Context, collaboration and complexity in designing: The pivotal role of cognitive artifacts

Eswaran Subrahmanian, Yoram Reich*, Sruthi Krishnan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Designing progresses through continuous refinement of models. In today's design practice, these models get created and refined by multi-cultural, multidisciplinary teams that speak different languages, whether these languages are spoken language, disciplinary, or organizational language. When these people come together, they create, negotiate, evolve, and manage a nascent language with which they communicate the meaning of the product they design. The nascent language is a pidgin articulated through cognitive artifacts. Thus their role is essential to designing and their management is critical to successful completion of the process. In contrast, their mismanagement quickly presents itself as design failures, sometimes catastrophic. Given their role, it is critical to understand what cognitive artifacts are, how they are constructed, and how they should be managed. This marks a shift from focusing on the artifact to the process of designing as a social, negotiated process. Such a view results in conceiving designing as a complex and emergent process with implications for design research, practice and pedagogy.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 19th International Conference on Engineering Design
Subtitle of host publicationDesign for Harmonies, ICED 2013
Number of pages10
Volume7 DS75-07
StatePublished - 2013
Event19th International Conference on Engineering Design, ICED 2013 - Seoul, Korea, Republic of
Duration: 19 Aug 201322 Aug 2013


Conference19th International Conference on Engineering Design, ICED 2013
Country/TerritoryKorea, Republic of


  • Collaborative design
  • Design theory
  • Knowledge management


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