50 Years of Design Research









The Design Methods Movement: From Optimism to Darwinism 

John Z Langrish

Salford University


Keywords: design methods, evolutionary design, memetics, history


The past, of course, is a foreign country with different values and practices. When the Design Research Society (DRS) was born in 1966, things were very different from now. It grew out of the Design Methods Movement (DMM), itself a product of post war optimism and belief in science-based progress. This paper is in four parts, describing: 1. The post-war optimism of the 1950s; 2. The DMM and its role in the formation of the DRS; 3. The end of optimism and the replacement of belief in scientific progress by a suspicion of science and a search for alternatives; 4. An alternative approach in which biology is shown to be a better model than physics when attempting to make design ‘scientific’. This involves a generalised Darwinism with different kinds of memes as imperfect replicators.

This paper is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence.

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Cite this paper: Langrish, J.Z. (2016). The Design Methods Movement: From Optimism to Darwinism. Proceedings of DRS 2016, Design Research Society 50th Anniversary Conference. Brighton, UK, 27–30 June 2016.

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