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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Research through DESIGN through research: a cybernetic model of designing design foundations
Keywords Design, Cybernetics, Evolution, Learning, Research, Knowledge management
Purpose–The paper seeks to make a substantial contribution to the still controversial question of design foundations.
Design/methodology/approach–A generic hypercyclic design process model is derived from basic notions of evolution and learning in different domains of knowing (and turns out to be not very different from existing ones). The second-order cybernetics and evolutionary thinking provide theoretical support.
Findings–The paper presents a model of designerly knowledge production, which has the potential to serve as a genuine design research paradigm. It does not abandon the scientific or the hermeneutic or the arts & crafts paradigm but concludes that they have to be embedded into a design paradigm. “Design paradigm” means that “objects” are not essential, but are created in communication and language.
Research limitations/implications–Foundations cannot be found in the axiomatic statements of the formal sciences, nor in the empirical approaches of the natural sciences, nor in the hermeneutic techniques of the humanities. Designing explores and creates the new; it deals with the fit of artefacts and their human, social and natural contexts. Therefore foundations for design (if they exist at all) have to be based on the generative character of designing, which can be seen as the very activity which made and still makes primates into humans.
Practical implications–The hypercyclic model provides a cybernetic foundation (or rather substantiation) for design, which – at the same time – serves as a framework for design and design research practice. As long as the dynamic model is in action, i.e. stabilized in communication, it provides foundations; once it stops, they dissolve. The fluid circular phenomena of discourse and communication provide the only “eternal” essence of design.
Originality/value–“Design objects” as well as “theory objects” are transient materializations or eigenvalues in these circular processes. Designing objects and designing theories are equivalent. “Problems” and “solutions” as well as “foundations” are objects of this kind. This contributes to a conceptual integration of the acting and reflecting disciplines.