CAN THERE BE SCIENTIFIC THEORIES OF DESIGN THAT DO NOT SCIENTIZE DESIGN?

The title of this blogpost is the same as a paper that my PhD student Jordan Beck and I have published. The question in the title is to me a difficult one and a question that is not taken seriously enough by those who produce knowledge about design or those who develop methods and tools for design.

The abstract of the paper is short and says:

"This paper asks, Can there be scientific theories of design that do not scientize design? And it answers in the affirmative. Not only can there be scientific theories of design that do not scientize design but also that a scientific lens can potentially reveal important aspects of the design process. We apply Karl Popper’s criteria for the scientific status of a theory to four seminal theories of the design process: Bounded Rationality, FBS Framework, Figural Complexity, and C-K Theory. We demonstrate that (1) some theories about design can be construed as scientific in Popper’s terms, and that (2) these theories do not “scientize” the design process."

I am aware that this kind of research is to many too abstract and theoretical and not 'useful'. However, I am convinced that if we did engage more with this kind of questions, it would seriously help us to better understand the relation between design and science. This relation is today filled with tension. This tension is emerging everywhere. All around campus. It threatens the traditional understanding of disciplines. It challenges what we consider to be valuable knowledge and what is accepted ways of producing knowledge.

Anyway, this is a tricky area. Any PhD student who studies in a field where science and design live together experience this tension on a daily basis.

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