Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Science; An Introduction
- Patrick G. Salsbury <firstname.lastname@example.org>
more at www.bfi.org
Anticipatory Design Science, or "Design Science" for
short, is a wide-ranging field of study, which focuses on the
process of how to go about solving problems.
It was pioneered in the early Twentieth Century by
R. Buckminster Fuller, and has now expanded to include several
generations of architects, planners, engineers, and designers.
It is Comprehensive because
it seeks to find an underlying problem or issue, and solve for
that general case, rather than for only one specific instance
of a problem. For example, one of my primary interests is in
understanding the causes of, and designing solutions for, the
problems of homelessness on a global scale; Not simply why one
person is homeless on the street in my town, or in yours, but
why we have more than 400 million homeless people all around
It is Anticipatory because
the Design Scientist seeks to understand not just the problem
at hand, but how this problem, or similar ones, may manifest
themselves over time. Also, to try and foresee what problems
a proposed "solution" might bring up, and to plan
The Design Scientist incorporates statistical data, demographics
and population studies, economic data, and current events, to
try and forecast trends and figure out where we're heading,
collectively, so we can minimize surprises when we get there.
Design itself is the creative aspect of problem solving.
It is the process of analyzing your problem, studying other
areas that may have supporting technologies to help you, selecting
appropriate resources and tools, coming up with the part, system,
drawing, idea or whatever is needed to address the issue at
hand, and then implementing the solution. Very often, this process
must be repeated through numerous iterations, refining and correcting
as you go along.
The Science aspect is also crucial.
Design Science is not quite like other fields of design, such
as interior, graphic, clothing, or artistic design. Nor is it
exactly like industrial, computer, or mechanical design. Rather,
it incorporates elements of all of these fields, and many others.
It draws upon artistic elements, as well as scientific and engineering
elements. Employing the Scientific Method to measure, observe,
and refine solutions allows one to arrive at solutions that
work not just once, but over and over, and in a variety of situations.
example can probably help to illustrate the general-systems
approach that Design Scientists often employ.
Take the issue of having a clean and reliable supply of drinking
water. Everyone needs it, and people in developed countries
often take it for granted, but in most of the world, there are
no taps, and where there are, the water that comes out often
isn't trustworthy. In many countries, people will sometimes
walk for miles and wait for hours, every day, in order to get
water for themselves and their families. In fact, current
estimates are that approximately one billion people on this
planet do not have safe supplies of drinking water. This, coupled
with poor sanitation, contributes to approximately eighty percent
of the world's sickness. (see note 1) So, if we could take care
of the water problem, we'd also manage to eradicate about 4/5
of the cases of sickness, worldwide. Not a bad side-effect.
A Design Science approach might look at political, economic,
and engineering factors (as well as various others), trying
to draw upon the strengths of each, while also trying to minimize
the drawbacks and weak points. It's up to the Design Scientist to try and determine the most efficient and elegant solution,
given the location and scope of the project, available resources,
funding, etc. By taking an open-ended approach, he or she may
come up with half a dozen or more workable solutions, none of
which look like the traditionally accepted models, and which
are perhaps less expensive, quicker-to-implement, and more stable
than the conventional ideas.
Design Scientist thus aims to study as many different fields,
and become as well-versed in them, as possible.
Then he or she may draw upon those various resources to integrate
and synthesize, and arrive at new solutions to some very old
(and some as-yet-unseen) problems. In closing, I feel that the
overall generalist philosophy of the Design Scientist is well
summed-up by a quote from Robert A. Heinlein's character, Lazarus
human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion,
butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet,
balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying,
take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations,
analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook
a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization
is for insects."
Footnote: (1) UN Development Program, as quoted in "Naked
Body", Summer 1998. Printed
by The Body Shop