Design Cybernetics

Navigating the New

  • Thomas Fischer
  • Christiane M. Herr

Part of the Design Research Foundations book series (DERF)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxi
  2. Thomas Fischer, Christiane M. Herr
    Pages 1-23
  3. Hugh Dubberly, Paul Pangaro
    Pages 85-99
  4. Delfina Fantini van Ditmar
    Pages 101-117
  5. Ted Krueger, Ute C. Besenecker
    Pages 137-151
  6. Ben Sweeting
    Pages 185-194
  7. Timothy Jachna
    Pages 219-232
  8. Claudia Westermann
    Pages 233-245
  9. Thomas Fischer
    Pages 247-262
  10. Laurence D. Richards
    Pages 263-280
  11. Back Matter
    Pages 299-304

About this book


Design Cybernetics: Navigating the New

Design cybernetics offers a way of looking at ourselves – curious, creative, and ethical humans – as self-organising systems that negotiate their own goals in open-ended explorations of the previously unknown. It is a theory of and for epistemic practices (learning, designing, researching) that is deeply committed to the autonomy of others and hence offers no prescriptive methodology. Design cybernetics describes design practice as inextricable from conversation – a way of enquiring, developing shared understanding and reaching the new that harnesses reliable control as well as error and serendipity.


Recognising circular causality, observer-dependency and non-determinability, design cybernetics extends beyond tenets of scientific research into the creative, ethical and aesthetic domain. From this perspective, design is not an ill-conceived subset of scientific research. Instead, scientific research emerges as a particularly restricted subset of the broader human activity of design.

This volume offers a cross-section of design cybernetic theory and practice with contributions ranging across architecture, interior lighting studies, product design, embedded systems, design pedagogy, design theory, social transformation design, research epistemology, art and poetics, as well as theatre and acting. Addressing designers, design educators and researchers interested in a rigorous, practice-based epistemology, it establishes design cybernetics as a foundational perspective of design research.


“This is a conceptually elegant, well structured, and comprehensive presentation of design cybernetics. It fills a gap in the literature of the field.”

Ken Friedman, Chair Professor, Tongji University


“This book offers a valuable and timely introduction to second-order cybernetics as society grapples with complex issues like climate change and rising inequality.”

Joichi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab


Analog and Digital Design Circular Causality Creativity and Requisite Variety Cybernetic Design Epistemology Cybernetic Design Research Cybernetic Design Theory Design Thinking Cybernetics Ethics Design Feedback Design Interaction Design Learning design epistemic practices Deterministic Processes Novelty Generation Innovation Observer-dependency Pask’s Conversation Theory Recursion re-entry circularity requisite Variety Design Steering guidance navigation Systems thinking design Transdisciplinary Design Research

Editors and affiliations

  • Thomas Fischer
    • 1
  • Christiane M. Herr
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of ArchitectureXi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool UniversitySuzhou, Jiangsu ProvinceChina
  2. 2.Department of ArchitectureXi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool UniversitySuzhou, Jiangsu ProvinceChina

Bibliographic information