Design's secret partner in research: Cybernetic practices for design research pedagogy

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How to understand the relation between design and research is a longstanding question in design theory and practice. It is also a question in design pedagogy, especially in taught postgraduate programmes where students are expected to engage with and conduct research in formal ways, often for the first time. In this article, we discuss a curriculum that we have developed for introducing research literacy to taught postgraduate students in architecture and design disciplines. The curriculum draws both explicitly and implicitly on an analogy between designing and researching developed through the lens of cybernetics, a transdisciplinary field that relates to both design and science. When cybernetics has been invoked in the context of design, it has usually been as a form of explanatory theory, contributing to the theoretical foundations of design research and its relations with other disciplines. Our approach instead positions cybernetics as a mode of transdisciplinary engagement within students’ own learning where an unfamiliar topic (research) is approached through analogy to a familiar one (design). We begin by contextualizing the curriculum and introducing the rationale for this approach in the context of design research. We then summarise key moments in the curriculum and our observations of its impact in students’ work. We conclude by speculating on the extent to which enacted analogies such as the example presented here may be taken up in other practical situations, and the potential value of doing so in reformulating cybernetics in ways that are practiced (rather than abstract) and methodological (not just explanatory).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)765-771
Number of pages7
JournalSystems Research and Behavioral Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sept 2023


  • cybernetics
  • design
  • pedagogy
  • research
  • transdisciplinarity


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