Revisiting Herbert Simon’s ‘Science of Design

Huppatz, DJ
Design Issues

Herbert A. Simon’s The Sciences of the Artificial has long been con-sidered a seminal text for design theorists and researchers anxious to establish both a scientific status for design and the most inclusive possible definition for a “designer,” embodied in Simon’s oft-cited “[e]veryone designs who devises courses of action aimed at chang-ing existing situations into preferred ones.”1 Similar to the earlier Design Methods movement, which defines design as a problem solving, process-oriented activity (rather than primarily concerned with the production of physical artifacts), Simon’s “science of design” was part of his broader project of unifying the social sciences with problem solving as the glue. This article revisits Simon’s ideas about design both to place them in context and to question their ongoing legacy for design researchers. Much contem-porary design research, in its pursuit of academic respectability, remains aligned to Simon’s broader project, particularly in its definition of design as “scientific” problem solving. However, the repression of judgment, intuition, experience, and social interaction in Simon’s “logic of design” has had, and continues to have, pro-found implications for design research and practice.