Design Should be Managed as a Physical Process, Too

Glenn Ballard, Lauri Koskela

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The mainstream stand in textbooks on design and design management is that design is a problem solving process, starting from the perceived problem and ending with a detailed solution. We contend that these accounts overlook one necessary and important conceptualization of design, namely design as a physical flow process. This view holds design as a spatio-temporal process, where information (on whatever media) is traversing through a network of designers and other stakeholders. Among the characteristics of a design process, its duration, cost and often output quality can only be explained through this view. Accordingly, it is important to manage design as a physical process, based on the unique features of this view. However, due to a relative neglect of this view of design we have the situation that practical prescriptions and approaches to design management contain, at most, partial or fragmentary methods and tools towards management of the physical process side. Fortunately, the theoretical and practical development of this concept carried out in the framework of production management can be advantageously used also for the design context. However, because of the fundamental differences between material production and design, the concepts emanating from production have to be adapted for being valid in design. Thus, for example, while in material production time reduction is the primary goal for management, in design, besides design time reduction, the elimination of making-do in design tasks must be taken as an equally significant goal. A framework for conceptualizing management of design as a physical process has been presented, and practical development and trialing of a number of related methods in the context of building design accounted. Future work is needed for developing a seamless set of methods for design management, incorporating the concept of design as a physical process, besides other requisite concepts.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDS 58-2
Subtitle of host publication Proceedings of ICED'09, Volume 2, Design Theory and Research Methodology
EditorsM. Norell Bergendahl, M. Grimheden, L. Leifer, P. Skogstad, U. Lindemann, Y. Reich
PublisherThe Design Society
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)9781904670063
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes
Event17th International Conference on Engineering Design - Palo Alto, United States
Duration: 24 Aug 200927 Aug 2009
Conference number: 17

Publication series

PublisherThe Design Society


Conference17th International Conference on Engineering Design
Abbreviated titleICED 09
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityPalo Alto


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