Towards a new Science of Design?

This project- and discussion-based seminar offers a deep, critical inspection of contemporary design practices, research methods and discourses informed by Neuroscience, Behavioral Psychology, Human-Computer Interaction and Philosophy of the Mind. In recent years, theories about extended cognition, embodied interaction and material engagement, to name a few, combined with physiological data collection techniques such as eye-tracking, electroencephalogram and galvanic skin response, among many others, have given rise to new questions about the foundations of design. Crucially, these methods and frameworks have allowed design practitioners and scholars to ask disciplinary questions with a new  degree of rigor, and supported by empirical evidence. How are buildings perceived by their users? How do materials affect occupant behavior? How do designers think when they design? These and other puzzles have begun to be scrutinized under a new light.

While acknowledging the role that contributions from these fields play today in our understanding of architecture (as an experience) and design (as a practice), this course argues that a rigorous and systematic assessment of their applicability, value and potential in design research is needed. What aspects of the built environment can these fields’ methods and theories help us understand better? How relevant is their potential to change the ways we conceptualize and operationalize design practice? What methods are available to understand the degree to which there might be a scientific basis for design?