A critical realism view of design artefact knowledge

Wenjuan Wang, Alexander Duffy, Iain Boyle, Robert Whitfield

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Design artefact knowledge elements and their relationships have been presented in previous work. Aiming to explore the existence of these elements from a critical realism view, this paper presents a new model of function-behaviour-structure (CR-FBS) based on protocol analysis of a design project. Three fundamental artefact knowledge elements, i.e., function, behaviour, and structure, and their causal relationships are re-presented in the CR-FBS illustrating the recursive nature of artefact knowledge evolution. These elements are presented as being distributed across three design artefact knowledge spaces: expected, instantiated, and interpreted. The critical realism perspective has highlighted that rather than being inherent in all of the three spaces, function only exists in the expected and interpreted design artefact knowledge space, and structure only exists in the expected and instantiated design artefact knowledge space. Consequently, causal relationships among function, behaviour, and structure are limited to where the three fundamental artefact knowledge elements exist.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-262
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Design Research
Issue number3
Early online date30 Sept 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • critical realism
  • design artefact knowledge
  • function–behaviour–structure


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