Design Thinking


Book Cover Design Thinking

Design Thinking
Author: Peter G. Rowe MIT Press, 1987

Design, according to Peter Rowe, is the fundamental means of inquiry by which architects and planners realize and give shape to ideas of buildings and public spaces; yet little sustained attention has been paid to the form of this intellectual activity. His book, Design Thinking, provides a general portrait of designing that characterizes its inherent qualities and sets it apart from other forms of inquiry. It treats multiple and often dissimilar theoretical positions-whether they prescribe forms that are deemed right for "good" architecture and urban design or simply provide procedures for solving problems-as particular manifestations of an underlying structure of inquiry common to all designing.

The book proceeds from detailed observations of designers in action to an examination of the broad frameworks that appear to shape design theory and inform design thinking. Rowe seeks to define the intellectual activity of designing both as rational inquiry, governed by guiding principles and constraints, and as a matter of the conviction and impulse by which design principles are invented and applied. Dozens of illustrations and a number of actual case studies support Rowe's thesis.

Among the topics the book takes up are the salient features of design problems; procedural aspects of design, including varieties of heuristic reasoning; normative positions that shape design thinking; problems of substantiating design doctrines; and problems associated with meaningful interpretation from either a naturalistic or a self-referential view of architecture.


  1. Designers in Action 
    Case Study 1: Making an Urban Place 
    Case Study 2: Making a Building from a Formal Type 
    Case Study 3: Reconciling Two Large Ideas 
    Other Accounts 
    Observations and Questions about the Protocols 
  2. Procedural Aspects of Design Thinking 
    Some General Characteristics of Design Problems 
    Early Theoretical Positions 
    Staged-Process Models of Problem Solving in Design 
    The Information Processing Theory of Problem Solving 
    Heuristic Reasoning and Design "Situations" 
    Types of Rules and Constraints at Work in Design 
    Aspects of Design Behavior 
    Limitations of a Procedural View
  3. Normative Positions That Guide Design Thinking 
    Normative Positions 
    Surface Features and Broad Inclinations 
    Further Differentiating Features 
    Problems of Substantiation 
    Theory and Practice 
  4. Architectural Positions and Their Realms of Inquiry 
    Two Realms of Inquiry 
    Architecture from a Naturalistic Interpretation of Man and His World 
    Architecture from a Referential Interpretation 
    A Convergence of Issues

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