Design Research: History, Theory, Practice - Histories for Future-focused Thinking









The Structure of Design Processes: ideal and reality in Bruce Archer’s 1968 doctoral thesis 

Stephen Boyd Davis, Simone Gristwood

Royal College of Art, Middlesex University

Keywords: systematic method; science of design; cybernetics; embodiment


The paper centres on a single document, the 1968 doctoral thesis of L Bruce Archer. It traces the author’s earlier publications and the sources that informed and inspired his thinking, as a way of understanding the trajectory of his ideas and the motivations for his work at the Royal College of Art from 1962. Analysis of the thesis suggests that Archer’s ambition for a rigorous “science of design” inspired by algorithmic approaches was increasingly threatened with disruption by his experience of large, complex design projects. His attempts to deal with this problem are shown to involve a particular interpretation of cybernetics. The paper ends with Archer’s own retrospective view and a brief account of his dramatically changed opinions. Archer is located as both a theorist and someone intensely interested in the commercial world of industrial design. 

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

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Cite this paper: Boyd Davis, S., Gristwood, S. (2016). The Structure of Design Processes: Ideal and Reality in Bruce Archer’s 1968 Doctoral Thesis. Proceedings of DRS 2016, Design Research Society 50th Anniversary Conference. Brighton, UK, 27–30 June 2016.

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