Designing: Insights from weaving theories of cognition and design theories

Eswaran Subrahmanian*, Yoram Reich, Frido Smulders, Sebastiaan Meijer

*Corresponding author for this work

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

8 Scopus citations


This paper addresses the issue of 'What is designing?' from an unconventional perspective and aims to advance our understanding of what design really is. Designing has been studied from different perspectives but the underlying theoretical basis of studying the act has often been dispersed and not clear. To address these shortcomings, the paper proposes a new topological structure that consists of two 3-dimensional spaces: Product-space and Social-space. The P-space is constructed by the complexity of the artifact, the number of disciplines involved and the availability of knowledge. The S-space consists of the number of disciplinary languages, number of different perspectives and the amount of openness and closeness of the social system that encapsulates the design activity. The two spaces are connected by means of theories on cognition, like: individual and distributed cognition, socio-linguistics, situated cognition, etc. Two examples serve to illustrate the proposed model and show that the act of designing involves the evolution of the artifact, social system, language and information embedded in the social and societal context.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHuman Behaviour in Design
PublisherThe Design Society
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)9781904670278
StatePublished - 2011
Event18th International Conference on Engineering Design, ICED 11 - Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 15 Aug 201118 Aug 2011

Publication series

NameICED 11 - 18th International Conference on Engineering Design - Impacting Society Through Engineering Design


Conference18th International Conference on Engineering Design, ICED 11


  • Cognition
  • Design theory
  • Designing
  • Empirical studies


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