4.273 | Fall 2004 | Graduate

Introduction to Design Inquiry


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session


Prof. Terry Knight


None. This is a required subject for first year SMArchS students in Computation. However, it is open to other interested students with the permission of the instructor.


This subject explores the varied nature and practice of computation in design. We will view computation and design broadly. Computation will include both work done on the computer (digital computing) and by-hand. Design will include both the process of making designs and artifacts, as well as the designs and artifacts themselves.

We will examine different approaches to computation and design from the perspective of metaphor. Metaphor is a powerful, conceptual device for structuring and thinking about an unfamiliar, new, or abstract domain of experience or knowledge (say, computation) in terms of another domain that is more familiar or concrete. The view of metaphor that we will work from is taken from the contemporary theory of metaphor developed by George Lakoff and others. We will examine the different, mostly unconscious metaphors that we use in thinking about and doing computation and design. We will look at the ways these metaphors highlight, emphasize, and enable some ways of thinking about computation and design, while disabling or marginalizing others. These reflections may point us to new ways of seeing and doing computation in design.

The aim of the course is to develop a view of computation and design beyond the specifics of techniques and tools, and a critical, self-awareness of our own approaches and metaphors for computation and design.

The semester will be divided into 2-week modules. Each module will explore a particular computational theme and will include a guest faculty speaker. Speakers will talk on topics specific to their work. Readings and team-based assignments will help us expand on the topics introduced.


  • Class attendance and participation.
  • Satisfactory completion of weekly assignments and readings.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2004