields in depth. Few individuals can 
work credibly in more than a few. One premise of 
this paper is that no one individual can handle 
most of today's design services. While these are 
necessary domains of design knowledge, no one 
designer can be expected to master all these 
areas of knowledge and skill.

When design involves more skill and knowledge 
than one designer can hope to provide, most 
successful design solutions require several kinds 
of expertise. It is necessary to use expertise 
without being expert in each field. Organization 
theory suggests building teams or networks to 
engage the talent for each problem.

The taxonomy offers a broad overview of the 
skills, knowledge, and domains of knowledge that 
might be required for successful design practice. 
The specific choice of skills needed in any 
project depends on the problem to be solved.

A designer must therefore know something about 
these areas. The central issue is understanding 
the range of issues they involve and the 
relationships between and among then. This isn't 
a true taxonomy in the sense that the categories 
are neither comprehensive nor mutually exclusive. 
One field is a domain of skills and knowledges 
while the others are domains of substantive 
content. Nevertheless, the taxonomy offers a 
useful framework for considering fields of design 
knowledge now. It therefore helps to frame the 
dimensions of design research.

[place figure 1 here]

To work consciously with the relationships among 
the several domains and areas of design knowledge 
requires systemic thinking. The designer is one 
member of a team or network that generally 
involves several elements described by the 
matrices implicit in the taxonomy. Here arises a 

Every professional sees the overall task from 
within the frame of his or her responsibilities. 
Individual psychology places each of us at the 
center of our own world. To the industrial 
designer, the flow of work in an 
automobile-manufacturing firm has one appearance. 
It has another to an engineer, a third to an 
accountant, yet another to a marketing 
specialist. Design is important to all of these 
four. The importance and the nature of design 
vary in relation to the position of each 
individual in the matrix of activities that 
engage the production of a car.

Systemic practices such as concurrent design and 
lean manufacturing in successful automobile firms 
create a qualitative change in the perspective of 
every member of the firm. Line workers have 
become increasingly conscious of factors such as 
logistics and quality. Line workers in a 
successful automobile factory don't see logistics 
and quality as factors outside their realm of 
action as they once did. Rather, they recognize 
the intimate relationship between line production 
and quality. They understand the ways in which 
logistics affect the flow of work on the line, 
particularly in relation to product quality. In 
the same way, industrial designers are 
increasingly conscious of engineering 
requirements. Product design is no longer 
styling. It is an integrated process that 
contributes to the total customer experience. An 
aesthetic design feature that reduces 
functionality is detrimental to the total 
customer experience. An engineering design 
feature that makes the car ugly is detrimental to 
the total customer experience. Logistical 
problems that delay delivery or marketing 
problems that misrepresent the product are 
detrimental to the total customer experience.

When we speak of manufacturing today's complex 
industrial products, we are not discussing a loaf 
of bread or even a hand tool that could once have 
been planned, manufactured, and sold in a single 
place by one craftsman and his helpers. We are 
not even discussing a slightly more advanced 
artifact based on resources and parts brought 
into a firm, manufactured, and sold through a 
simple point-to-point distribution chain of 
distributors, wholesalers, and retailers. We 
necessarily involve a large network of 
interacting systems. When the process works well, 
nearly every part of the system in some way 
affects every other part of the system. When 
parts of the system affect each other adversely, 
the entire system suffers.

The failure of systemic thinking in manufacturing 
complex products leads to major problems across 
entire industries. A good example of this is the 
way in which the ascendancy of cost accounting in 
the automobile industry distorted the entire 
manufacturing process (Halberstam 1986: 201-221). 
In contrast, consider W. Edwards Deming's 
approach to management, and the ways in which a 
systemic overview helped the Japanese automobile 
industry to surpass its American and European 
counterparts (Halberstam 1986: 301-320; Deming 
1966, 1986, 1993; Walton 1989, 1990; Aguayo 1990; 
Mann 1989; Scherkenbach 1991).

To make the point clear, I'm going to offer a 
personal example of products and services that 
can only be delivered by an entire system.

6. An end-user's tale

This is the tale of an end-user victimized by 
artifacts only work within a system. When the 
system is designed without systemic thinking, the 
artifacts don't do what they should.

In 1998, I purchased a mobile telephone that was 
supposed to permit me to access the Internet. It 
was sold on the promise that using the telephone 
with an infrared link to my laptop computer, I 
would be able to perform any function that was 
possible to me through an internal network or a 
dialup connection together with a portable 
Ericsson palmtop for email when traveling. By the 
time I finished the process, I found that I was 
required to work with three levels and four 
separate divisions of the mobile telephone 
manufacturer Ericsson, three separate divisions 
of the Swedish telecom supplier Telia, and one 
level each of Microsoft and IBM. The system works 
smoothly for those who have advanced ICT support 
staff if they are living in parts of Europe 
served by robust mobile network coverage. My 
experience was different.

The Ericsson retailer who sold me the mobile 
phone was unable to install the software on my 
IBM PC for proper interactive function using the 
infrared remote. Neither Telia nor Microsoft was 
able to make the connection to Telia's 
much-advertised Department of the Future function 
properly. Instead, each rearranged the software 
in such a way that the next company felt obliged 
to reinstall the software and set it up in 
increasingly troublesome configurations.

During one attempt to get the mobile telephone 
service working as a standalone function, I 
discovered that the mobile net where I live is 
not robust. A Telia service representative told 
me that the company is aware of the problems in 
my area. I was told that these would be fixed in 
the future, probably within two to three years, 
but that a low population makes it unprofitable 
to improve the system now. To get a partially 
reliable mobile connection, I must walk out to a 
nearby field.

The walk is nice, but I discovered that it would 
have been difficult to stand outside at night 
with my mobile in one hand pointed so that the 
infrared beam hits the back of my computer 
balanced on the other hand while operating both 
to download and manage my email.

That was not all, however. Even standing in the 
field, the signal sometimes goes dead. Connecting 
the PC to the Internet by mobile telephone 
requires a robust mobile connection with 
uninterrupted service. This is impossible where I 
live. Although Telia knew about these problems at 
the billing address I was required to give when 
ordering the telephone, the company nevertheless 
sold me an expensive and useless telephone 
subscription linked to low-cost telephone 
advertised by Telia and Ericsson.

Telia sold me the telephone and adjunct services 
based on its Internet management capacity. Telia 
also sold me subscriptions to Telia's mobile 
service and add-on mobile Internet service 
knowing that this link would not work at my home, 
where I need a separate subscription to a dialup 
service provider to access the Internet.

A number of minor problems hampered the 
interaction of different parts of the system. 
While no problem was impossible to solve for a 
single-device or a single service, every local 
solution created systemic problems. None of the 
companies involved was prepared to work 
effectively with other companies to deliver a 
comprehensive solution to a single customer. Some 
of the companies weren't even prepared to work 
across the division boundaries of their own firm. 
This might have been different if I had been a 
major corporation, but I wasn't. At the end of 
the process, I simply gave up and went over to a 
dialup modem connection.

One point was forcefully apparent. I wasn't 
buying the Ericsson palmtop computer that came to 
sit on my desk like a high-tech paperweight. I 
don't need the unused service for which I pay 
Telia every three months. I bought a series of 
tools and a range of services from four companies 
that can only work when all four companies make 
the system work.

When the companies couldn't make these tools and 
services work together in a total package, I was 
lost. I'm not a hacker or a technical wizard. My 
expertise lies elsewhere. When high tech tools 
and services don't function, I count on the 
companies that sell them to make things work. If 
they can't do that because they can't work 
together in a systemic network, it is detrimental 
to my total experiences a customer. In this case, 
I was able to identify failures of product 
design, service design, technical engineering, 
and interface design along with logistical 
problems and a major marketing problem of 
misrepresentation. Identifying problems is no 
great challenge or anyone trained as a researcher 
and analyst. Solving the problems is another 
matter. It requires technical skills in the 
specific systems where the problems reside. These 
design problems could - and should - have been 
solved before I bought these expensive and - for 
Ericsson and Telia - profitable artifacts and 

The design problems lie in several important 
dimensions. To solve them, designers must think 
systemically. These designers include the 
managers responsible for service design and 
interaction between different firms in the value 
chain. To do this requires Deming's (1993: 96) 
"appreciation for a system."

This is a totally different world than the world 
in which products could be made to work alone. A 
sword may be damaged, but it will serve. An 
antique Ford Model T may now be an old rusting 
hulk, but it can be made to run with a bit of 
chicken wire and ingenuity. A line of missing 
code in a telecommunication system may render a 
million robust devices unworkable.

Systemic thinking gives perspective to the models 
of design offered here. The designer is neither 
the entry-point nor pivot of the design process. 
Each designer is the psychological center of his 
own perceptual process, not the center of the 
design process itself. The design process has no 
center. It is a network of linked events. 
Systemic thinking makes the nature of networked 
events clear. No designer succeeds unless an 
entire team succeeds in meeting its goals.

Herbert Simon defines design in terms of goals. 
To design, he writes, is to "[devise] courses of 
action aimed at changing existing situations into 
preferred ones" (Simon 1982: 129). Design, 
properly defined, is the entire process across 
the full range of domains required for any given 

7. A model of design

The nature of design as an integrative discipline 
places it at the intersection of several large 
fields [Figure]. In one regard, design is a field 
of thinking and pure research. In another, it is 
a field of practice and applied research. When 
these applications are directed to solving 
specific problems in a specific setting, design 
also involves the vital distinction that Richard 
Buchanan has clarified as clinical research.

The model I propose for the field of design can 
be envisioned as a circle of six fields. A 
horizon bisects the circle into domains of 
theoretical study and domains of practice and 

The triangles represent six general domains of 
design. Moving clockwise from the left-most 
triangle, these domain are (1) natural sciences, 
(2) humanities and liberal arts, (3) social and 
behavioral sciences, [shifting below the horizon] 
(4) human professions and services, (5) creative 
and applied arts, and (6) technology and 

Design is a field that may involve any or all of 
these domains, in differing aspect and proportion 
depending on the nature of the project at hand or 
the problem to be solved.

The placement of domains across from each other 
along the horizontal axis suggests dynamic 
relationships among specific fields of theory and 
application. The domain of the natural sciences 
is closely linked in dynamic interaction with 
technology and engineering, the domain of 
humanities and the liberal arts with the creative 
and applied arts, the domain of social and 
behavioral sciences with human professions and 

The model distinguishes between and among domains 
for the purpose of explanation. The reality of 
design places design practice and design theory 
both at the center of the model. For any given 
project, a differently shaped territory inscribed 
on the model will represent design. This shape is 
often fuzzy or ambiguous. This territory may 
engage any or all of these domains in differing 
degrees and proportions.

[place figure 2 here]

[The model I have proposed to represent the field 
of design can be envisioned as a circle of 
domains. Since a model can't be posted by email, 
I will describe this model in geometric terms. It 
should be easy to reproduce it with a quick 

Draw a circle or pie chart. Bisect the circle 
with a horizontal line. Draw six equal triangles 
on the circle so that three triangle above the 
horizontal line and three below.

Use a dotted line to extend the horizontal 
bisecting line to the right and left of the 
circles. Above the dotted line, inscribe a 
caption to denote that the three triangles above 
the horizontal line represent "domains of 
theoretical study." Below the dotted line, 
inscribe a caption to denote that the three 
triangles below the horizontal line represent 
"domains of practice and application."

The triangles represent six general domains of 
design. Moving clockwise from the left-most 
triangle above the horizontal line, these domain 
are (1) natural sciences, (2) humanities and 
liberal arts, (3) social and behavioral sciences, 
[shifting below the line] (4) human professions 
and services, (5) creative and applied arts, and 
(6) technology and engineering.

The model described in this text is copyright © 
1999 by Ken Friedman. All rights reserved. 
Permission to use and reproduce freely is granted 
on condition of proper citation and reference.]

Given the taxonomy and the generic model of 
design as premises, I will now consider some of 
the implications they raise for design research. 
Before doing so, I will discuss kinds of 
knowledge and philosophy that form a foundation 
for the research act.

8. Kinds of knowledge

Given the implications of this view on the nature 
and purposes of design, it is useful to consider 
how - and in what ways - design can be the object 
of philosophical inquiry. Let us begin by 
examining the kinds of knowledge to discover what 
philosophical inquiry is.

Philosophy derives from the Greek term 
"philosophia," love of wisdom. The word "philos" 
also embraces such concepts as affect or desire, 
and the term philosophia may refer to a desire 
for wisdom.

The Greeks distinguished between "sophia," 
wisdom, and "techne," skill. For the Greeks, 
"sophia" involved what Socrates referred to in 
Plato's Phaedo as "the explanation of everything, 
why it comes to be, why it perishes, why it is." 
This form of knowledge was speculative knowledge, 
knowledge anchored in theory.

Our word for theory derived from the Greek word 
"theoria," a term that means viewing, 
speculation, or contemplation. It is akin to 
meditation as the product of mental reflection 
rather than practical engagement. It is related 
to the Greek word "theorein," a term that deals 
with the search for the highest and most eternal 
principles. The verb "theorein" means to watch 
with detachment, as the gods observed the 
workings of the world from their Olympian 
heights. A theorist, "theoretikos," was a person 
who followed the contemplative life. This person 
was a philosopher or a "scholarch," the term from 
which our term scholar is derived. This was a 
person who had time and leisure for 
contemplation, a person generally unconcerned 
with the practical matters of earning a living 
and doing things.

The Greeks distinguished between knowledge, 
understanding, and the ability to do something. 
Knowledge, wisdom - sophia - involved theory, 
understanding something from general principles. 
While it may have involved the ability to apply 
general principles, knowledge did not mean the 
ability to do something. That is usefulness, 
utility, and that was skill. The Greek term for 
skill was "techne."

"Techne," skill, is related to practical matters. 
It is from this that such words as technology and 
technician derive. The Greeks did not hold skill 
in contempt. Neither did medieval society. When 
European societies distinguished between the 
theory-driven knowledge of scholars and the 
skill-driven knowledge of the guild masters, 
often the master had greater respect and higher 
social status.

The distinction between theory-driven knowledge 
and skill-driven practice was simply a 
distinction between kinds of activity. 
Skill-driven practice was rooted and situated. 
While it may have been possible to explain some 
aspects of skill, skill essentially involved what 
we term tacit knowledge. Drucker (1993: 24) notes 
that techne, for the Greeks, "was not knowledge. 
It was confined to one specific application and 
had no general principles. What the shipmaster 
knew about navigating from Greece to Sicily could 
not be applied to anything else. Furthermore, the 
only way to learn a techne was through 
apprenticeship and experience. A techne could not 
be explained in words, whether spoken or written. 
It could only be demonstrated. As late as 1700, 
or even later, the English did not speak of 
'crafts.' They spoke of 'mysteries' - and not 
only because the possessor of a craft skill was 
sworn to secrecy, but also because a craft, by 
definition, was inaccessible to anyone who had 
not been apprenticed to a master and had thus 
been taught by example." It is in the world of 
"techne" that we find the challenge of skill.

The term practice derives from the Greek word 
"praktikos," pertaining to action. That which is 
practical is that which relates to action. The 
practical was distinct from the theoretical. The 
practical pertained to action. The theoretical 
pertained to thought. Related words and concepts 
included "praxis," "poiesis," and "phronesis." 
"Praxis" referred to doing, performing, and 
accomplishing, that is, to practical knowledge 
and to applied expertise. "Poiesis," was the 
knowledge needed to make something, in contrast 
with a praxis, a doing. "Phronesis," meant the 
practical knowledge needed to address political 
or ethical issues.

Mautner (1996) defines philosophy in several 
ways, each reflecting one of the senses of the 
word. First comes the sense of rational inquiry. 
In earlier times, writes Mautner (1996: 320), 
"inquiry guided by canons of rationality was 
called philosophy independent of subject matter. 
For instance, physics or indeed natural science 
generally, was called natural philosophy: 
Newton's major work of 1687 concerns the 
'mathematical principles of natural philosophy.' 
Gradually with increasing specialization, various 
kinds of inquiry have received their own names, 
and are no longer called philosophy. Mental 
philosophy, for instance, has become psychology. 
But the most fundamental principles of thought, 
action and reality remain among the subject 
matters proper to philosophy."

A program of rational inquiry and generalizable 
principles defines philosophy. This sense is the 
sense in which the term philosophy entered the 
world of the universities. When the English word 
philosophy was first used in the 1300s, it 
referred to "all learning exclusive of technical 
precepts and practical arts"(Merriam-Webster's 
1990: 883). In the universities, this came to 
mean the sciences and liberal arts but not the 
professions. When the degree doctor of philosophy 
emerged, it was awarded for the study, 
understanding, and development of theory in 
sciences and liberal arts, but not in medicine, 
law, or theology. These disciplines had their own 
doctoral programs and degrees.

The liberal arts did not include the fine arts or 
the applied arts. The fine arts and the applied 
arts were taught through the tradition of studio 
apprenticeship or guild apprenticeship. This was 
the domain of design until recently.

At first glance, one might imagine design an 
unsuitable forum for philosophical inquiry. In 
its older incarnation as craft, this would 
certainly be so. Craft is techne. Philosophy is 
sophia. Techne is tacit. Sophia is explicit. The 
world depends on both, but the kind of thinking 
represented by each is foreign to the other. 
Precisely because the mysteries of the craft 
can't be put into words, one cannot imagine a 
philosophy of craft. If design is craft, there 
can, by definition, be no philosophy of design, 
and there need not be. This may change in the 
future with the development of craft-based 
industries. While inspired by and rooted in 
craft, these forms of design develop into 
knowledge-intensive configurations of 
professional practice. The tacit knowledge of the 
inarticulate craft tradition needs no philosophy.

As we have seen, however, design has taken a new form in the current era.
If we consider design in its larger frame of 
thinking and planning, however, there are several 
senses in which philosophy may be applied to 

With the development of design as a branch of 
knowledge, the activity of design must be 
understood as praxis, a practice. Praxis, doing, 
requires virtue. Making, poiesis requires techne, 
skill. The praxis of design is a virtuous praxis, 
akin in some ways to the praxis of statecraft.

The philosophy appropriate to design may also be 
a new kind of philosophy that blurs prior 
distinctions. The knowledge economy is blurring 
the boundaries between product and service, 
material and immaterial, hardware, and software. 
In this context, nearly every design practice has 
immaterial dimensions along with the material. In 
a new way, therefore, design links techne with 

Sophia itself is no stranger to the physical 
world. While Plato considered our physical world 
a shadow of the ideal world of Forms, he 
nevertheless considered governing the state as a 
suitable task for philosophy. In many senses, 
design as defined here is an act of 
conceptualization linked to the concept of 
governance or to the industrial concept of 

I raise the idea as a useful step toward richer 
thinking. What is clear is that design is a 
mental process linked to physical outputs in a 
world where the mental and the material are 
increasingly interdependent (Friedman 1998).

9. Philosophy and design

How shall we link philosophy and design? On what 
basis can design be the subject or the object of 
philosophical thinking?

One aspect of design is the technology of design. 
This is a question of engineering, and a question 
of design science.

The issue of how design relates to the larger 
bodies of knowledge within which it is placed is 
a philosophical question. Questions of how design 
affects the larger worlds and how the larger 
world affects design are, in a sense, 
philosophical questions.

Some specific questions on design affect design 
from the level of meta-inquiry. Issues involving 
the philosophy of science in relation to design 
and the broader question of theory are 
philosophical questions.

Writing in another context, Georg Simmel (1964: 
23) summarized the problem we raise when we 
consider philosophy and design. "The modern 
scientific attitude toward facts," he wrote, 
"finally suggests a third complex of questionsŠ 
Insofar as these questions are adjacent to the 
upper and lower limits of this fact, they are 
[empirical] only in a broad sense of the term; 
more properly, they are philosophical. Their 
content is constituted by this fact itself. 
Similarly, nature and art, out of which we 
develop their immediate sciences, also supply us 
with the subject matters of their philosophies, 
whose interests and methods lie on a different 
level. It is the level on which factual details 
are investigated concerning their significance 
for the totality of mind, life, and being in 
general, and concerning their significance in 
terms of such a totality.

"Thus, like every other exact science which aims 
at the immediate understanding of the given, 
[design] science, too, is surrounded by two 
philosophical areas. One of these covers the 
conditions, fundamental concepts, and 
presuppositions of concrete research, which 
cannot be taken care of by research itself since 
it is based on them. In the other area, this 
research is carried toward completions, 
connections, questions, and concepts that have no 
place in experience and in immediately objective 
knowledge. The first area is epistemology, the 
second, the metaphysics of a particular 

The ideas I examine here began in a debate on 
design theory. Last summer, a thread on design 
theory developed in the online forum of the 
Design Research Society. In considering the issue 
of design theory, it became necessary to address 
the broader questions within which design theory 
and design research are framed.

One reason the challenge is so appealing is the 
general absence of a robust body of philosophical 
inquiry for the making disciplines. I don't mean 
personal philosophies, for we have those in 
abundance. Rather, I refer to a broad, general, 
systematic consideration of how we can theorize 
and understand design. In a sense, we have 
reached the point that information science 
reached in the 1970s as a robust, significant 
discipline that seeks a foundation in robust 

Again, paraphrasing a comment from a parallel 
discipline describes our situation: "Theoretical 
[design] hardly yet exists. I discern scattered 
bits of theory, some neat in themselves but which 
resist integration into coherence. So there are 
no common assumptions, implicit or explicit, 
which can be regarded as its theoretical 
foundations. Information science operates busily 
on an ocean of common-sense practical 
applications, which increasingly involve the 
computer ... and on commonsense views of 
language, of communication, of knowledge and 
information" (Brookes 1980).

We also lack a rich body of technical philosophy 
applied to design. Here, too, there is much work 
to be done. All that exists takes place in time 
and space. The physical world in which we live 
and the flow of time that transforms our physical 
world are the basis of life experience. They are 
therefore a central basis of philosophy. Design 
acts in and on the physical world. One realm of 
philosophy should therefore address questions 
that involve design. While philosophers address 
the challenges of time and space, few 
philosophers have ventured into the domains for 
which the making disciplines are responsible. The 
lacuna leaves interesting work for philosophers - 
and for design scholars whose interests bring 
them into the frame of philosophy proper. Here, 
however, I use the term philosophy in its larger 

I have been focusing on philosophy in the other 
sense, the sense that Hamilton defined 
philosophy: '-- the science of things divine and 
human, and the causes in which they are 
contained; -- the science of effects by their 
causes; -- the science of sufficient reasons; -- 
the science of things possible, inasmuch as they 
are possible; -- the science of things evidently 
deduced from first principles; -- the science of 
truths sensible and abstract; -- the application 
of reason to its legitimate objects; -- the 
science of the relations of all knowledge to the 
necessary ends of human reason; -- the science of 
the original form of the ego, or mental self; -- 
the science of science...' (ARTFL Webster's 1913: 

This inquiry links challenges which are provoking 
debate around the world. Design research and 
design theory are linked in the issue of design 
philosophy. It is worth noting that Terence Love 
and Keith Russell both address these issues in 
their research, and we have among us skilled 
specialists in philosophy such as Wittgenstein 
expert Michael Biggs. Other scholars are also 
considering the questions of how philosophy 
affects design research. There will be several 
papers from this perspective presented at the La 
Clusaz conference, including papers by Richard 
Buchanan and Charles Owen.

Here, I raise these issues as a background to the 
central point of this paper, the nature of design 
research. In specific, I am concerned with the 
nature of design research in a global knowledge 

The common challenges that face the making 
disciplines form the context of design and design 
research. The taxonomy and generic model of 
design describe their content. Now, I will 
address the issue of continuity, and the specific 
issue of how design is to grow in the light of 
design research, or, how design research must 
grow to serve the changing needs and focus of 

10. The challenge of continuity

Last summer, the University of Art and Design 
hosted a conference titled Useful and Critical: 
Research in Design. One of the most memorable 
moments in the conference came during a keynote 
speech by Tore Kristensen (1999: unpaged).

Kristensen raised a question of stunning 
importance for design research, the notion of a 
progressive research program. This question is 
implicit in the work that several of us have 
done. It is implicit in Victor Margolin's (2000) 
comments on building a research community. It is 
implicit in Klaus Krippendorff's discussion of 
"growing the field." David Durling and I have 
this in mind in terms of the mechanisms we are 
building to generate durable conversation in the 
wake of the La Clusaz conference. But no one had 
yet proposed the explicit concept Kristensen 
brought forward in Helsinki, the need to generate 
a progressive research program rather than a 
series of useful but often scattered and 
disconnected explorations.

What constitutes a progressive research program? 
Drawing on Kristensen's (1999: unpaged) 
presentation, I have reorganized his comments 
into eight characteristics of a progressive 
research program. These are:

1. building a body of generalized knowledge,

2. improving problem solving capacity,

3. generalizing knowledge into new areas,

4. identifying value creation and cost effects,

5. explaining differences in design strategies and their risks or benefits,

6. learning on the individual level,

7. collective learning,

8. meta-learning.

Because this model was first created with regard 
to design research on business issues in the 
industrial context, it is likely that will be 
able to develop a richer and more inclusive model 
in the future. Even so, this is an important 
starting point.

What issues must we consider in creating a 
foundation of continuity that will yield 
progressive research programs within and across 
the fields of design? I feel there are four areas 
for development, four areas that must be linked 
in a virtuous circle.

These four areas of design research are

1. Philosophy and theory of design

2. Research methods and research practices

3. Design education

4. Design practice.

Each of these fields of concern involves a range 
of concerns and programmatic development. These 

Philosophy and theory of design
--Philosophy of design
----Ontology of design
----Epistemology of design
----Philosophy of design science
--Theory construction
--Knowledge creation

Research methods and research practices
--Research methods
--Research issues exploration
--Progressive research programs
--Development from research to practice

Design education
--Philosophy of design education
----Education based on research
----Education oriented to practice
--Rethinking undergraduate education
----Undergraduate focus on intellectual skills for knowledge economy
----Undergraduate focus on practice skills for professional training
----Undergraduate focus on foundations for professional development
--Rethinking professional degrees
---- Professional degrees oriented around intellectual skills
---- Professional degrees oriented around practical skills
---- Professional degrees oriented around professional development
--Research education
----Undergraduate and professional background for research education
----Research master's degrees
----Doctoral education
----Postgraduate training
--Continuing education
----lifelong learning
----Partnership with design firms
----Partnership with professional associations
----Partnership with industry
----Partnership with government

Design practice
--Comprehensive practice
--Profound knowledge
--Practice linked to solid foundations in education and research
--Professional development
--lifelong learning

This seems a particularly vital moment in the 
growth of design research. The last few years 
have seen a major growth in quality of research, 
and a massive shift in support for design 

The challenge that the field of design research 
must now meet is the challenge of continuity, 
with development across the field, across the 
boundaries of professional specialties, across 
the boundaries of educational departments, across 
the boundaries of nation and language.

It seems to me that our field is now at the point 
where physics stood in 1895. Because we are a 
different kind of field, we can't hope to make 
the fundamental progress that physics has made 
over the past 100 years. Even so, we can hope to 
grow if we keep in mind the vital urgency of a 
progressive research program.

Most of us know the broad outlines of progress in 
physics during the past century. A better 
comparison might be the programmatic development 
of mathematics. In 1900, David Hilbert gave a 
famous speech in which he outlined a series of 
important challenges for the growth of 
mathematics. He proposed a program of inquiry and 
research that he hoped would place mathematical 
knowledge on solid footing for the centuries to 

The successes and failures of Hilbert's program offer us three lessons.

The first lesson is that great aspirations lead 
to significant progress, as Hilbert's program did.

The second lesson is that absolute progress is 
never possible. Despite all the progress of 
mathematics in the decades following Hilbert's 
challenge, Goedel's theorem destroyed any 
ultimate hope of placing mathematics on 
completely solid, consistent ground.

The third lesson lies in another branch of 
philosophy, and it is the lesson of human 
achievement in the face of our ultimate inability 
to achieve absolute knowledge. The years and 
decades since Goedel rendered Hilbert's hopes 
impossible have seen some of the best and boldest 
progress in mathematics since Euclid the theorist 
and Archimedes the designer practiced their art.

During these years, mathematicians have solved 
fundamental theoretical and philosophical 
problems, contributed to rich developments in 
physics and the natural sciences, and they have 
even shaped applications that make it possible 
for all of us to live a better daily life.

That is what I hope to see coming out of design 
research. If design research can make that kind 
of progress, it will be a very good century 


Aguayo, Rafael. 1990. Dr. Deming: the man who 
taught the Japanese about quality. London: 
Mercury Books.

Arkitekthøgskolen I Oslo. 1999. 
Doktorgradsprogrammet. September 1999. Oslo: 
Arkitekthøgskolen I Oslo.

ARTFL Webster's. 1913. Webster's Revised 
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