Problem Forming, Problem Finding, and Problem Solving in Design

This meeting [1], representing a convergence of students of design from a range of wholly dissimilar disciplines, is an event of major significance. It is significant that the meeting is being held at all that all of you recognize your common concerns. It is significant that we are gaining deep insights into the design process itself. If it is pretentious to talk about the “science of design,” at least we know now that there are truths about design that can be formulated and communicated, general truths that seem to apply to design as each of us knows it, in his or her particular professional domain.

But perhaps it is not really pretentious to speak of the science of design. There are principles that are widely applicable, and increasingly, we are finding ways of implementing these principles on electronic computers, and thereby securing the powerful assistance of those computers in the process of design. Let’s compromise on “the art and science of design.”

In recent years, the awareness of our communalities, whatever the specific field in which we work, has been hastened by the applications of computers to design: expert systems, computer aided design, artificial intelligence. Because their programs are open to inspection, computers allow us to look at the design process. The program is a tangible, concrete object. And in order to construct programs to design or assist design, we have to try to understand the process. That process is basically the same, whether it is carried out by people or computers, or, as is increasingly the case, by both in collaboration.