Problem formulation as a discursive design activity

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


    In the design methodology literature, design is often described as a rational problem solving process. This approach has been very successful; it has lead to the creation of design process models, tools, methods and techniques. Design methods teaching along these lines has become an indispensable part of any engineering design education. Yet the assumptions behind the rational problem solving approach to design do not sit well with some of the experiences we have in design teaching and design practice. Problem formulation is one such area where we might have to look for a different way to describe what is happening in design, beyond the problem solving approach. In this paper an extensive educational case study will be used to see whether a framework for describing design as a discursive activity (based on the notions of ‘discourse’ and ‘paradox’) could be more appropriate to describe the intricacies of problem formulation in design. Key notions in design methodology, like ‘design problem’, ‘design solution’ and ‘ill-structuredness’ are reconsidered in this light. This directly leads to identifying further lines for investigation, and an agenda for design research.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProceedings of the 17th International Conference on Engineering Design : Design has never been this cool
    EditorsM. Norell Bergendahl, M Grimheden, L Leifer, P Skogstad, J Clarkson
    Number of pages654
    VolumeVol.1, Design Processes
    Place of PublicationStanford, Califonia & Glasgow, UK
    PublisherDesign Society
    Publication date2009
    ISBN (Print)978-1-904670-05-6
    Publication statusPublished - 2009
    Event17th International Conference on Engineering Design - Stanford, United States
    Duration: 24 Aug 200927 Aug 2009
    Conference number: 17


    Conference17th International Conference on Engineering Design
    Country/TerritoryUnited States
    Internet address
    SeriesDesign Society publications
    NumberDS 58-1


    • Design paradox
    • Problem formulation
    • Discursive activity


    Dive into the research topics of 'Problem formulation as a discursive design activity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this