Perceiving Design as Modelling: A Cybernetic Systems Perspective

Anja M. Maier, David C. Wynn, Thomas J. Howard, Mogens Myrup Andreasen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The creation and use of models is central to engineering design, to the extent that designing might be perceived as a propagation from model to model and modelling may be described as the language of the designer (the terms product model and artefact model are used synonymously throughout this chapter). Given this, how should design activities be co-ordinated and how should the design process be regulated? This chapter suggests that a cybernetic perspective may help to understand designing as a self-regulated modelling system and help to reach a better understanding of the effectiveness of models and modelling as used in design. This perspective emphasises the role of models in progressing the design and design process evolution. In particular, it suggests that most models in design fulfil a synthetic role. For instance, when designers sketch a mechanism, then formalise and analyse it, they are on one level analysing, but stepping back they are synthesising something that did not previously exist. What makes a model a good model thus lies not so much in goodness of fit, meaning how accurately it represents observations made, but rather the degree to which it informs decision-making that turns out to add value for a given purpose and context. Implications of a cybernetic perspective that could guide effective modelling in design are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAn Anthology of Theories and Models of Design
Subtitle of host publicationPhilosophy, Approaches and Empirical Explorations
EditorsA. Chakrabarti, L.T.M. Blessing
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9781447163374
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2014


  • design process
  • computational fluid dynamic (CFD)
  • synthetic model
  • engineering design process
  • cybernetic system


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