Complexity: what designers need to know

Zamenopoulos, Theodore and Alexiou, Katerina (2012). Complexity: what designers need to know. In: Garner, Steve and Evans, Chris eds. Design and Designing: a Critical Introduction. Berg.



Architects, engineers, urban designers, product designers,interface designers – in fact, designers from all fields – increasingly use the word ‘complexity’ to characterise both the design activity and its outputs. This chapter examines the phenomenon of complexity and reveals some profound implications for design and designing today. In a broad sense it reflects on reality but more specifically it proposes that complexity science underpins a new scientific approach to what designers do and how they do it. This chapter explains why designers need to understand the ideas and tools of complexity science, integrating them with perhaps more familiar creative and analytical processes of design. Embracing knowledge of complexity and applying it through practical design skills is vital to anyone seeking to work in the design professions of the twenty-first century. The chapter identifies distinct types of complexity that can be recognised in design projects and suggests how the designer might deal with these in practice.

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