Constraints in Design Processes
PhD project


Funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research
Start Date
1 February 2014
Anne Louise Bang, Associate Professor PhD, Design School Kolding
Project supervisor
Per Galle, Associate Professor PhD, KADK

Constraints in Design Processes

A study of design methodological problems and potentials

The inspiration for this project is two-pronged relating to the focus and to the purpose of the project, respectively.

Firstly, the project is inspired by the immanent paradox that constraints can be both restraining and encouraging for a creative process. Constraints in a design context are interesting because design, which has both functional and aesthetic characteristics, is shaped at the intersection between artistic freedom and traditional problem solving – differentiated, among other things, by the amount of externally imposed constraints. Hence the concept of constraints in design relates to the dispute about the design problem and its structure, discursively rooted in the hard and the soft system methodology, respectively, in which the nature of the problem and of the solution is either well or poorly defined and the process either linear and stable or unpredictable and iteratively variable.

Secondly, with a Master’s degree in design I have first-hand experience with the epistemic uncertainty that surrounds the apparent “fuzziness” of the design process; how the processual advancement is promoted, which brings the designer from nothing to something – from the abstract to "the ultimate particular."

In this project, I intend to explore and explicate some of the underlying mechanisms of the, at times, chaotic design processes; I want to confront the “fuzziness” of the design process.

Project goal/objective

The goal of the study is to promote design processes by addressing the concept ‘intentional constraints’ in relation to the co-evolution of problem and solution in poorly defined problems. Hence this study is a contribution to basic research in the field of design methodology. The approach is an exploratory qualitative case study of product design processes. The objective of the project is to:

1) Reach an extensive understanding of the design process and initiate bridge building between the rival hard and soft design methodological paradigms;

2) Consolidate and authorise the knowledge base of the design profession as well as strengthen the designers' theoretical foundation for arguing in favour of their ideas, choices and actions.

The main research question of the project is "How can knowledge about design processes be promoted by exploring intentionally imposed constraints in poorly defined problems?" This question is highlighted through a series of sub-questions.